The ﬁrst book was bornwhen sheets of paper or papyrus were fastened together between two covers. Books were originally exclusive objects, written and illustrated with precision and bound with great craftsmanship and skill. Though the passage of time and the development of printing techniques has seen the book become commonplace, the art of binding books between beautiful covers remains unique. From the printed manuscript, the skilled bookbinder creates his or her own, unique interpretation of the literary text.
The magical thing about books is that each one has its own, individual characteristics. The content between its covers can evoke strong feelings, inspire new thoughts and create lively debate. As an object, a book offers a sense of security and comfort. Holding a book in your hand and feeling its weight, running your ﬁngertips over its pages, inhaling the scent of its paper – this in itself can be just as overwhelming an experience as reading it. All of these aspects combined make a book much more than just the sum of its parts.
The Noble Prize winner in literature for 2008, Jean Marie Gustave Le Clézio, has shared with us what he missed most of all as a child during the years that followed WWII: pens, paper for drawing and writing, and his own books to read. The lack of books of his own led him to devour his mother’s reference works, in which maps and pictures awoke dreams of travel and discovery in faraway places. As an adult, Le Clézio’s dreams became a reality and his extensive travel has left an indelible mark on his writing.
Le Clézio believes that the book is an important and valuable thing. For this reason, it is especially pleasing to be able to introduce this exhibition on display here at the Nobel Museum, in which bookbinders from Sweden and France have created their own, unique interpretations of two of Le Clézio’s novels. The exhibition focuses on the French edition of Ritournelle de la faim and the Swedish translation of Révolutions (Allt är vind). This represents a joint tribute to last year’s Nobel laureate and to the book as an idea and as an object.
Curator, Nobel Museum
Nothing is ever completely static — and a good thing, too! Everything changes, be it quickly or slowly. The same holds true for this exhibition.
In previous years, the binding exhibition for the year’s winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature has only included Swedish bookbinders. A requirement for participation had been membership in either Bokbindarmästareföreningen (the Swedish Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders) or in the Swedish binder association Bokbindaregesällskapet. The vitality of the bookbinding industry in Sweden is apparent in the fact that the invitation has most often generated a collection of around 20 bound volumes for exhibition.
In the spring of 2007 I was invited by the French bookbinders’ organisation APPAR (l’Association pour la Promotion des Arts de la Reliure) to give a lecture on Swedish book- binding, both historical and modern. I had the opportunity to speak about the Swedish Guild of Contemporary Bookbinders’ collaboration with the Nobel Museum and the exhibitions we have previously arranged there. This meeting gave rise to the joint exhibition by French and Swedish bookbinders which visitors to the museum are now invited to view. The fact that French-born author J.M.G. Le Clézio just happened to be awarded the prize that same year only served to make the exhibition even more timely.
The work of binding the volumes was carried out over the spring and summer of 2009. We worked on two of Le Clézio’s novels – Révolutions and the Swedish translation of Ritournelle de la faim (Swedish title: Hungerns Visa). The 35 exhibited volumes comprise 28 French and seven Swedish volumes. In total, 34 bookbinders have contributed to the exhibition, 18 French and 16 Swedish.
The second change made is that Sveriges Bokbinderiförening (SBI), the Swedish bookbinders association, has now assumed formal responsibility for the exhibition. SBI is also responsible for Sweden’s mechanical bookbinders, that is, binders who produce books with the help of machinery. This change has meant both greater prominence for and an increased number of people supporting and contributing to the work surrounding the exhibition.
It is only proper that we also express our thanks to publishing houses Èditions Gallimard and Elisabeth Grate Bokförlag AB for delivering the printed material to us, hot off the presses. As artisans, it is always a pleasure to have the opportunity to bind previously unbound mate- rial. Our thanks also to bookbinder Annika Baudry, who served as our contact in France. Annika’s work has been of great help in coordinating with and contacting our French colleagues.
Carina Stockenberg represented Bokbindaregesällskapet and her help has been invaluable in organising this exhibition. Thank you Carina. Thank you also to Johanna Röjgård and Bosse Andersson for their help with the jury.
Bookbinder, Exhibition organiser at SBI