Fairs | February 2011 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Report from CODEX, part 2

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist and FB&C book art columnist

Field Report from CODEX Tuesday, Feb. 8, 7:20 a.m.

Yesterday the CODEX Symposium started with a presentation by Crispin & Jan Elsted, proprietors of Barbarian Press, of their new edition of Shakespeare's relatively unread romance,The Play of of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, illustrated with wood engravings by Simon Brett. An extensive presentation including a video tour of the book is at: http://www.barbarianpress.com/catalog/pericles.html.

What makes this book exceptional is that Crispin, who edited and conceptualized it, is an actor who has performed it and is also a director, a composer, and a poet. This made for a compelling presentation (shown above). The integration of type and calligraphy in the design begins with part of the text coming before the title page, as in contemporary movies where the action begins before the title and credits start to roll. This reinterpretation of a book's sequencing continues as a theme throughout the text. Jan elaborated on the production process and the interactions of the collaborators, punctuated with poetic notes that Simon Brett had sent her on how to approach the printing of the images, which vary from small ornamental work to highly erotic, nearly pornographic vignettes, to powerful full page blocks. The continuous integration of text and image creates a book of great visual appeal.

This was followed by a presentation by Peter Koch (shown above) on the production of The Lost Journals of Sacajawea, which began with a moving reading by the author, Debra Magpie Earling (seen here at left). The book presents a spiritual and political view of the destruction of the native American landscape and culture in a poetic amalgamation of text with archive photos selected by Peter and printed in an unusual process by Don Farnsworth.

The Symposium ended its first day with a lecture by Paul van Capelleveen of the Museum Meermanno on the evolution of Dutch fine books. In the evening there was a reception at the Berkeley City Club for his new book, The Ideal Book. Private Presses in the Netherlands, 1910-2010.

In the afternoon the exhibitors were back at their tables. It is a valuable experience watching curators and special collections librarians look at a daunting number of books. The attention that is paid to each, along with the discussions of content and production values, was a lesson in connoisseurship, diligence, and love.

Photos credit & courtesy Richard Minsky.