September 15-November 20, 2004
Bound to Be the Best: The Club Bindery
Curated by Thomas G. Boss
On view at the Grolier Club from September 15 -November 20, 2004, Bound to be the Best
showcases superlative work from the The Club Bindery, the finest hand bindery ever to operate in America. Drawn from the collections of Grolier members Thomas G. Boss and Shirley McNerney Rendell, over 60 examples of these exquisite bindings -- noted for their workmanship, beauty, and rarity -- will be highlighted. The selection will be supplemented by original photographs of the binders and bindery, a large collection of tools used to craft these splendid objects, and even furniture from the workshop, drawn from the collection of Grolier member Kenneth Rendell.
Fine binders were almost unknown in nineteenth-century America, forcing collectors to send their volumes to France or England to be bound. Accordingly, a pioneering group of Grolier Club members -- among them the great bibliophiles Robert Hoe, Samuel Putnam Avery, William Loring Andrews, Junius S. Morgan and Edwin C. Holden -- decided to create a bindery in America that would rival the finest imported work, regardless of cost. And that they did, employing as their chief finishers the Frenchmen Henri Hardy (a former apprentice to the great nineteenth-century binder Charles Meunier), and Léon Maillard, thought by some to have been the premier finisher of his time. Established in a New York workshop, these artisans and their staff employed an array of sumptuous binding leathers, often elaborately and luxuriously tooled and gilt, along with exotic end-leaves and papers, rivaling the output of the best Parisian ateliers. But because it operated for little more than a decade, the Club Bindery's best and most elaborate efforts have seldom been seen by the public, and never properly appreciated. This will be the first exhibition devoted exclusively to the work of the Club Bindery since the 1906 Grolier Club exhibition of "Some of the Latest Artistic Bindings Done at the Club Bindery." Bound to be the Best
will feature a colorful mosaic of masterworks from the Club Bindery, including three examples first shown at the landmark 1906 exhibition. Also included will be representative bindings from the firm's later incarnations: The Rowfant Bindery (1909-1913), The Booklover's Shop (1914-1917) and the French Binders (1918-192?). Bound to be the Best: The Club Bindery
provides a rare glimpse into the creation of America's finest bindings and highlight the long-neglected history of this firm. The fully-illustrated accompanying catalogue will
contain detailed entries by curator Thomas G. Boss for all of the exhibited items, prefaced by an exhaustive history of the Club Bindery by Martin Antonetti, former librarian of the Grolier Club and noted historian of the Club Bindery. Published by Thomas G. Boss Fine Books, the catalogue will be for sale at the Grolier Club and from Thomas G. Boss Fine Books, 234 Clarendon Street, Boston, MA, 02116; phone: (617) 421-1700; fax: (617) 421-1733; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The price is $195 for the trade edition of 500 copies or $750 for a special edition limited to 50 copies.