New Jersey Book Arts Symposium  

The Mighty Hackensack, Beatrice Coron

What We Are

The New Jersey Book Arts Symposium is an annual day-long event in late fall that presents contemporary work by living New Jersey book artists and considers issues of current relevance to practitioners within the field of the book arts, and to the cultural perception and definition of The Book. Besides its distinctive continuing and exclusive focus on New Jersey, the NJBAS also distinguishes itself from similar events by its inclusivity. The NJBAS attempts to survey work in all aspects of the book arts--looking at the ongoing practice of traditional arts, such as typography, book-binding, paper-making, calligraphy, illustration and book-design, alongside the innovative production of "artists' books," "bookworks" and "book objects." Along with its attention to the work of contemporary artists, the NJBAS includes panel discussions and academic and scholarly papers on topics material to the history of the book arts.

A non-profit event, the NJBAS is supported chiefly by the attendees, by the Dana Library of Rutgers University, The Friends of the Rutgers Libraries, and by various sponsors and patrons we consider the friends of the NJBAS.

Symposium #1

For a recapitulation of The First Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, see the Newsletter of the Guild of BookWorkers, Issue number 104, February 1996, or made available here by their kind permission.

Symposium #2

For a sense of The Second Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, see the electronic exhibition mounted on the World Wide Web. Here is the URL:

How We Started

The Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium began life in 1994 as an idea for an exhibition at Special Collections and University Archives, for which Susan G. Swartzburg and Michael Joseph were the co-curators. While they mounted the exhibition, Book Arts in New Jersey: Seven Contemporary Perspectives, in New Brunswick, they organized a complementary day-long event, A Sense of Place and The Book Arts: Contemporary Perspectives, at the Dana Library,  Rutgers--Newark. A small but friendly audience heard the exhibitors speak about their work, and about the influence of place, and enjoyed the local exhibition of book art installed by Ann Watkins, Exhibitions Coordinator, and Kathleen McShane, adjunct design professor.  With the enthusiastic encouragement of Lynn S. Mullins, Director of the Dana Library, a second event and exhibition took place in 1996. Book Arts and Education, or, Preaching What We Practice, proved to be more than the sucess d'estime of the previous year. Thanks in part to the advance publicity deftly coordinated by Karen Crisalli, of the Bookbinders Warehouse, the room housing the symposium, which had seemed so ample the previous year, overflowed with attendees (to which student 'drop ins,' attracted by the swarming crowd, contributed). A second room with an A/V feed was quickly set up to handle the overflow. Nor was the Symposium confined to these spaces. Vendors contacted by Crisalli had set up tables in the pleasantly winding gallery where the display cases showed off examples of  artists' books, hand-made paper, and book design, and this space now served as extended auditorium; the voices of the speakers could be heard from here almost as well as in either room. So, despite the inability of everyone to be in the Dana Room at the same time, nobody complained, and few left. The event had buzz.

How We Grew

Susan Swartzburg's untimely death shortly before the second symposium drained elation from the day's success. As well as losing their colleague and close friend, the loss of Susan's knowledge of the book arts, her warm, personal connections with many New Jersey artists, and her vision of our future, dealt the NJBAS organizers a stunning blow. However, moved by the insistence of her friends and family that celebrating New Jersey book art made an appropriate tribute to Susan's memory, and with the encouragement of many talented artists and book-artists, particularly Judith K. Brodsky and the Rutgers Center for Innovative Print and Paper (RCIPP), and, with the full support of the Rutgers Libraries, it was agreed that the annual symposium should continue.

Having played a conspicuous role in the Second Symposium, The RCIPP continued to help shape the thrust and intellectual content of the Third Symposium and all succeeding symposia. Sheena Calvert, a colleague of Brodsky's at Mason Gross, stepped forward to curate the exhibition for Hey . . . What's New?: Tradition and Innovation In The Book Arts, and her students silkscreened the programs in the RCIPP studios. RCIPP's ongoing collaborations with visiting artists prefigured the theme of the Fourth Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, held in 1998. Collaboration and the Book Arts: Bringing Things To A Pretty Pass, benefited from the lively participation of  Peter Paone, Allegra Marquart and the legendary, Stella Waitzkin, whose book inspired artworks on permanent display at the Dana Library have become a touchstone for the NJBAS.

In addition to its strong collegial relationship with the RCIIP, the NJBAS has benefited greatly from close ties to the Newark art and museum community, particularly the continued presence of William J. Dane, Keeper of Prints and Posters at the Newark Public Library. As well as serving on the Committee in 1998, Dane has been the morning Master of Ceremonies since 1996; his prodigious knowledge of the artists' book movement has given each Symposium a distinctive pedagogical stamp, while his spritely wit has kept things lively and fun. No less integral to the growth of the NJBAS has been its prolonged engagement with various local book artists who have played a multiplicity of parts--shaping modules, presenting workshops, speaking on panels, scouting talent, guest curating and installing exhibitions in the Dana room.

The Fifth Annual Book Arts Symposium was held on November 5, 1999, at the Dana Library, Newark-Rutgers, Newark, NJ. The theme for this year's Symposium, Res Ipsa Loquitur: The Thing Speaks For Itself, is wordless books, or books lacking verbal texts. Divided into three parts, a hands-on workshop in paper-making, by Kim Carr; presentations by five New Jersey artists, including print makers, book artists and children's book illustrators; and papers on various historical instances of books without words, gave the NJBAS a more deeply divided but coherent program. The introduction of scholarly papers in the afternoon seemed a natural development of the analytical emphasis of previous symposium afternoons. ( See PICTURES From Fifth Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium).

The Sixth Book Arts Symposium, Original Copies: The Book Arts and Reproduction continued to emphasize academicizing books during the afternoon session. Barbara Balliet, one of the co-organizers of the Symposium, and Johanna Drucker, agreed to deliver papers on extremely divergent aspects of book arts--nineteenth century wood-engraving and e-space, respectively--forming a panel with Michael Joseph, who talked about book arts and time, and Judith Brodsky, who gave a critical summary of the panel.Clare Romano, Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson, Bernard Maisner and Beatrice Coron, all spoke about their own work during the morning, and Suellen Glashausser conducted a workshop on making flexagons after lunch. Barbara Henry, Lois Morrison, Anna Pinto, Carol Joyce, Maria G. Pisano, Gail Deery, John DePol, Denise Mullen, Beatrice Coron and John Ross have ensured that the NJBAS remained in a state of dynamic equilibrium, that every conceivable value was celebrated and nothing happened quite the same way twice.

The Seventh Book Arts Symposium, The Seventh INTERNATIONAL New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, looked at the interpretation and creation of book arts in other places. Firsts included a musical performance of Rilke's Duino Elegy #1, composed by Dary-John Mizelle, and sketches rendered by artist-in-residence-for-a-day, Marcia Sandmeyer Wilson. (See PICTURES from Seventh Annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium)

Middle Years

Beginning in 1998, the NJBAS began experimenting with video-conferencing to the RCIPP, so that students with more restricted schedules could share some part of the day's events. Video-conferencing was expanded in 1999, with disappointing results, and discontinued in 2000. This website came live in 1999, enhancing the value of the Web exhibition, mounted in 1996, as a tool for learning about and promoting New Jersey book art and the New Jersey Book Art Symposium. In 2000, the NJBAS enlarged its Web presence, and began to make plans to develop A/V files and streaming video in order to implement asynchronous access to information about New Jersey book arts, artists' books and NJBAS events. While it remains a definitively synchronous event, by making use of video-recording technology, the NJBAS hopes to make its local activities part of the global Web of book art. In 2001, the NJBAS lost another good friend with the unexpected death of artist, Suellen Glashausser, whose embrace of the quotidian as a substrate for remarkable artistic transformation transformed all of us lucky enough to know her, or attend one of her NJBAS presentations.

The New Jersey Book Arts Symposium convened its ninth annual meeting, Styles of Collecting, Styles of the Book, in 2003, by acknowledging recent losses, the legendary Stella Waitzkin, whose collaboration with the RCIPP brought her to the Symposium in 1998, at NJBAS #4, Collaboration and the Book Arts: Bringing Things to a Pretty Pass, and Peter Ocker, the young son of NJBAS Committee Member, Ralph Ocker--but also noting an overflow audience and the welcome presence of many new faces. We have recently created a website of the Symposium, at

In 2004 we celebrated the tenth annual Symposium by looking at the Book in the Digital Environment, for which we worked out an international collaboration with the Italian letterpress printer, Alberto Casiraghy of the Edizioni Pulicinoelefante, for which Karen Guancione, the Symposium's curator, traveled to Usnago, Italy, with original artwork created by several of her students, and, at the headquarters of the press, worked with Mr. Casiraghy and the staff of Pulcinoelefante to make them into limited edition artists books (copies of which came to Special Collections and University Archives). At the Symposium, on Nov. 7, 2004, Mr. Casiraghy and Ms Guancione discussed the operation of the press and provided an amusing narrative of the work successfully undertaken, and Robert Nahory, one of our longterm planning committee members, discussed the kinds of decisions he made formatting the videotape made by Ms Guancione into a digital file. The collaboration was made possible by a cultural partnership between The New Jersey Book Arts Symposium and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura, at whose New York offices Mr. Casiraghy also spoke.

Additional glimpses into the artists' book in the digital age were provided by Richard Minsky, the founder of the Center For Book Arts, in New York City, Jeffery Triggs, of Global Language, and Grace Agnew, Associate University Librarian for Digital Library Systems, at Rutgers University. Their talks reinforced the idea that placing information on the Internet requires decision-making incorporating a complex understanding of graphic and architectural concepts that are integral to traditional book-making--that, in essence, forms of digital information can be criticized and understood as new kinds of artists' books.

Middle Years

On November 11, 2005, Lois Morrison chaired a program to look at books made out of discarded materials; Judith Hoffberg, art historian, and editor of Umbrella was on hand to discuss discarded materials in artists' books, and five New Jersey book artists, who make "detrital books," examined the aesthetic, philosophical, religious and sociological implications of their work and its intricate bibliophilic alchemy. On November 3, 2006, Ann Montanaro, bibliographer of American pop-up books, chaired the twelfth New Jersey Book Arts Symposium, which focused on pop-up and movable books. Ellen RUbin, pop-up historian, discussed the history of the genre, beginning with early printed science books with volvelles, and Kyle Olman discussed his engagement with pop-up books and his creation of the critically acclaimed Castle. Maria Pisano, Chuck Miley, Debra Weier and Ed Hutchins, artists who have used pop-up and movable parts in their work, discussed their work and fielded questions from the audience. As in the past, William Dane gave a lively and creative tour of some of the pop-ups and movables at The Newark Public Library, but for first time, he had assistants: Chad Leinaweaver and Jared Ash showed trade and artists' books in the collections once again impressing the audience with the treasures of Newark. Judith K. Brodsky did another tour de force as a Respondent, pointing out that books with movable parts (such as tunnel books and pop-ups) were explicitly erotic, and that erotic elements served as metaphors for the penetrating/receiving activities of reading. At the end of the Symposium, the audience bade farewell to Billie Majors and Ralph Ocker, whose longstanding contributions to the New Jersey Book Arts Symposium as audio/visual director and business manager, respectively, have made the Symposium incomparably better than it would have been without them.

Big Changes

To everyone's surprise, in December, 2006, Lynn S. Mullins, the Director of the John Cotton Dana Library, who had been on the NJBAS committee since its birth, announced her retirement, effective in June. Her wisdom, rare sense of adventure and wholehearted love of the Unknown left an indelible impression on everyone who had come to know her, and her absence ensured that the Symposium would face a period of uncertainty and change. However, before then, there was a great retirement party at which the NJBAS was on hand: thirty-two New Jersey book artists contributed unique pages to a portfolio book organized by Michael Joseph and designed Karen Guancione.

Two years later, the NJBAS left the Dana Library, after sixteen years, and after two years of nomadic wandering, decamped to The Alexander Library, New Brunswick, NJ. where it found a warm welcome. In 2014, the NJBAS celebrated its twentieth anniversary at the Twentieth New Jersey Book Arts Symposium. Along with champagne and sheet-cake, on behalf of Rutgers University, The NJBAS awarded The Rutgers Medal to John Ross and Clare Romano, on behalf of their long-standing support of the Rutgers Libraries and the Book Arts.

Looking Ahead

Since moving to New Brunswick, the NJBAS presentations have been recorded and preserved in RU Core, the Rutgers Libraries Digital Repository. Now anyone in the world can watch every artist, scholar, librarian, and poet who presented at the NJBAS from 2013-1015 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We hope this will continue.

For examples of book art presentations re-created for the Internet, see The Digital Artists' Series, produced by Robert Nahory.

People wishing to know more about the NJBAS are welcome to contact Michael Joseph, at, or Lynn S. Mullins, at,




The New Jersey Book Arts Committee
(in alphabetal order)

Judith K. Brodsky, Treasurer
Bonita Craft Grant, Business Manager
Karen Guancione, artistic director
Michael Joseph, founding director
Nancy G. Martin, COnsultant
Dr. Fernanda Perrone, Curatorial Advisor
Amanda Thackray, Curator