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Nature of the Book
Smithsonian Exhibit you can watch on You Tube
The Smithsonian Libraries and Archives presents a new exhibition, “Nature of the Book,” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History from November 11. 2022-through March 17, 2024.
What makes a book? Throughout history, books were handwritten, printed, bound and decorated using a wide variety of materials from the natural world. From leather coverings and paper derived from plants to mineral pigments and innovative recipes for inks, the early book was a combination of natural materials in the hands of skilled artisans. Influenced by the scarcity and abundance of commodities, global trade and economics, thrift and fashion, books could vary greatly in terms of materials, construction and purpose.
“Nature of the Book” explores books of the hand-press era (from the use of moveable type in Europe in about 1450 to the rise of mechanization in the 19th century) through the myriad natural materials—animal, vegetable and mineral—that went into their making. From essential ingredients like flax, leather, copper and lead, to the unexpected, like wasps and seaweed, the exhibition shows what the use of these materials can tell people about the book, touching on questions of use, process, global trade and economy.
The virtual tour features Vanessa Smith, Supervisory Conservator and Katie Wagner, Senior Book Conservator.