Visiting the Minnesota Center for Book Arts

Founded in 1985, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts (MCBA) became part of Open Book in 2000, moving into their current building in 2004. The other two parts of the of Open Book is the Loft (author- and writing-oriented) and the nonprofit publisher Milkweed. The building was originally three storefronts, very thoughtfully combined with great architectural elements. The doors open like bookcovers, the stairway looks like book pages, there are letters in the floor. The MCBA is one of three book arts organizations in the country, and the largest. They put on four exhibits per year, and host a biennial on book arts with international attendance. I toured with a group from ARLIS/NA, Twin Cities Chapter (Art Libraries Society of North America).


We started with the letterpress studio where there are two large manual presses. This beauty is an Alexandra. This is still occasionally used, but requires significant strength to operate; originally men ran the press, and women with their small dextrous fingers set the type.


This electric Vandercook Proof Press is a workhouse of the shop, perfectly inking the paper, and able to run continuously for a long period.


The studios contain printing, typesetting, papermaking, darkroom, and classrooms. (You know if there’s been a class when there’s a lot of colorful paper drying in the window). This round press is a Patten press.


The cases of type are known as California cases – not alphabetical, but the most common letters in the center. There is both metal and wood type. Here’s some sayings that come from the world of typesetting: “mind your p’s and q’s (referring to the difficulty of reading upside down and backwards, how type is set), “You’re all out of sorts (type not in its place),” and “upper case and lower case (capitals on the top part of the California case).


Pretty gift shop, right? Original work – cards, books, and more, supplies, and book art related items.


The library contains resources for artists, and a substantial collection of artists books. There are history on the history of books and paper, and examples of how books have evolved. On display for us to see was the 2012 Winter Book publication, where artists, binders, volunteers, and more work together to publish a book.


Visit the Minnesota Center of Book Arts, take a class, visit the gift shop, and see the gallery. Open Book is a treasure of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.


[I wrote the draft of this post in April, and now edited it and processed pictures to complete it. I think the content is still of interest, and I’m working on returning to blogging, so enjoy!]


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