2009 RBMS Leab Exhibition Award winners

Contact: Megan Griffin

ACRL Program Coordinator

(312) 280-2514



For Immediate Release

May 22, 2009

CHICAGO – The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) has selected five winners and one honorable mention for the 2009 Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab “American Book Prices Current” Exhibition Awards. The awards, funded by an endowment established by Katharine Kyes Leab and Daniel J. Leab, editors of “American Book Prices Current,” 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. Certificates will be presented to each winner during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago at the RBMS Information Exchange at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 12.

The Division One (expensive) winner is “China on Paper: European and Chinese Works from the Late Sixteenth to the Early Nineteenth Century,” submitted by The Getty Research Institute.

“This year’s Division One winner is a prime and very substantial specimen of the scholarly catalog,” said Richard Noble, chair of the RBMS Exhibition Awards committee and rare books cataloger at Brown University. “While providing a record of the exhibition itself, it ranges far beyond the specifics of the exhibition, especially in the accompanying scholarly essays. This program realizes its purpose as three scholarly experts and the curator interpret the collected materials from various angles, to produce new readings of the relationship between China and the West in the period before the Western imperial adventure muddied the cultural waters forever. The physical book reflects the expense of its production, allowing a spaciousness of design that balances text and illustrations in a way that allows one to see, as well as read, what the essays are talking about.”

The Division One honorable mention winner is “The Proper Decoration of Book Covers: The Life and Work of Alice C. Morse,” submitted by The Grolier Club.

“This catalog constitutes a significant contribution to the scholarly literature of its field and documents an instance of book collecting, by Mindell Dubansky, as a form of research,” noted Noble. “There isn't an element of this book that isn't excellent of its kind and useful in its own right, including the provision of a general essay by Alice Cooney Frelinghuysen that provides historical context and a fresh view. The Exhibitions Award Committee felt that it deserved an honorable mention as something exquisite to place alongside the weighty and impressive winner from the Getty Research Institute.”

The Division Two (moderately expensive) winner is the Stanford University Libraries’ Department of Special Collections, for their piece entitled “Experiments in Navigation: The Art of Charles Hobson.”

“The wealth of material available in Charles Hobson’s archive, recently donated to Stanford University, has been turned to every sort of advantage,” said Noble. “One proceeds through the book with growing admiration for the skilful coordination of typography, text, captions and the disposition of the various sorts of illustrations. All elements are deployed in the service of a narrative logic, to produce a record of the origin, planning and techniques of each work. This is followed through in the impeccable quality of the image reproduction, printing and paper.”

The Division Three (inexpensive) winner is “Scottie Fitzgerald: The Stewardship of Literary Memory,” submitted by the Rare Books and Special Collections department at the Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina.

“In this category of the Leab Awards, we know that production values may reflect necessary economies,” Noble noted. “In this case, the design works perfectly well and is secondary to the curation of the exhibition and the compiling of the catalog. Matthew Bruccoli, the compiler, was a biographer and deep collector of F. Scott Fitzgerald and collaborated with Scottie Fitzgerald in the cultivation of her father's posthumous reputation and the revival of interest in his work. This gives the text a first-hand intimacy with its subject - Scottie herself, as a vital ‘keeper of the flame’ and guardian of the integrity of her father’s archive. The catalogue, profusely illustrated and issued with a CD of a Fitzgerald-Bruccoli interview, is an element of this critical/historical process.”

The Division Four (brochures) winner is The Book Club of California’s brochure entitled “The Book Art of Edward Gorey.”

“One of the pleasures of reviewing the brochures is the chance to handle a number of such neat little contraptions as this one,” said Noble. “It is all the more appropriate in this case, for, as the brochure notes, Edward Gorey ‘made forays into the flexibility of eclectic book format’—that is to say, Gorey himself delighted in bookish contraptions. The scale is just right in its reminiscence of Gorey’s miniature books. All the essentials are covered, including a checklist and curator’s notes and a tiny poster for the exhibition details. It’s an excellent example of knowing what you want and getting it right by way of creatively imitative design.”

The Division Five (electronic exhibition) winner is the Modern Books and Manuscripts unit at the Harvard University Houghton Library for “Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200,” available online at

“The exhibition, which draws on Longfellow holdings of Houghton Library with highlights from the collections of the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, Mass., is a pleasure to navigate,” said Noble. “Its ‘rooms’ are clearly defined. The objects in them can be quickly glimpsed and examined more minutely in excellent digital rendition. Each item is precisely identified, and there are links to Houghton’s online catalog descriptions, as well as a general link to the finding aid for the collection. Initial presentations are compact, with clear provision for expansion on the order of ‘read more.’ The exhibition is an excellent model for ways in which large bodies of digitally reproduced materials, with good metadata, can be selected and articulated within a meaningful virtual gallery space.”


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