The Art Form of The Book

In one of my alternate fantasies of a parallel career, I see myself owning a large but cozy bookstore, filled with old, beautiful, and unusual books. I sit at the front desk with my fragrant cup of hot tea (of course we give away free cups of coffee, tea, and hot cocoa to our customers) typing away at my latest novel and every so often being interrupted by a serious customer who has questions, or is ready to make a purchase of a fine and valuable book.
On occasion, when I owned an antiques shop, I’d set up a section for old and collectible books. The most popular were the children’s picture books, but old books are fragile. Quickly I noticed the paper starting to crumble and break as too many people quickly leafed through the pages of yellowing volumes illustrated with woodblock prints, and delicate engravings. I stopped selling old books but collected a few for myself when the prices were “right.”
As a member of the St. John’s College, Mitchell Gallery Advisory Board, I enthusiastically suggested we sell a few fine books as a component of the upcoming “Art of the Book” event, which commences with an art exhibition inspired by books and concludes with a reception that features author readings, food, cocktails, and music.
A St. John’s College education is grounded in the chronological study of seminal works of Western civilization, referred to as the “Great Books”. So it is only fitting that the theme of the art exhibit and the activities associated with the exhibit have to do with writing and books.
We’ve received some very nice books: including a first edition of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking with the dustcover and a lovely Facsimile Edition of the 1855 Text of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, published in 1919 by Thomas Bird Mosher.
I thought the books by W. Somerset Maugham ( some first editions) and Robert Harding Davis would be worth some big bucks, but its turns out they are fairly commonplace. I also learned in my recent research that many of these older books are available online for FREE. The copyrights have expired and they are available for download to be read on computers and e-readers.
My worries about the fragility of old books, has no basis in the virtual world, but what about the feeling of turning the pages of fine embossed paper and marveling at the beauty of fine leather binding? Old books, in some cases, may be turning up to lead second lives as a part of a collage in the exhibition ‘Art of the Book” which will open on June 17th. Monies collected from the silent auction of artwork and the book sale will go to support The Mitchell Gallery’s education programs. Come to the VIP Preview gathering at 6:00 p.m. on June 25th and meet the artists and the featured speakers, Alan Cheuse and Lisa Simeone–both from National Public Radio, along with Kerry McAleer-Keele from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Or arrive at 7:00 to the general reception. Authors Temple Cone, Debra Garner, Barbara Klein Moss, Laura Oliver, and Hank Pugh will be giving readings through the evening. If you can’t make it over to the Mitchell Gallery, you can visit online at The events will be taking place at the Mitchell Gallery and Francis Scott Key Lobby.

Published by Nadja Maril

Nadja Maril is a communications professional who has over 10 years experience as a magazine editor. A writer and journalist, Maril is the author of several books including: "American Lighting 1840-1940", "Antique Lamp Buyer's Guide", "Me, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat", and "Runaway, Molly Midnight; the Artist's Cat". Her short stories and essays have been published in several small online journals including Lunch Ticket, Change Seven, Scarlet Leaf Review and Defunkt Magazine. She has an MFA in creative writing from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. Former Editor-in-Chief of What's Up ? Publishing, former Editor of Chesapeake Taste Magazine a regional lifestyle magazine based in Annapolis, and former Lighting Editor of Victorian Homes Magazine, Maril has written hundreds of newspaper and magazines articles on a variety of subjects..

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