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Designer Bookbinders’ Millennium Bug

Concerning "DB's Millenium Bug" on the role of the organization's foreign membership and future of the organization, Designer Bookbinders Newsletter, No. 106, Spring 1999.

It was with great interest that I read Jen Lindsay’s article in the last issue of the DB Newsletter. I’ve been a member of DB since 1987, and have greatly enjoyed and benefited from my membership in this organization, most notably because of the TNB. It is because of that publication that I have remained a member. During the now 11 years of my membership I have seen DB become and increasingly international group, something which has also been reflected in the excellent articles published in TNB.

DB, however, also remains a very hierarchical organization in which the dues of the vast majority are supporting the activities of the “elite,” as well as TNB. As a foreign member I am excluded from most activities because of geography which there is little anyone can do about. I am however also excluded from participation in DB sponsored exhibitions and competitions. Some years back, in no. 67, July 1989 of the Newsletter, I wrote a letter criticizing this policy, which seems to continue to remain in effect. The reason given for my exclusion from even entering was that as a foreign member the quality of my work could not be vouched for, regardless of the fact that the actual books, not slides were juried. Since the entrant was/is responsible for shipping and insurance charges, the risks were all mine.

As a member, binder, and bibliophile I greatly appreciate the high standards, which DB expects of its Fellows, and in its “open” exhibitions. As past Exhibitions Chair of the Guild of Book Workers, and participant in many of their exhibitions I have seen what I perceive to be a decline in the technical expectations of the work accepted in exhibitions everywhere. This is not an issue of shoddiness but a gross simplification of structure (dumbing down) such as little blank books sewn with gold thread, buttons, beads. The Work exhibited by DB has seemingly remained unaffected by this trend, without becoming anachronistic something which I applaud. It has given many of us something to strive for.

For DB to grow in the future it needs to change. This does not mean that the hierarchical nature has to be abolished. It does mean that the entire membership of DB needs to be enfranchised. There should be no distinction between UK members or anyone else. We accept the fact that there are events we may not be able to attend, but geography or nationality are no reason for exclusion. The work should speak for itself.

As for the concluding remark about the book as we know it disappearing in ten years, I doubt seriously that that will happen. As listowner of a listserv which currently has 1300+ members worldwide, and is frequently excerpted in this Newsletter, I can assure you that interest in the book arts is growing year after year. Sure, many of these individuals are self taught, but all want to learn and grow as binders and book artists. DB’s members can give them something to strive for. Elitism should be expected of work, but not necessarily in who gets to participate. Failure to open up in meaningful ways may make DB irrelevant in ten years, which would be a great loss.

Peter D. Verheyen

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