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 When Text Was a Noun: Celebrating Books and the History of California

While the general public’s link to the printed page becomes increasingly tenuous as greater numbers embrace the virtual images of their e-readers, true bibliophiles still revel in an appreciation of the origins of print, the texture of fine paper, and the intriguing idiosyncrasies of typography. “Pressing Forward: The Book Club of California at 100,” the newest exhibit in the Third Floor Gallery of the University Library celebrates the artistry of print in a tribute to the centennial of the Book Club of California (BCC), which publishes fine press editions of books on California and the West.
 
Sponsored by the SCU Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections and the California Province Archives, the exhibit of selected fine press publications by the BCC is geared not only toward avid book lovers, but also to the general reader. The hope is to generate excitement about the printed book as an artifact, as well as an appreciation of California history and the role of the BCC in framing that history, notes Mary E. Kenney, assistant archivist for the California Province Archives and co-curator of the exhibit.
 
“With the proliferation of e-readers, there will be an explosion of literacy and communication just as there was with the invention of the printing press,” Kenney predicts. “But it’s all a part of the phenomenon of communication by the written word.”
 
And the physical creation and manifestation of that written word will be the centerpiece of “Pressing Forward,” which will draw from the Library’s “almost complete set” of BCC publications. “Every book in the exhibit will be available for visitors to read at a later date in the Reading Room of SCU Archives and Special Collections,” Kenney says. “In addition, tools of the typographical trade will be on display, including a composing stick on which typesetters built the lines of type, a toy press, punches, and a hand model with matrix. Wall panels will display images of ephemera and photographs taken from the BCC archives.”
 
The exhibit runs through March 30. Gallery hours are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. For more information, contact Deborah Whiteman at 408-554-6808, or go online.

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