Published: May 13, 2016
NEW YORK CITY — In honor of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary, the Grolier Club presents the exhibition “Brush Up Your Shakespeare: Miniature Designer Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert,” exploring the works of William Shakespeare from a fresh perspective.
Nearly 100 bound miniature editions of plays, sonnets and books inspired by Shakespeare are drawn from the collection of Neale and Margaret Albert. On view through May 28 in the second floor gallery, the exhibition focuses on designer bookbinding, an aspect of the book arts too often overlooked. It includes miniature editions of Shakespeare’s works published in the Nineteenth–early Twentieth Centuries by William Pickering, Knickerbocker Press, and others, all bound with artistic designer bindings commissioned by Neale Albert during the past decade. Each miniature book measures 3 inches tall or less.
The title of the exhibition is taken from the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare” from Cole Porter’s lively 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate. At the center of this exhibition are 39 copies of a miniature book illustrating the lyrics and music to that song, published by Neale Albert at his Piccolo Press in 2009. Designed by Leonard Seastone, with drawings by Seymour Chwast, every copy is encased in a unique artistic binding.
For these bindings, as well as the others on display, Albert commissioned leading designer bookbinders working today in the United States, the United Kingdom and throughout the world. As in all his commissions, Albert asked every artist to craft his or her own interpretation, offering no guidelines and imposing no restrictions. He wrote to one artist, slightly tongue-in-cheek: “My only instructions are to make this the finest binding you have ever done. How is that for pressure?” Each artist, whether working in leather, paper, cloth, wood or metal, took the advice to heart and created something unique.
Having served two terms as president of the international Miniature Book Society, Neale Albert actively continues to support designer binders. In 2014 he was elected an honorary fellow of Designer Bookbinders, the principal society in Great Britain devoted to artistic bookbinding. “I wish there were more Neale Alberts in the world,” says British bookbinder Susan Allix. “It is a pleasure to know someone who values and trusts a creative ability to the extent that he can stand back and allow a binding to happen.”
The exhibition will be augmented by a number of other works from the Alberts’ collections, with unique pieces by the London bespoke furniture designer Tim Gosling, including a scale model of the Globe Theatre and miniature bookcases. Russ Dritsch has designed the installation.
Neale Albert has been a devoted member and generous patron of the Grolier Club. In 2006 he presented a major gift to the Grolier — 100 miniature books in attractively crafted contemporary bindings along with a specially constructed piece of furniture to house the collection. These are on permanent display in the members gallery.
A companion volume to the exhibition that explores the books and their bindings in depth may be purchased directly through the Yale Center for British Art Museum Shop or the Yale University Press.
Following its presentation at the Grolier Club, the exhibition will travel to the Yale Center for British Art as “The Poet of Them All: William Shakespeare and Miniature Designer Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert,” where it will be on view June 16–August 21.
The Grolier Club is at 47 East 60th Street. For more information, www.grolierclub.org or 212-838-6690.
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