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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 3, 2008 | Vol. 38 No. 10
Exhibition Celebrates Centures of English Decorative Bindings

Fore-edge painting of Venice from 'The Doge of Venice' by Lord Byron (London: John Murray, 1821)

By Pamela Higgins
Sheridan Libraries

Bound to Please, an exhibition of more than 60 beautifully bound and tooled works from the late 17th to the mid-20th century, opens at the George Peabody Library on Thursday, Nov. 6, and will be celebrated with a reception at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 9. The show explores the art of finishing, from simple adornments on vellum bindings to exquisite gilt-tooled bindings.

The exhibition, which runs through Feb. 3, 2009, is drawn from an extraordinary collection of 200 volumes, a gift to the Sheridan Libraries in 2006 from longtime Johns Hopkins friend Dorothy McIlvain Scott. Many of the books are decorated with fore-edge paintings--scenes painted on the edges of the page--which are visible only when the pages are fanned. More than 20 fore-edge paintings are displayed.

"The scope of the Scott collection enables us to present not only a stunning visual display but also allows us to trace the history of bookbinding," said Sophia Jordan-Mowery, the Joseph Ruzicka & Marie Ruzicka Feldmann director of library preservation, and curator of the show.

"Bindings are products of time and place, with uniquely identifiable styles and purposes reflective of their era," she said. "They can be defined by technique or the craftsmanship of a particular binder, and they reveal cultural shifts, changes in materials and technology, and changes in taste. As such, they serve as clues to past and present."

At the opening reception, noted conservation expert and fine bookbinder Don Etherington will present an illustrated talk on English decorative bindings.

Etherington began bookbinding as a 13-year-old student at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and worked as an apprentice at Harrison's & Co., also in London. In 1970, he joined the Library of Congress, where he developed new techniques that shaped the field of book conservation. Etherington now has his own company, and his work is held in significant collections worldwide.

To reserve a place at the reception, contact Stacie Spence at or 410-516-7943.

The George Peabody Library is located at 17 E. Mount Vernon Place. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday.


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