• Ground Floor Gallery
    • Five Hundred Years of Women’s Work: The Lisa Unger Baskin Collection
      December 11, 2019 - February 8, 2020

      The phrase “women’s work” usually conjures up domestic duties or occupations associated mainly with women (teaching, nursing, housekeeping), but Lisa Unger Baskin’s collection upends those assumptions by revealing that Western women have long pursued a startling range of careers and vocations. By bringing together materials from across the centuries, Ms. Baskin shows that through their work women have supported themselves, their families, and the causes in which they believed.

      In 2015, Grolier member Lisa Baskin placed her collection with Duke University’s Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture in the Rubenstein Library. Comprising more than 10,000 rare books and thousands of manuscripts, journals, ephemera, and artifacts, it was the most significant collection on women’s history still in private hands.  The exhibition provides a first glimpse into the diversity and depth of the collection, uncovering the lives of women both famous and forgotten and recognizing their accomplishments. It has been co-curated by Naomi L. Nelson, Lauren Reno, and Lisa Unger Baskin.

      “I began forming my women’s collection at a time when there was little interest in the historical record of the achievements of women. My politics informed my collecting. In the 1960s I was involved in the ongoing struggle for civil rights and an end to the war in Vietnam. My response to the women’s movement, alongside my activism, was to collect and document the history that was hidden, not taught, and little written about. I had begun prying out evidence that women were working—indeed, had always been working—but the tracks marking their achievements were largely erased or obscured,” states Ms. Baskin.

      Furthermore, “Over time my vision expanded, as did the parameters of my collection. My activism continued to inform my collecting. I sought particularly to document the lives of women of color.  My interests led me to the political poetry of Phillis Wheatley, to African American women’s settlement houses in Cleveland, to Ida B. Wells’ self-published anti-lynching pamphlets, and to Lizelia Augusta Jenkins Moorer’s writings on prejudice and Jim Crow.  Printing and bookselling, as well as women’s relationships to books, became vital interests. I sought books printed and sold by women, from incunables on.”

      Lisa Unger Baskin’s words and passion resonate in the exhibition and the fully illustrated catalogue. Of special note, Women’s Work also extends to the contributions made by women to the catalogue: the essays, typefaces, and the design and production of the catalogue are all the work of women.    

      Open Set: Design Binding Today
      February 19 - April 25, 2020

      A Design Binding is a uniquely-conceived and beautifully-executed book covering, a work of art that evokes the content of the book through the passion, design sense, and skill of the binder. Through the techniques and structures that go into each individual artwork, the bookbinders share their excitement in the pages of the books they transform. The books in this exhibition are by the winners of the 2020 contemporary designer binding competition. They are drawn from the work of binders from across the globe and all have been created within the past year.

      The title OPEN SET reflects the two categories in which binders may compete—an OPEN category, in which the artist chooses which book to bind, and a SET category, in which all participants bind the same book. Binders are allowed to produce bindings for one or both categories. For the 2020 competition, the set book was conceived and printed by fine press printer Russell Maret. He selected the text of a letter by William Blake entitled Happy Abstract. The Open category books will be chosen by the artists themselves who decide what they will bind; but the judges expect to see a tremendous variety in both size (from miniatures to folios), and in subject.

      The design bindings on display were juried by renowned American binders Mark Esser, Patricia Owen and Monique Lallier; and examples of the set book bound by each juror will also be part of the display.

      A book’s cover is, in essence, an invitation to explore its content. "Open Set demonstrates the ways in which a design binder’s invitation can be recognizable or abstracted, visually unsettling or charming, in artistic terms calculated to spark conversation, comment, and curiosity,” observes Lang Ingalls, exhibition coordinator.

      The Best Read Army in the World (Armed Services Editions)
      May 13 – August 1, 2020

      This is the story of how American librarians and publishers used books to fight against Nazi Germany’s destruction of ideas during World War II.

      Following their book successes during WWI, American librarians united in 1942-43 to host the largest book drive in history. The Victory Book Campaign collected 18 million books for Americans in the armed services. From the Roosevelts to boy and girl scouts, everyone did their part to ensure good books were available to troops to fill their leisure time while training.

      But as millions of Americans shipped out overseas, foot soldiers clamored for books that were lightweight and tiny. American publishers rose to the challenge, inventing the most unique mass-produced books in history, the “Armed Services Editions.” Measuring as little as 3 and 3/8 inches by 5.5 inches, these books fit the pockets of a military uniform. From the beaches of Normandy to the Pacific Islands, American troops read these books until they fell apart. Each month, a fresh shipment of dozens of titles arrived. After years of reading while at war, veterans returned home with an appetite for reading and learning. Millions went back to school under the GI Bill, and the paperback book industry exploded after the war.

      Through posters, photographs, documents, and the books themselves, “visitors will be treated to a unique and inspiring exhibit showcasing how books were the ultimate weapon in the ‘war of ideas,’” comment co-curators Molly Manning and Brian Anderson.
  • Second Floor Gallery
    • "The A.B.C. of Alphabets" from the Collection of Gretchen Adkins
      September 18 – November 2, 2019

      Alphabets have been published for hundreds of years, in a variety of languages and styles, for a multitude of purposes, some aimed at children; others definitely not. The exhibition is organized in six intriguing categories: “A Apple Pie,” “A Was An Archer,” “Manuscripts,” “Alphabets Are Not Just For Children,” “The Letter N,” and “Advertising.”

      A Apple Pie (200 Years of the Famous Nursery Rhyme)

      The nursery rhyme A Apple Pie has been known since 1671 when it was quoted in the writings of the minister John Eachard. The text is unusual in its use of verbs: “A ate it,” “B bit it,” “C cut it,” etc. The exhibition covers 200 years of the rhyme, from its first recorded appearance until the publication of Kate Greenaway’s 1886 best-seller.

      A Was an Archer (Alphabets of Professions)

      Like A Apple PieA was an Archer has a long history. It first appeared in the early 18th century, and remained popular throughout the 19th century, produced in a wide variety of editions from cheap chapbooks, to large books in color. Each letter refers to a profession or a trade: “A was an Archer,” “B was a Butcher,” “C was a Captain,” “D was a Drunkard,” and so on. Although it was more popular in England, alphabets of professions can be found in various languages, notably the 1920 French edition of A est un Archer.

      Alphabets Are Not Just for Children (ABCs for Adults)

      Most people associate alphabets with children and childhood, but that is not always the case, and many writers and illustrators have taken sly pleasure in turning a genre that is usually aimed at teaching children into entertainment for adults.

      In Kissed Again—Part of the Bargain, the shenanigans of Countess Screwvinsky (alias Beatrice Wood) and her “admirers” are definitely not directed at those learning to read. This playful alphabet of advice to a would-be courtesan comes from the woman who was in a ménage-à-trois with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roche. Their relationship was the inspiration for Truffault’s film, Jules and Jim. And the authors of Freud’s Alphabet and Ballet Alphabet, a Primer for Laymen by Lincoln Kirsten, illustrated by Paul Cadmus, certainly had a mature audience in mind.


      Six manuscripts offer a range of work from personal reflections to a universal depiction of objects. Among them is an Untitled Alphabet by Basil Withy (B.W.), who died July 2, 1916 at the Battle of the Somme when he was 30 years old. The son of a wealthy ship owner, Withy’s alphabet references family, friends and household staff before he left to fight in World War I.

      The Letter N (The Challenge of Finding Animals to Represent N)

      Alphabets devoted to animals may be challenged to find examples (other than birds) beginning with the letter N. Each book in the exhibition illustrates a separate solution. C.B. Falls, in his 1923 ABC Book, chose the Newt to solve his N problem. “Noah,” as in Noah’s Ark ABC, is occasionally the solution. Some imaginative authors, such as Gus. Av. Friendly, have forsaken the zoological world altogether and created their own four-legged universe.

      Advertising (“26” Selling Points!)

      Advertising pamphlets, printed on cheap paper and widely distributed, are a relic of the past. They sold anything and everything, from heavy machinery to food and drink, and many used the familiar and comfortable A-to-Z framework to enumerate their selling points: 26 reasons to buy life insurance, for instance.

      The Alphabet Book of Coca Cola from 1928 (when a Coke cost 5 cents) is a classic, offering 26 rhyming verses on the merit of the beverage. Every nationality and level of society is illustrated in full color enjoying the carbonated drink. It even offers a testimonial from The United States Supreme Court.

      Free Lunchtime Exhibition Tours: September 25 and October 2, 16, and 30, 1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Curator Gretchen Adkins will offer a free guided tour of the exhibition. Open to all, no reservations required.

For more details regarding any of these upcoming exhibitions, including related publications, special tours, and public events. Contact:

Susan Flamm 
PR Consultant

Jennifer Sheehan
Exhibitions and Communications Manager

Site Scripts
Hide Click to Edits:
FED Scripts
CWS & Content Load