Chapter 449 Rare Book School, Part 3

Before I pick up where I left off yesterday, I should say that you might want to start with Parts 1 and 2 of the story of my journey to Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

And now for Part 3:

Twelve students assembled in the small classroom filled with books and boxes of illustrations and printing plates at the back of a warren of other rooms in the basement of the Alderman Library. Our group was composed of four antiquarian booksellers — myself, Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis, James Bryant of Carpe Diem Fine Books), and Bruce Barnett of The Book Block — a couple of librarians, some professors, a doctor, and a newspaper editor and publisher. Our T.A., the extraordinary Tess Goodman, rounded out the group. Our instructor, Terry Belanger, the Founder of Rare Book School was also the teacher for the course, Book Illustration Processes to 1900. To read a bit more about Terry Belanger, click here.

Read it. I’ll wait.

I asked myself several times during the week how I got lucky enough to be in a class with such amazing people taught by one of the true legends of the rare book world.

I still don’t have a good answer. I just know I am extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to attend the class and learn about books.

Each day, our class began with a discussion of the different printing processes used prior to 1900, largely following Bamber Gascoigne’s book, How to Identify Prints. (If you don’t have this book, I highly recommend it. Terry Belanger calls it “indispensable; both comprehensive and excellent.” It was one of the main textbooks for the course.)

It was good to receive instruction as to the chronology of illustration processes and the way each process worked, but what really made the class stand out was the instructor’s wit and his use of numerous real-life examples of each of the different types of printing processes. During the course of the week, we handled numerous prints, cards, leaves of books, books, and printing plates from all eras. Rare Book School, no doubt thanks to Terry Belanger’s efforts, has amassed an astounding collection that can be used to teach.

Any good bookseller will tell you that there is no substitute for the experience of seeing and handling as many books of all kinds as you can. My visit to Rare Book School increased that experience for me exponentially.

As a further lesson in the appreciation of printing processes, each of us students had to try our hand at early processes, making a woodcut, a drypoint etching, and an etching on a zinc plate with a ground. It certainly gives me an appreciation for how much practice it must have taken artists to create each lovely illustration for a book.

Here are my “creations” from my extremely unpracticed hand:

“Woodcut” (actually done on a linoleum block). It’s supposed to be an elephant. I placed the print next to the block itself so you can see what it looks like on a page:

Drypoint etching of a ship and its corresponding print:

Etching of another ship with a personified sun and moon and its corresponding print:

All in all, it was a fabulous week, so good it was almost like a dream. I learned a lot, made some new contacts and renewed some old contacts, and had a lot of fun in the mix. Be sure and check out Rare Book School for yourself. As you can see, you don’t have to be a bookseller to attend. I highly recommend this as part of any bibliophile’s education.

Dream big. Give it a try.

See you in the stacks!


Filed under A Bookseller's Education, Libraries

3 responses to “Chapter 449 Rare Book School, Part 3

  1. Jill

    I think that’s an excellent elephant woodcut, Chris! I’m impressed with your first attempt. I’m also jealous of your trip and all the amazing things you have learned. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. Thanks, Jill. It really was a great week. And the elephant was a template, not my own design, BTW. An artist I am not, and my having to do the woodcut and the etchings made me appreciate true artists all the more. Talk to you soon!

  3. Pingback: Chapter 505 Thanks! « Book Hunter’s Holiday

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