A Celebratory Binding for Blegen Library's 75th Anniversary

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of UC’s Carl Blegen Library in 2005, the Archives & Rare Books Library has commissioned a special artist’s bookbinding as a lasting commemoration of the event.  The idea was to select a volume from the holdings of the Rare Books Collection that not only reflected an important collecting area, but also served as an historical example of the spirit behind the decorative elements of the library.   The volume is not one of the rarest books in the library necessarily, nor even remarkably beautiful in its own right.  It does, however, serve as an example of the “times” – the late 1920s and early 1930s - and the cultural state of literature, politics, and human events during that era.


DH Lawrence


The book selected is a poem by D.H. Lawrence, “The Triumph of the Machine,” which happened to have been published in 1930, the year the Carl Blegen Library opened as the University of Cincinnati’s Main Library.  The Archives & Rare Books Library has a strong collection of Lawrence first editions, along with a solid collection of the author’s correspondence, so the choice of Lawrence is fitting.  And, his 1930 poem addresses the increasing mechanization of human life and the effect this has on the cultural mindset of mankind.  Though Lawrence’s words speak of a diminishing in humanistic thinking, the poem ends with the triumph of the spirit over the machine.  In a way, too, it is also a triumph of the written word and the heritage it represents.


Gabrielle Fox
Gabrielle Fox, Bookbinder


Just as important in selecting the particular volume for this special binding is the selection of the artist.  Bookbinder Gabrielle Fox is the perfect choice, not only for her considerable skills in working with books, but also for her strong sense of aesthetics and artistic vision.  Ms. Fox received her B.A. in English Literature and Writing from the University of Cincinnati and earned her diploma in Fine Binding and Conservation in England.  For over twenty years, she has worked and taught in both Great Britain and in the United States, and in fact, served for a time as a handbinder-conservator at UC, so she has a significant connection to the University and to the Carl Blegen Library.

Ms. Fox has also worked as a Senior Bookbinding Lecturer at the Croydon College of Art and Design in London, served as Binder-in-Residence as Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and has been an Instructor in the Art Department at Cincinnati’s College of Mt. St. Joseph.  She is the author of The Essential Guide to Making Handmade Books (North Light Books, 2000) and has received a Helm Fellowship Grant from Indiana University’s Lilly Library. Her bindings are widely exhibited in both England and America.  Today, she advises private collectors and institutions on their holdings, and has a strong emphasis in her work on making miniature books and on teaching.


Blegen Lamp
Lawrence Book


Her design for Lawrence’s work features an impressionistic view of the classical Art Deco lampposts at the entrance to Carl Blegen Library.  These strong linear forms of the lamps are given a stylized, modernistic look in the binding that beautifully embraces the essences of both the poem and the building.  


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