An Afternoon with Minsky & Friends

One of the people I most admire in the world of rare books is Richard Minsky.   He has done so much to bring attention to the world of decorated American trade bindings through his scholarly and beautifully produced books on the subject, including American Decorated Publishers’ Bindings 1872-1929 (3 volumes, 2006-2010) and The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930 (2010).  His diligent research and assembly of fine examples of decorated books from this era not only revived interest in important book cover designers from our past, but also awakened interest in collecting these lovely bindings, which are becoming increasingly difficult to find in collectible condition. And with his own amazing art he has done so much more.  Read about his life, work, and artistry HERE and HERE.

This past Sunday we had the pleasure of attending a cocktail reception and private viewing of his Thomas Watson Ball collection of decorated bindings, preceding the release of his new book, The Book Cover Art of Thomas Watson Ball

Richard held court in his Hudson Valley home, studio and workshop, where his tools of the trade for fine book binding are close at hand amidst his lovely collection of books and art.

Richard Minsky (center) in his studio. Ron is holding the drinks!

Covers by early book artists such as Sarah Wyman Whitman, Louis J. Rhead, Rome K. Richardson, Margaret Armstrong, and many other fine artists of the past beam at you from every corner and case.

Here are two examples of books decorated by artist Thomas Watson Ball:

In The Levant by Charles Dudley Warner, Houghton Mifflin, 1901

Lords of the North, by A. C. Laut (J. F. Taylor, NY, 1900)

Minsky is generous and exuberant in sharing his knowledge of books, of the artists and their work.  His  enthusiasm for the book arts is positively infectious.

About twenty-two people came to this gathering of decorated binding enthusiasts.  Among them was Rebecca Rego Barry, Editor of Fine Books & Collections, and her husband Brett.   Fine Books & Collections is a superb magazine so beautifully produced it is collectible itself, and hosts an excellent website and blog for all of us who buy, sell, collect or just appreciate fine books.  Rebecca, you do a great job!

Rebecca Rego Barry, Editor of Fine Books & Collections

Here I am, happy as a clam to have Richard sign my 2012 desk diary “The Art of the American Book,” decorated with reproduced book covers with text by Minsky.

We were all interested in seeing the tools and materials used in his binding workshop…

The other half of this talent equation is Barbara Slate (she and Richard Minsky have been sharing their life together for over 25 years).  Barbara is an author and artist, whose work includes comic strips, animated segments for NBC’s Today show, and more than 300 comic books and graphic novels.  Her latest graphic novel (below) is Getting Married and Other Mistakes (NY: Other Press, 2012).

Barbara Slate’s graphic novel, Getting Married and Other Mistakes (NY: Other Press, 2012)

Barbara also presents workshops in schools, libraries and art centers across the country, encouraging the creative process in others, particularly young people.

Barbara Slate and Cathy – on a little walk in the woods with Sparky!

Read more about Barbara Slate and her art, writing and workshops  here.

Our thanks to Richard and Barbara for a delightful afternoon amongst great books and book people in a lovely setting.

The distance we traveled to this event was about 250 miles.  Being the irrepressible book hunters we are,  it became another book scouting road trip. We made an overnight stop on the way to take in the Cazenovia, NY library sale and visited several book shops in the Albany, New York area the next day.  I will take you to the places we went and show you some of the books we found in my next post!


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  1. […] This is a blog I wish I had written, or rather, I wish I had written about my own visit, and had taken photos.  I seem to always have this conflict between Being There and writing about it (or even thinking about writing about it), particularly when I’m on the road. […]

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