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Q Bembo ‘Q’ (simulated) letter press

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GSnell ‘G’ (simulated) embossed

You have until Wednesday February 13 to see perfectly rendered letters and more at the Codex International Book Fair 2013 in Richmond. Here you will revel in the divine (for ‘the word’ is divine­) regard for the limited edition and hand made book. The small press, the hand crafted, the adoration for pictures, words and poems, in languages contemporary or almost forgotten are represented by 180 exhibitors in the spacious Craneway Pavilion overlooking the Bay.

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One book—the last I looked at for how could I remember them all— “Das Lied des Akyn (The Song of the Rider)” is an edition of 100, printed in Hamburg by CTL Presse. Without understanding a word, I was mesmerized by what seems an ancient memory—like a cave painting. The single poem running throughout the book is printed in a different language on each spread. (I choked back tears over this collection of disparate voices united in one idea.) Photographs by Jutta Schwöbel faintly washed into the orange-buff china paper appear as hills until you realize these are sections of the profile of a horse. The poem by Chinghiz Aitmatov from Krygyzstan tells of the intense relationship between horses and humans beginning with the Mongols. “Like the power of an atomic bomb…” the bookmaker told me in his elegant German accent, “…with the horse, the Mongols conquered China and moved across Russia.”

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The housing for books are made from paper, wood, copper, fabric and leather and repurposed cigar boxes. Mark Cockram’s “The Raven” is bound in a pair of 1930s leather lady day gloves.

Arthur & Barbara“Arthur & Barbara” is a collaborative effort between proprietor Chip Schilling of Indulgence Press , the artist Barbara Westman and writer Arthur Danto. The mahogany box contains symbolic elements of the writer and artist and is reminiscent of Joseph Cornell boxes.

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I had seen “Musings” the repurposed embroidered sachet bags encasing small accordion books by Cathy DeForest at the Donna Seager Gallery so it was a pleasure to meet the artist who is also a writer and illustrator. Even these quiet odes to the women who make the lace ‘homely arts’ could be appreciated among the rows of exhibition tables for the crowd was reverently hushed as if in a library or chapel. Perhaps, overwhelmed like my companions and me, they were barely able to breathe from the excitement.

As I reluctantly departed the exhibit at the cut-off time, I followed a man carrying a load of different colored handmade papers purchased from the exhibitor Cave Paper, a company in Minneapolis. “That’s a serious investment,” I thought. Anticipating my own bookmaking efforts, I clutched my two sheets: a delicious saffron and the company’s give-away of coal black. My creative bookmaking class at the College of Marin is so jammed with eager artists I barely made it into the hastily added afternoon class. What a testament to the book and to their creators and to those of us who NEED the book in its myriad facets and interpretations. Especially the ones we hold in our hands.

The CODEX International Book Fair runs through Wednesday February 13. Craneway Pavilion in Richmond at 1414 Harbor Way South.

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