You can judge a book by its cover : a brief survey of materials [Rennie, Silvia]

Bound accordion-style in black leather, with six conjoined sections of text facing in opposite directions; spines have exposed stitching; doublures and endleaves tooled in gold; multicolored top edges; in a two-piece cloth box with mutlicolored leather onlays and gold tooling; pull-tab extends through box cover.

Silvia Rennie was born in Switzerland, where in her teens she learned the rudiments of bookbinding from a school friend and put terrible bindings on her father’s musical scores. Within a few years she married an Englishman and forgot all about bookbinding until years later the younger of her two children stopped coming home for lunch, leaving her with time on her hands. She looked for a book on bookbinding, found Pauline Johnson’s and in it found addresses of bookbinding teachers and was hooked. After discovering and attending the Ascona school under Hugo Peller she specialized exclusively in design binding. In 1981 she participated for the first time in a Guild of Bookworkers exhibition. In 1985 she had her first one-woman show at Kroch’s & Brentano’s in Chicago. In 1988, with Jan Sabota, she had an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Before and since then she has taken part in many other exhibitions here and abroad. She had taught and lectured on bookbinding all over this country and abroad, including at Ascona. In 1995 she retired (almost completely) and is now busier than ever “living happily ever after” with her dogs, goats and parrot in the gorgeous wilds of northern New Mexico.


“I always like to go along with a book’s character, mood, colors, etc. as much as possible. I had difficulties with this one because I could not reconcile the fine, classical, even somewhat severe woodcuts with flippant, modern, free-form golden shapes and dots. In the end I decided that since I could not find a way of unifying these two elements, I would add a third one of my own. I chose black to accompany the woodcuts, then did a sort of tongue-in-cheek, mock-Jansenist thing in puffing all the bright colors and tooling on the inside. With this binding, I suppose I also somewhat irreverently decided to give the lie to the title…Bernard Middleton has a lovely sense of humor, so I thought he might approve, or at least tolerate my joke. I have bound lots of miniatures. One reason I loved them was that I always thought of them a bit as toys, however refined, clever or valuable. Regarding this one too, I like the thought of people playing with it. In fact, for exhibitions purposes, I vaguely though it might be fun to have some plexiglass cubes over which it could be draped, a bit like a slinky.”