Nine CBAS members spent a beautiful Saturday visiting Lexington for our annual field trip. Jim Birchfield, Curator of Rare Books at the University of Kentucky’s King Library, was gracious enough to spend part of his day off with us. The group first viewed the Guild of Book Workers’ Horizons exhibit, an impressive and varied collection of fine bindings from its members all over the country. With the glass cases open, we were able to get a great close-up view of the intricacies of many of the bindings and the insides of books, a rare treat for a book arts display.
Our next stop was two floors below, the King Library Press, truly a hidden treasure in the region. The press was founded in 1956 after a group of librarians, working on their lunch hours, produced a small hand printed book. From that unimpressive beginning, the press has grown to be a first class producer of finely printed books and broadsides. In a room full of presses of all sizes and kinds, the first to attract our attention was a beautiful wooden common press built by legendary Austrian printer, painter and typographer Victor Hammer based on an ancient press in the Laurentian Library in Florence. “Gutenberg would be very comfortable with this press,” Jim Birchfield commented as he demonstrated its workings, definitely an operation requiring some serious upper body strength.
Everyone in the group was dazzled by the number and variety of antique presses, every possible accessory, and drawer after drawer of type, among them the American Uncial typeface seen frequently today and one of several created by Victor Hammer. If you’ve never visited the King Library Press, make a point of doing so next time you’re in Lexington. Until then, check out their website: http://www.uky.edu/Libraries/KLP/tour/
After a fun lunch at nearby Alfalfa restaurant, we headed to the Bluegrass Printmakers Cooperative where Liz Foley and Lauren Wilder showed us the facility and discussed how it operated. Members of the co-op have a variety of classes to choose from, and for only $5 an hour, use of the co-op’s equipment and space. What a great deal! The majority of our visit was spent informally comparing notes about the challenges small arts organizations like CBAS and BPC face. Everyone agreed that sharing information and support are among the best things we can do to ensure the health of our organizations.