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King Library Press Explores Art Books in the Digital Age With Peter and Donna Thomas

photo of web images for "More Making Books by Hand" by Peter and Donna Thomas
"More Making Books by Hand," by Peter and Donna Thomas, is a manual describing how to make the book structures they developed during the previous decades’ explorations.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 7, 2017) In today’s digital world, many may wonder if the book artist still has a role to play. Peter and Donna Thomas believe they do, and will talk about their work as book artists for the last 40 years at the King Library Press Fall Lecture and Workshop scheduled for Nov. 10-11, at the University of Kentucky’s Margaret I. King Library Building. In addition, the press will open an exhibition of the couple’s work at the King Library Building on display through mid-January 2018.

Peter and Donna Thomas are book artists from Santa Cruz, California. Since 1977, the pair has worked both collaboratively and individually in letterpress printing, hand-lettering and illustrating texts, making paper, and hand binding both fine press and artists’ books. Inspired by the archetypal quest for beauty and perfection, and informed by the potential of word, image, shape and texture to create an illuminating or transformative experience, the couple’s initial aim was to create limited edition fine press books made of the finest materials and produced to the highest standards of quality, in both full size and miniature format.

This aesthetic continued to guide the duo through the 1990s as they worked in new formats made possible by personal computer technology, exploring nontraditional book structures and shaped book objects as both limited editions and one-of-a-kind books. Their 2002 book, “More Making Books by Hand: Exploring Miniature Books, Alternative Structures and Found Objects,” is a manual describing how to make the book structures they developed during the previous decades’ explorations. Their 2000 “Ergonomics of Hand Papermaking” video documents and demonstrates production papermaking techniques rediscovered visiting European hand papermills. The couple’s 2012 editorial work for “1000 Artists’ Books" created a system to categorize artists' books by physical characteristics. Since 2010, they have traveled the U.S. as the “Wandering Book Artists” giving talks, workshops and demonstrations to both academic and community-based audiences.

As part of their visit to UK, Peter and Donna will present a free public lecture at the opening of the exhibition of their 40 years of work. The lecture will begin 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, in the Great Hall, located on the second floor of the King Library Building. Both the exhibition and lecture are free and open to the public.

The festivities with Peter and Donna will continue the following day at the King Library Press with a printing and binding workshop. This event will begin with a continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 11. Following the morning session of the workshop, lunch will be served at noon. The completion of the workshop will follow in the afternoon. The entire workshop will be $40 a person. Since only a small number of individuals will be able to participate, registration for the workshop is highly recommended. To register, call Paul Holbrook, director of King Library Press, at 859-608-9623.

Founded in 1956, the King Library Press is devoted to the tradition of fine printing and produces books and broadsides. Typesetting, printing and binding are all done at the press and there are opportunities for apprentices. The press, part of UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center, is located in the basement of the King Library Building.

The Special Collections Research Center at UK Libraries is home to a collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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