A new Burns Library exhibit, Commitment to Craftsmanship: Conservation Bookbindings by Mark Esser, is now on display through January 16, 2015. This exhibit is designed to introduce Boston College students to bookbinding and book conservation, explores the training Mark received, his background as a teacher at the North Bennet Street School (NBSS), and showcases some of the conservation bindings that he produced as Book Conservator for the John J. Burns Library of Rare Books and Special Collections. Mark Esser was Rare Book Conservator in the John J. Burns Library at Boston College from 1994 until 2008. He began his training in bookbinding in 1979 at the Harcourt Bindery in Boston. He then worked in the Conservation Bindery at the Newberry Library in Chicago while studying privately with David Brock. Esser apprenticed with William Anthony from 1982 to 1986, first at Anthony & Associates in Chicago and then at the Conservation Department of the University of Iowa Libraries. He now works privately.
In 1986, he developed the curriculum and was the first instructor for the hand bookbinding program at the NBSS in Boston, teaching the course until 1994. NBSS offers intensive, hands-on training in traditional trades and fine craftsmanship, helping students to achieve meaningful livelihoods. The exceptional programs, master faculty and inspiring community have encouraged individual growth, technical mastery, and commitment to excellence, attracting students from all over the world. NBSS was founded in 1885 by Pauline Agassiz Shaw. Mark was an outstanding teacher; his students work in renowned institutions, including: Harvard University Libraries, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston College, University of Delaware, Maryland State Archives, the Boston Athenaeum, the Library of Congress, the Huntington Library, and the American Antiquarian Society.
Mark was greatly admired at Boston College for the finely crafted bindings he created. The Guild of Book Workers also recognized his exceptional skills, featuring his work in key exhibitions such as their 80th Anniversary show. The Guild was founded in 1906 to “establish and maintain a feeling of kinship and mutual interest among workers in the several hand book crafts”. The Guild provides members with workshops, training, and exhibit opportunities.
In 2013 Designer Bookbinders of the United Kingdom declared Mark a Distinguished Winner in its International Bookbinding Competition. Designer Bookbinders, as described on its website, was “founded over fifty years ago, and has by means of exhibitions and publications, helped to establish the reputation of British bookbinding worldwide. Its membership includes some of the most highly regarded makers in the fields of fine bookbinding, book arts and artists’ books.”
Mark continued the work of his Boston College predecessor and former student, Marilyn Heskett, by training interns in the Bookbuilders of Boston internship program. Bookbuilders of Boston, founded in 1937, has a membership representing all facets of the book industry: editing, design, production, manufacturing, and marketing. This organization has created a scholarship fund to support, encourage, and promote publishing related education. Participating schools, such as Boston College, award the scholarships to students who plan to pursue careers in the industry.
Committed to Craftsmanship: Conservation Bookbindings by Mark Esser is on display at the Burns Library through January 16, 2015. The exhibit is open whenever the Burns Library is open. Check the BC Libraries hours page for the Burns Library’s open hours.