Exhibits & Events

American Bookbinders Museum

A growing collection of machines, books, and periodicals for bookbinders spurred Tim Janes on a heroic quest to offer an authentic nineteenth-century bookbindery experience to visitors. The museum holds an extensive collection of bookbinding literature and equipment. Located at 355 Clementina St., the ABM is only accessible via docent-led tour, Tuesdays – Saturdays from 10-4. General admission is $10.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Arno River flood, the American Bookbinders Museum is pleased to host Books and Mud: the drowned libraries of Florence, an exhibition examining and commemorating the "Mud Angels" and the tools and techniques that were created to reclaim and restore hundred of thousands of books and documents devastated by the flood. Books and Mud is open to the public Tuesday – Saturday from 10-4; admission is free.

Courtesy of the ABM.

Atelier Contakos & Gerald W. Cloud Rare Books

Atelier Contakos and Gerald W. Cloud Rare Books present Didier Mutel: ΛCID = LIFE: Mapping Engraving in the ​V​SΛ​, ​an exhibition of works on paper and artist books, during Rare Book Week West. Mutel is a French artist, engraver, printer, and one of his generation’s foremost book artists. His workshop, Atelier Didier Mutel, is the oldest etching studio in France, founded in 1793. An opening reception with the artist is scheduled for Saturday, February 4, from 3-9 p.m., and another reception will be held on Thursday, February ​9, from 5-8 p.m. The gallery is located in San Francisco at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, Suite 101. If you cannot attend a reception, arrange a ​visit via ateliercontakos@gmail.com.

Courtesy of Atelier Contakos.

Bancroft Library, University of California

On view through February 17 is The Gift to Sing: Highlights of the Leon F. Litwack & Bancroft Library African American Collections. For decades professor emeritus of history Leon F. Litwack has been accumulating what is arguably the world’s finest private collection of books on African American history and culture. His collection is particularly noteworthy for its Harlem Renaissance first editions in strikingly illustrated dust jackets but also includes books with distinguished provenance such as a copy of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass with an inscription by the famous abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. Complementing the Litwack books on exhibit are treasures from Bancroft’s significant African American holdings.

Courtesy of the Bancroft Library.

Book Club of California

Book artist and Codex keynote speaker Lu Jingren will be celebrated in an exhibition, Lu Jingren: Master of Chinese Book Design, at the Book Club of California. Jingren is described as “A contemporary artist who is a master of the ancient traditions of Chinese book design and also runs the Jingren Art Design Studio in Beijing, Lu Jingren is renowned not only for his prolific creative work and his cutting-edge design sensibilities, but also for his dedication to fostering an appreciation of the book as an art form.” His work will be showcased from January 17 – March 13.

Courtesy of the Book Club of California.

De Young Museum/Legion of Honor

Apropos to the Codex fair, San Francisco’s Legion of Honor presents Historic Futures: Artists Reinvent the Book through February 26. The exhibit documents key moments in the evolution of the artist’s book from the late 1700s to today and features, for example, Dlia Golosa (For the Voice), the 1923 collaboration by El Lissitzky and Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky; Filippo Marinetti’s Les mots en liberté futuristes (Futurist Words in Freedom, 1919); LidantYU (1923), an early book by publisher and artist Ilia Zdanevich (Ilazd); and Musashimaro (2013), by German artist Veronika Schaepers.

El Lissitzky, page 17 in the book Dlia Golosa (For the Voice), by Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (Berlin: Gosizdat, 1923). Typographic print, 7-3/8 x 4-7/8 in. FAMSF, Gift of the Reva and David Logan Foundation, 1998.40.79.8. © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Letterform Archive

Letterform Archive is a San Francisco-based nonprofit library and museum dedicated to inspiring and educating all who love letters. The Archive offers visitors hands-on access to its curated collection of 35,000+ books, posters, journals/magazines, and ephemera related to lettering, typography, calligraphy, and graphic design. The Archive welcomes guests to an Open House on Saturday, February 4, from 4-7 p.m. to kick off Rare Book Week West 2017. Come explore the Archive at 1001 Mariposa Street and the surrounding “DoReMi” arts district. Light refreshments and beverages will be served, and recent Archive acquisitions will be on display. Space is limited; please click the link to reserve your spot.

Courtesy of Letterform Archive.


On Feb. 3-4 at the San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., San Francisco, the non-profit PhotoAlliance is sponsoring “Photo Books Now.” The symposium will bring together a dozen artists, librarians, curators, and publishers to present their projects and discuss issues relating to the creation, publishing, and collecting of photo books. Artist Alejandro Cartagena is the keynote speaker. A segment at the end of the day Saturday incorporates a small book fair where attendees can browse (and purchase) photo books and meet the publishers/artists. Click here for more information.

© Alejandro Cartagena from Carpoolers

The San Francisco Center for the Book

The SFCB will open a new exhibition, OPEN • SET, with a reception on the evening of February 4 from 6-8 p.m. The work of the winners of the OPEN • SET competition, a new triennial competition that formed in response to the burgeoning interest in finely crafted design book bindings in the United States, are included in this exhibition, which showcases 50 books and recognizes excellence in craftsmanship and design concept interpretation. On view through March 5. The SFCB, located at 375 Rhode Island Street, also offers workshops in letterpress, bookbinding, and related arts. If you’re in town for the book fairs, check out the February schedule. Two of particular interest include The Decorated Edge with Juliayn Coleman on Feb. 4 (register here) and Hand-Spinning for Bookbinding with Pam Deluco on Feb. 8-22 (register here).

Courtesy of SFCB.

The San Francisco Public Library

Through April 1, the SFPL at 100 Larkin Street will show The Illustrated Alice, an exhibition of work by various artists featuring their interpretations of Lewis Carroll’s famous character. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been illustrated by approximately 2,000 different artists since it was originally published in 1865. This exhibit features illustrators such as John Tenniel, Salvador Dali, Arthur Rackham, Robert Sabuda, Camille Rose Garcia, Barry Moser, and George Walker, and shows how each one imagined the story of Alice in their own version of “Wonderland.”

Arthur Rackham’s Alice. Courtesy of the SFPL.

The William Blake Gallery

San Francisco’s new William Blake gallery, presented by John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller, is a unique exhibition space dedicated to the Romantic poet, artist, and engraver. The premier and current exhibition, Always in Paradise: a William Blake Chrestomathy, features works by Blake’s own hand, including a stunning tempera painting, an important preparatory wash painting, and the earliest impression of an illuminated plate printed by Blake ever offered for sale—a proof plate from Songs of Innocence. The gallery at 49 Geary Street is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11-5, and is located just steps away from Windle’s bookshop.

William Blake, The Virgin Hushing. Pen and ink and tempera on paper on linen laid down on canvas 10-5/8 x 15 inches (27 x 38 cm). Signed with monogram and dated 1799 at lower left. Courtesy of The William Blake Gallery.