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Judging books by the cover: Workshop delves into books as art form

30 p.m. March 8 in Room 150 A and B in the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library.

Richard Minsky is coming to Columbus to judge a book by its cover. Or do judge.

Minsky, a book artist, is traveling to Columbus to share his knowledge on examining books as an art form in the Book Critique Workshop at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in Room 150 A and B in the William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library.

When critiquing a book, one does not review the text inside, necessarily. The goal is not to examine how many run-on sentences or misplaced commas the author uses.

Minsky, who founded the Center for Book Arts based in New York City, said the idea is to look at the book as an object, an image and a metaphor.

He shares this concept and the history of book design in his book, “The Art of American Book Covers, 1875-1930.”

“It is how those things relate to each other that tells us so much about (the book) as a work of art,” Minsky said.

The object relates to the book’s form. The book’s image is used to portray the intended message visually. And the metaphor is the message that Minsky said should become “internal to the viewer.”

“When you look at works of art that are really interesting and that grab your attention, the space around them seems to vibrate,” Minsky said. “You go into the museum and you’ll see certain objects that kind of shimmer there, and what makes that shimmer?”

The book artist described that shimmer as the viewer relating the work of art before them to personal experiences.

“You see something, it could be a sculpture. … You look in it and you see like a piece of stone or cement or whatever it is, and you see the image might be of a tomb,” Minsky said. “That will be the image. And then, all of the sudden, you are going to be inside of your own experiences of death, of tombs. Things that are internal to each different viewer.”

In books and novels, the story often engulfs the reader, Minsky said. This leads to the reader’s attention to retract from the external view of the book to the internal view of the book. Minsky compares this process to the shutter of an old movie projector.

“The shutter is your attention going from your internal experience back to the material to the image, and back and forth,” he said.

The Ohio State University Libraries’ Center for Book Arts is sponsoring the workshop with OSU’s Department of Art.

Robert Tauber, Book Arts specialist at OSU’s Libraries Tech Center, is organizing the workshop.

Tauber is also a member of the Aldus Society, an organization of book design enthusiasts.

After Tauber was notified that Minsky was going to lecture at the Aldus Society Thursday, he asked the book artist if he would facilitate the workshop.

“(The Aldus Society) decided to bring Richard Minsky to speak because Richard has written a book on historical American book binding,” Tauber said. “It’s because of that book, as much as anything else (and) the fact that he is also a major player in the world of the book as an artwork in its own right. Not just a container of art work, or reproductions of art work, but where the book itself, physically, is treated as … a sculpture or a painting.”

Claire Gordon, a second-year in business, said she finds the idea of viewing books as art interesting.

“It’s something that a lot of people subconsciously evaluate, but they don’t necessarily consider when they’re looking for a book,” Gordon said.

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