Bound To Please: Selections from the Cecil G. Behrmann Collection of Bookbinding
"You cannot judge a book by its cover."
We hear this adage from earliest childhood, and without a doubt it is valuable advice for everyday life. And yet, throughout the history of book making, the pleasure of a fine binding has contributed to the aesthetic appreciation involved in both reading and scholarship. In the past century British artisans have led the way in elevating the craft of individually designed and hand tailored book bindings to the noblest aspirations of art. The designer book binding is to the standard mass market hardcover what a fine gourmet repast is to themost rudimentary bowl of oatmeal.
As the noted authority John Harthen, former Keeper of the Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, has written, "The concept of ‘original’ binding, in the sense of an original design made for a book, is largely a twentieth-century invention which has opened up new dimensions for the art of the book. In earlier periods binding design had little relation to the text within the book but reflected, usually somewhat tardily, the common ornamental styles of the period. Today the artist-binder regards the book on which he is working with considerably more respect than his predecessors. He studies the text of his author, the style and colour of the illustrations, even peculiarities of typography and layout and only then, by choice, produces a design for the covers which willbe a personal synthesis reflecting the different elements of the whole book."
The fourteen exquisite volumes displayed in the adjacent Tyler Gallery are from the Cecil Gordon Behrmann Collection of Modern Bookbindings. The assembled books are superb examples of the binder’s art, from the relatively austere examples of Arthur Budd to the more flamboyant designs of Chris Hicks. The Corcoran Gallery of Art extends its sincere thanks to Peter Behrmann and Carol Wijnberg for the loan of these splendid books. The exhibition is made possible through the generosity of Joshua Heller Rare Books, Inc., of Washington, DC. We also wish to express appreciation to Frank Mowery of the Folger Shakespeare Library for his assistance with the installation, and to Neil Greentree forthe photography.