Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Book Arts Tuesday/The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door

On facebook, I learned about The Greenwich Village Bookshop Door: A Portal to Bohemia 1920-1925, a great virtual exhibit from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin. Thank you Mary Baughman. I'm extending book arts to include bookstores because they are places which bring us into direct contact with the wonderful object of the book.

This exhibit pays tribute to an object in their collection—the painted door of the Greenwich Village Bookshop with signatures from a collection of writers and artists in New York from 1920 to 1925. Here's how Molly Schwartzburg, Cline Curator of Literature, describes it:

This exhibition reconstructs the bookshop and its community. The door is not accompanied by an archive of the bookshop, so this project seeks to create a virtual "archive" on the web. Artifacts gathered from across the Ransom Center's collections provide audiences with documentation of the shop's operations and the lives and careers of its customers. This is an ongoing project: we hope that audience participation will enrich the project with further information. Explore The Door to learn about the lives, careers, and relationships of almost 200 identified signatures—and help us identify those signatures that remain mysteries. Read the forgotten history of The Shop, immerse yourself in The Village, and visualize the many connections among The Bohemians who browsed the shop's shelves.

...The rich resources of the web are, of course, a bittersweet development for those of us who have long loved browsing, talking, and learning from each other in bookstores. While resources on the internet have fostered this project, they have also led directly to the closure of thousands of bookstores over the last decade. We hope that telling the story of this shop and its community will encourage audiences to be mindful of the history of bookstores, bookselling, book buying, and the power of place, as we experience this moment of enormous change.

There is lots to see here. I especially liked Edna St. Vincent Millay's A Few Figs from Thistles published by Frank Shay, the bookshop's owner in 1920. You can view all the pages and zoom in to see detail. This is just one of the many treasures awaiting.


Molly Schwartzburg said...

Thank you so much for posting about our exhibition! That Millay book is a real treasure--Shay's little books are very beautiful. For those of you who are in Austin, we have several of Shay's little books on display in the gallery exhibition, as well as a fantastic selection of bestsellers in original dust jackets and an array of the covers of magazines that were likely sold in the shop.

Note, too, that in the "Bohemians" section of the online exhibition, you can see a list of people who signed the door who are marked with the tag "Book Arts," including well-known figures such as type designer Bruce Rogers and book designer Will Bradley.

Susan Kapuscinski Gaylord said...

Molly, I love that you shared so much of th exhibit online. It's great for those who us who can't see it in person.

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