College of Saint Elizabeth English majors in the English Symposium class travelled on November 29, 2013, to The Center for the Book Arts in New York to discover the art of the published word. The Center exhibits the ways that artists have taken average books and created works of art. For CSE English majors, the trip gave them a new way to look at the books they love as an art form.
The Center Arts looked more like an artists’ studio with its cluttered space and the background activity of marketing and exhibition-building apparent to its visitors. While the students participated in the bookbinding activity, Center’s workers were cutting strips of cardboard with a guillotine trimmer. “For the semester, we concentrated on the idea of ‘the book,’ so I thought that a trip to the Center for Book Arts would be a perfect way for students to think about what goes into making a book. They learned either book binding or typesetting, and got to see how time-consuming the creation of books can be,” said Dr. Lisa Mastrangelo, an English and Women’s Studies professor.
The CSE English majors toured the Center’s exhibitions of original artwork and artistic tools for bookmaking. Later, faculty and students sat down in separate workshops to learn about typesetting and bookbinding. Hand typesetting consisted of using the old-fashioned materials of lead and wood to create typefaces. The students “inked” their texts and added color. Those in the bookbinding workshop learned how to create a small book with a needle, thread, and several sheets of long, rectangular paper. Although both activities may sound effortless to some people, the CSE English majors testified that the tasks are more tedious than they sound.
Observed English major Rebecca Mitchko, ’15, “I always thought that a printing press was like the printers we see today- a paper rolls in, is printed on, and rolls out, no problem. But with typesetting, you have to roll the paper through the press yourself using a crank. It takes a lot of effort, and I can't imagine what how hard it must be to make multiple copies of something over and over again!”