The Cloisters is a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in upper Manhattan, quite near my studio. In fact, I think I might be able to see it, if I climbed up on my bench and peeked out the upper left corner of my window. Northern Manhattan is quite different from the rest of the city. It is where the Dutch purchased the island from the Native Americans and there is still even a farmhouse located on Broadway dating to 1784, which is now a museum.
The Cloisters was built (assembled?) in 1938, and consists of four medieval buildings imported from Europe. It is located inside the 66 acres of Fort Tryon park. There are also beautiful gardens, including a nice garden featuring plants used for making dyes and paints. Looking across the Hudson River, there is a stunning view of the Palisades of New Jersey which John D. Rockefeller so admired he purchased 12 miles of shoreline to preserve the naturalistic view from the park.
The Cloisters is not only my favorite museum, but it has my favorite painting, The Merode Alterpiece. Note to the impecunious: although the Met recommends a $25 entrance fee, you can pay whatever you wish.
In April of 2015, I decided to photograph 34 actual books and works of art which contain representations of books which were on display. This was also a great chance to try a lot of handheld, low light photography with my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX7, which is proving to be the second best camera I’ve ever owned. There are higher resolution images for most of these on the Met site, searchable by accession number.
If anyone would like to visit my studio, we could take a short detour to the Cloisters and look at the works, discussing what we can — and can’t — learn from looking at representations of books in art. Or you can can use this as a virtual or self guided tour.
BOOKS AND REPRESENTATIONS OF BOOKS ON DISPLAY IN APRIL, 2015,
AT THE CLOISTERS MUSEUM, NYC
This virtual tour starts on the main level in the Late Gothic Hall, and follows a counterclockwise path around the Cuxa Cloister, then jumps to the Gothic chapel, Glass Gallery and the Treasury on the lower level.
Most bookbindings function as protection for the text contained within. This, however, is a bookbinding that also functions as a strop. I rebound Ron Hock’s The Perfect Edge: The Ultimate Guide to Sharpening for Woodworkers in reverse calf in order to make it work as a not-so-fine binding/ strop. This book is one of the best on sharpening, containing an excellent overall assortment of information. It is loaded with practical advice, overviews of the various sharpening systems and informative photos. I recommend it as a textbook to accompany the sharpening workshops I teach.
Anyway, this was the first time I constructed a reverse calf binding– the paring took a bit more time since most of the strength of the leather (hair side) was cut away, and the caps were a bit tricky to form. The book was sewn on 5 quarter inch linen tapes, the edges decorated with Golden Fluid Acrylics chromium oxide green mixed with airbrush medium and Staedtler Karat water-soluble pencils, and the endbands simply sewn in purple silk over a cord core. The front cover was coated with a .5 micron chromium oxide honing compound, for preliminary stropping, the back left bare for a final polish. It will be interesting to see how it looks in a couple of months when the metal particles start to build up.
Dwight Primano, a NYC based photographer and I designed this presentation box for a sequence of photographs titled “ken”. Since the images had a specific sequence, and alternated horizontal and vertical format, we decided on a box with a lift off lid and small squares in each of the corners to prevent the images from shifting. There are cut out areas for finger access on the top and sides. The image size is slightly smaller than the width of the paper, so all the images remain hidden until the top one is lifted off. The box is roughly 14 inches in height, square and covered with canapetta book cloth. A new tool, the 25 degree flexible mini knife proved very useful for paring down a ridge between the complex cut outs on the corners and bottom lining cloth.
It’s always fun to collaborate on a project that is somewhat unusual like this one. Dwight also teaches conservation documentation for The Institute for Fine Arts, as well as a great weekend workshop version covering some of the basics, which I took a couple of years ago. The top image looks like a woodcut, but it is a photograph of a kite lying on the grass. There are a few copies of this series for sale, contact him for details.