Courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

A new exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art called “Contemporary Designer Bookbindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert” explores a wide range of bookbinding techniques and materials.

On view until March 29, the exhibition features the work of designer bookbinder George Kirkpatrick, along with around 30 other contemporary designer bookbinders including Susan Allix, Hannah Brown, Gabrielle Fox, Michael Wilcox and
Robert Wu.

“In short, the exhibition is about books as art,” said Molly Dotson, who is a curator of the exhibit and the assistant curator of rare books and manuscripts at the YCBA. “These are objects where not only art and craft meet but also content and form, text and image, material and technique.”

The designer bindings on display were chosen from the collection of Neale and Margaret Albert. According to Courtney Martin, the director of the YCBA, the Alberts have an “outstanding” collection of contemporary designer bookbindings. Neale Albert LAW ’61 is an honorary fellow of a bookbinding society in the U.K. called “Designer Bookbinders.” Dotson added that Albert has commissioned over 500 designer bindings and collected
thousands more.

Dotson said that work for the exhibition was already underway when she joined the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department last January. However, she soon began collaborating on the exhibition with Albert and Elisabeth Fairman, the chief curator of rare books and manuscripts at
the YCBA.

The exhibition features full-scale bindings from the Alberts’ collection, highlighting the work of bookbinder George Kirkpatrick in particular. Dotson said that Albert and Kirkpatrick began working together in 2002 and have developed a lasting friendship through the years. According to the exhibition’s press release, Kirkpatrick’s first commission for Albert, “Atlas of the British Empire,” will be on display, along with his other works such as “The Neale M. Albert Collection of Miniature Designer Bindings,” “The Tempest,” “Genesis Dream,” and “La Prose du Transsibérien Re-Creation.”

Dotson added that the YCBA also wanted to highlight works by women bookbinders in the Alberts’ collection, in conjunction with the university’s commemoration of women at Yale and in acknowledgment of women’s long-standing contributions to the book arts.

The show highlights Albert as both a collector and a patron, Dotson said. It also touches on the theme of process, while showcasing “conceptual” and “visual” variety through both multiple works by a single binder and different binders working with similar subject matter.

“This exhibition encourages close looking — not only at the books themselves, but also at them in dialogue with the recently reconfigured modern and contemporary works on display in our galleries,” Martin said. “All [works] are examples of the ways in which modern and
contemporary object makers visualize their world.”

According to Dotson, Yale has a strong tradition in the book arts, from letterpress printing in libraries and residential colleges to the country’s first graduate program in graphic design. It also possesses book arts-related collections across multiple repositories. She said that since the works in the exhibition are a promised gift to the YCBA, they will help build upon the existing contemporary book arts collections while encouraging a new exploration of historical bindings in the YCBA’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Department.

“In general, I think such extraordinary books invite newfound appreciation for and critical attention to everyday books and, more broadly, to our relationships with information and material culture,” Dotson said.

On Feb. 29 from 1 to 3 p.m., Dotson will lead a beginner workshop exploring the art of bookbinding.

Freya Savla | freya.savla@yale.edu

Correction, Feb. 20: A previous version of this article referred to Neale Albert LAW ’61 as Neale Albert ’61. Albert graduated from Yale Law School, not Yale College; the article has been updated to reflect this.