2008 ACRL RBMS Leab Exhibition award winners

Contact: Megan Griffin

ACRL Program Coordinator

(312) 280-2514


For Immediate Release,

March 4, 2008

2008 ACRL RBMS Leab Exhibition award winners

CHICAGO - There are five winners of the 2008 Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab
American Book Prices Current Exhibition Awards. These awards, funded by an endowment established by Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab, editors of
American Book Prices Current and sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books & Manuscripts Section (RBMS), recognize outstanding exhibition catalogues issued by American or Canadian institutions in conjunction with library exhibitions as well as electronic exhibition catalogues of outstanding merit issued within the digital/Web environment.

Division One (expensive): The winner is
Illustrating the Good Life: The Pissarros' Eragny Press, 1894-1914: A Catalogue of an Exhibition of Books, Prints & Drawings Related to the Work of the Press, submitted by The Grolier Club.

Illustrating the Good Life is best characterized as a beautifully composed catalog, one that does its very good best to complement, as a sympathetically designed book, the books printed at the Eragny Press,” said Richard Noble, chair of the RBMS Exhibition Awards committee and rare books cataloger at Brown University. “Alice Beckwith's text in the general introduction and in the individual commentaries is intended at every point to recall the reader, as a member of “the book-loving public,” to a consciousness of process, not simply as a set of isolated techniques, but, in this case particularly, as a lived aesthetic. The designer has assembled and styled the printed text and the images with something of the same feel as the work of the press without imitating the full density of its typography, but with sensitivity to its sense of color.

“Above all, this is an informative catalog, a worthy contribution to the history of the Eragny Press in its historical moment, starting with the books that influenced it, proceeding through its own work and ending with an account of its influence on the work of others, with the valuable addition of an extensive bibliography and an index.”

Division Two (moderately expensive): The winner is the Chicago Public Library, Special Collections and Preservation Division, for its piece entitled
One Book, Many Interpretations.

“This little catalog-little by design, but well packed-is the outcome of what one might think to be as 'general collections' a project as a public library could undertake: to encourage, by way of the reading of the same book by many people, a 'culture of reading,'” said Noble. “It was an inspired idea to take the
One Book, One Chicago reading program and extend it to the creation of a small but rich collection of forty-seven interpretive fine bindings (and one bonus binding by the exhibit curator).

“The book is decidedly designed. Even the cover design, with the die-cut circle giving us the
One Book program device 'before letters adds to the fun. We are particularly happy to make this award to a public library building on the culture of reading to advance the culture of the book.”

Division Three (inexpensive): The winner is
Mapping America: 500 Years of Cartographic Depictions, submitted by Vassar College.

Noble commented, “It might be taken as a sign of what this catalog is, that it was entered under the name Vassar College, rather than Vassar College Libraries. It does include a checklist of an exhibition held in the Vassar College Library, consisting of materials held by the 'Vassar College Libraries'; but the work as a whole is about the pedagogical underpinnings of the process that brought it into being. The basic theme is stated by Ronald Patkus, in his introductory essay. While conceding that 'the holdings here do not have the breadth or depth of collections in larger institutions,' he goes on to say, “Viewed as a whole, the collection of atlases and maps that has been assembled by the library is a valuable resource that continues the Vassar tradition of learning by 'going to the source.'” Moreover, “A special aspect of 'Mapping America' is that students-not only librarians-have played an important role in its creation.

“The catalog has been well designed and produced, at relatively little cost, and represents one ideal of the exhibition catalog, as a permanent contribution to the institution's own resources for making the best use of its collections and as a signpost for others.”

Division Four (brochures): The winner is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University's brochure, entitled “Collecting an Empire: The East India Company (1600-1900).”

“The various elements by which this committee judges brochures are here of the highest quality. Ayesha Ramachandran's 1000-word essay, which might well serve to introduce a comprehensive history of the EIC, is a model of scholarly concision that orients-and, we might say, occidents-an intelligent reader to the historical background and material scope of this exhibition, which drew on a number of Beinecke collections,” Noble noted.

“The text is also an example of straightforward good typography. The six color illustrations represent the exhibition's wide variety of documents and graphics, with captions that succinctly identify and place them. The tri-fold format has been well used: the formal front cover title and back cover facsimile exemplify, when opened to face each other, the contrasting modes of cultural confrontation that inform the exhibition as a whole; and the interior is a well balanced triptych of printed and facsimile text. The brochure is of handy size, printed on heavy matte stock, the ideal, non-glossy medium for fine-grained graphics. In none of these things is it startlingly innovative: its business is to stay out of its own way and let its excellent contents through.”

Division Five (electronic exhibition): The winner is the North Carolina State University Libraries Special Collections Research Center for
B.W. Wells, Pioneer Ecologist(

“This online exhibition is the most publicly accessible node of a system of exhibition, catalog and online resources devoted to the life and work of B. W. Wells, an interesting but little known pioneer of the movement in natural science from botanical description to the systems approach known as ecology,” said Noble. “All the elements of this
archival ecology, so to call it, are consistent in design, and allow the viewer/reader the opportunity to follow a narrative or to branch out to image and sound resources that go well beyond the boundaries of the exhibition proper, yet allow one to backtrack and set out in other directions without the confusion that may sometimes be observed in other sites that attempt the same sort of multiple linkings.

“Taken together, it is an exemplary exercise in telling a story using archival materials of many kinds, of which the online exhibition is the real linchpin.”

Certificates will be presented to each winner during the 2008 American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif., during the RBMS Program at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 29.

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), representing 13,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments.