New Haven, CT
This exhibition will explore the works of William Shakespeare from a fresh perspective, placing the literary giant within a tradition of fine craftsmanship on a completely different scale. Nearly one hundred exquisitely bound miniature editions of plays, sonnets, and books inspired by Shakespeare—each measuring three inches high or less and selected from the singular collection of Neale and Margaret Albert—will be on display. The exhibition includes miniature editions of Shakespeare’s works published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by William Pickering, Knickerbocker Press, and others, all bound with artistic designer bindings commissioned by Neale Albert (Yale JD 1961) during the past decade. Designer bookbinding is an aspect of the book arts too often overlooked and this exhibition will offer a unique opportunity for visitors to examine these works closely. All of the books included in the exhibition are a promised gift to the Center from Neale and Margaret Albert.
The title “The Poet of Them All” is taken from a line in the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” from Cole Porter’s lively 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate. At the heart of the Alberts’ collection, and of this exhibition, are thirty-nine copies of a miniature book illustrating the lyrics and music to that song, published by Albert at his Piccolo Press in 2009. Designed by Leonard Seastone, with drawings by Seymour Chwast, every copy has a unique artistic binding. For these bindings, as well as the others on display, Albert commissioned some of the most talented designer bookbinders working today in the United Kingdom, the United States, and throughout the world. As in all his commissions, Albert asked every artist to craft their own interpretation, offering no guidelines and imposing no restrictions. He wrote to one artist, slightly tongue-in-cheek: “My only instructions are to make this the finest binding you have ever done. How is that for pressure?” Every artist, whether working in leather, paper, cloth, wood, or metal, rose to the occasion.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website
Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog, The Poet of Them All: William Shakespeare and Miniature Designer Bindings, illustrates almost one hundred of Neale and Margaret Albert’s miniature books, each one intricately constructed and rendered in precise detail at less than three inches in height. Imaginatively hand-bound by some of today’s most accomplished bookbinders, the selection features custom miniature editions of publications by William Shakespeare and related to his works.