Monday, June 07, 2010

Report from the Field: RBS Days 1-3

As I've mentioned, I'm at the University of Virginia this week for Rare Book School - it's a pretty intense experience all around (hence this being the first chance I've had to sit down and try to write a little about the first couple of days), but a really fascinating one, and while exhausting, it's been great fun so far and I anticipate more great fun for the next week and a half.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon, and jumped right into the fray, helping this week's staff prepare for the first summer session. The teaching collection is really a sight to behold, and watching the exceptional staff get everything prepared and placed in the classrooms was a very impressive thing - not to mention the well-oiled machine that they are in making sure everyone and everything are precisely where they need to be at exactly the right time. I'm very glad I had the chance to see the operation in action, because it definitely gives an important perspective on just how everything works (and goes to show just how amazing the staff is, and what big shoes I have to next week when I'm on duty for the next round of classes!).

Sunday afternoon saw us finishing up the last few preparations for the week's classes and getting ready for the students' arrival in the evening. That went off without a hitch (again, thanks to the superb coordination and organization that the staff manage), and we were welcomed officially to the RBS summer season by Director Michael Suarez, who spoke in the University's lovely McGregor Room. He stressed the importance of the RBS community both as a group of individuals (students from all aspects of the biblio-world) and as ambassadors to the world at large, giving a rousing welcome that I know was appreciated by all.

Today was the first day of classes - I'm taking Printed Books to 1800 with David Whitesell, and in our four sessions today (each 1.5 hours long) we had two great crash courses: the morning we spent on paper, discussing its manufacture and identification, laid v. wove paper, watermarks, &c. &c. In the afternoon we turned to typography: the design and creation of type in its various forms, how those changed over time, how it's discussed bibliographically, you name it. It was a wonderful introduction to the topics, and the really superlative teaching collection that RBS has accumulated over the years just made our discussions all the more amazing. Paper and type molds, a watermark example from the press of Wynken de Worde (printed on the first paper manufactured in England), typographical oddities and example sheets for practicing measurement and description, leaves to show ink halation ... you name it - if it was discussed, we got to see and hold an example. Where else could you do that?

Tonight's main event after class was a riveting talk by John Kristensen of Firefly Press in Allston (which I'm ashamed to say I've never visited, but must now make a point to do), "The Heavyweight Bout: Linotype vs. Monotype. The Two Dominant Technologies of Hot-Metal Typesetting Square Off." This (obviously) made for the perfect capstone to an afternoon of talking about typography, as John gave us capsule histories of the linotype and monotype technologies, including some video of each in action, taken in his shop (he has both machines, and uses them). He outlined the pros and cons of each technology, and happily answered many questions after his talk by those of us in the room. Great fun, and a really energetic way to end the day!

Back to it tomorrow - in the afternoon, we'll be printing! I've been snapping some photos and will do so again over the next few days, so stay tuned for those.


Peter K Steinberg said...

Sounds like a great time. Thanks for keeping us posted.

bruce said...

I'm kind of jealous. We don't seem to have an equivalent to this week long Rare Book School here in the UK. I'm sure both collectors and dealers, especially those new to the world of rare books, would find such a thing immensley useful.

~*sim*~ said...

@bruce: see london rare books school,