The Degolyer Bookbinding Competition

Esther Kibby's design entry

On June 2, the fourth Helen Warren DeGolyer Triennial Exhibition and Competition for American Bookbinding held a conference to announce the winners, showcase their designs and share bookbinding techniques. This event is held every three years and is a means to promote the art and craftsmanship of fine bookbinding. It is one of the very few book competitions in America that awards the craftsmanship and creativity of bookbinders thanks to a generous endowment by the Degolyer family. Helen Warren Degolyer, for whom the competition is named for, was a master bookbinder.

The competition is a commission to bind a selected rare book for the Bridwell Special Collections. In the 2006 competition, the selected book is the Jorge Borges book of short stories, Ficciones. The Ficciones is a collection of short stories that have recurrent themes of parallel universes, labyrinths and the fusing of dream with reality. The jurors were; Stuart Brockman, Design Bookbinder, Brockman Bookbinders; Valerie Hotchkiss, PhD, University of Illinois Special Collections Head; Jamie Kamph, Bookbinder; Steven A Nash, Director or Nasher Sculpture Garden; Peter D. Verheyan, Conservator at Syracuse University; Eric Marshall, PhD, Curator, Bridwell Library Special Collections; Joseph Warren, Degolyer family member.

There are sixteen entries in this event with three winners in the competition. All of the entries are remarkable in concept and reflective of the several skill levels of very fine bookbindings. James Tapley won the Degolyer Award for American Bookbinding. David John Lawrence won the Jury Prize for Binding. Esther Kibby won the Jury Prize for Design.

Mr. Tapley’s complex, structural design associates the mature Borges persona with his younger self, using the family garden to represent his first “other” world. David’s concept for the binding involved circular forms to represent the labyrinth nature of Borges narrative themes. My concept represents the yearning of dreams to perpetuate the illusion of reality, that eventually falls to passion’s destructive nature.

As a winner of the Degolyer Award, Mr. Tapley receives the commission of $6,000 to produce his binding over the next three years. Both David and I received generous gift certificates from Harmatan Leather, which of course fuels the bookbinding obsession.

The exhibition with all sixteen bindings is on display from June 2 to July 21, 2006, at the Elizabeth Perkins Protho galleries in the Bridwell Library on the Southern Methodist University campus. I don’t think photographs do justice to the work, so I encourage people to see the works in person if they are in Dallas, Texas. The exhibition space is nicely arranged and artfully lighted to view the works from several points of view.

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