I have a confession to make. The smell of library books, an afternoon at an independent book store, re-reading a favorite novel – these are my ultimate indulgences. I could spend hours reading book blogs, listening to author interviews, or pouring over book-related tchotchkes on Etsy. I am a book nerd. My (nearly) one year as an Archivist at Cranbrook has been heaven. I discover something new every time I have the opportunity to walk into George Booth’s personal library at Cranbrook House. I find profound satisfaction in creating a catalog record for a new book or discussing MARC records with colleagues.
One of my favorite collections at Cranbrook is the Cranbrook Press and Photo Department Records. While working on a Cranbrook Press request recently, I came across the work of the bookbinder, Jean Eschmann (1896-1961), hired by George Booth in 1929. Eschmann was hired to set up the bookbinding workshop in the Arts and Crafts Studios at Cranbrook, where he remained until 1933 when desperate financial times forced the closure of the studio.
Educated in Zurich, Eschmann traveled and studied in Austria, France and Switzerland. He came to the United States with his family in 1919. He was a member of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston and studied with Mary C. Sears. In 1929 George Booth hired Eschmann to create handmade bindings for the Art library and for his own personal library. Eschmann also taught bookbinding and hand-tooling classes to the community.
Eschmann’s work has been exhibited at various museums in the United States, as well as at the Book Workers Guild in New York. His bindings were included at the World Fair in Paris in 1937 and at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco in 1939. In 1945 Eschmann received the emblem for Meritorious Service from the Civilian Awards Committee of the Surgeon General’s Office for his work in restoring thousands of rare books at the Army Medical Library during World War II.
Evidence of Eschmann’s beautiful leather and tooling work can be seen in several examples in the rare book collections here in the Archives, and also in the Academy of Art library. I hope you enjoy the examples in this post. They definitely make this book nerd swoon!
– Gina Tecos, Archivist
Thank you Gina, I enjoyed your notes about Eschmann and the background on you too. I think it would be great to have a focus lecture some evening on the Eschmann era. M. Ross Baldw
Check out this digital exhibition: Publisher’s Bindings Online 1815-1930: The Art of Books at http://bindings.lib.ua.edu/
Greatly enjoyed the text and photos of my grandfather, Jean Escmann’s, work. As with most artists, our family has very few pieces of his work. Thank you for posting this article.
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