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A Degree of Mastery: A Journey Through Book Arts Apprenticeship

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  130 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Learning the craft and secrets of a master book-binder
Hardcover, 222 pages
Published June 1st 1999 by New Rivers Press
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3.88  · 
Rating details
 ·  130 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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I love books as physical objects, and repairing damaged books was among my favorite tasks when I worked in a university library, so I thought I’d enjoy learning about traditional bookbinding techniques as the author learned them from Bill Anthony at the University of Iowa. Yet this was somehow disappointingly tedious with technical detail. (Purchased from The Open Book, Wigtown; read the first 57 pages of 209.)
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Book lovers
A delightful little memoir of Annie's apprenticeship in the art of book binding. Her story is actually two-fold as it is also the story of her deeply affectionate relationship with her renowned teacher, William Anthony. It is a love story...not a traditional one! It is the story of two people who love books; the physical, artistic book. Annie learns preservation and conservation, and the difference between the two. She also shares with us complete restorations. Books are art; from the lovely, so ...more
Jason Pettus
May 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
(I'm teaching myself more these days about both bookmaking and book collecting, so I thought I'd start by reading the Chicago Public Library's collection of titles on these subjects.) A fascinating personal memoir but about as dry as such stories even get, this is an ultra-detailed look at what goes into the daily life of a professional book conservator, with Wilcox using her years as a Medieval-style apprentice in Iowa as a nice framing device for doling out entire chapters of information just ...more
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book details the experiences of the last apprentice to Bill Anthony, a world class book conservator working at the University of Iowa. The book alternates between describing the author going through book repair processes and the author learning and interacting with Bill Anthony.

The descriptions and specific language used make this book not an easy read for someone not in the field of bookbinding. However, as a book conservator and a bookbinder, I personally enjoyed all the gory details--ho
May 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Folks interested in conservation
Annie Tremel Wilcox offers insights into her apprenticeship in book conservation. Her enthusiasm for books and the work shines through and makes me reflect on my own interest in the field. However, it would be a stretch to describe her as an engaging writer, and at many points she comes across as condescending and arrogant (which is really a big turn-off). Still, if you want to get a sense of what the field of conservation is like, there are few other narratives to help you along.
Antonio Gallo
In memory of my Father who was an appreciated printer and bookbinder.

"A meticulously crafted description of a writing teacher’s apprenticeship in bookbinding and conservation with an internationally known master of the field. Wilcox tells her story by referring to the copious notes she compiled while serving as the first female apprentice to William Anthony, the founder of the Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. She found that writing down her experiences was the best way to “hold ont
[Stefon voice] If you’re into books, conservation, and preservation, this is the book for you. It has everything; books, binding, anecdotes, and the rest. [/Stefon].

Bookish types who are looking into things like rare books conservation, you must check this out because though it’s a memoir, it’s also a very descriptive look at the processes involved in preserving rare items (who knew washing and de-acidifying paper could be so sexy, and don’t even get me started on tooling leather). I enjoyed thi
Sam DiBella
Aug 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Provides good beginner-level explanation of book conservation methods and theory (the advice on collecting and crafting tools is particularly good), combined with a poised narrative of the author's education/apprenticeship. While the writing is solid or even wry, the personal affect of this memoir doesn't quite get across. The detailed descriptions work, but the mixture of technical and non-technical vocabulary is confusing (sometimes "section", sometimes "signature").
Mary Robinson
A fascinating look at the world of book making and restoration from a woman who won the honor of being the first female apprentice to a master book binder and conservator. Loved going along on her journey of discovery and falling in love with this art.
I delayed finishing this gem of a book by every means I could conceive – picking it up only once a week, limiting each reading sessions to a few pages, savoring the passages just read so as not to plunge into the next section – but I couldn't make it last forever. Wilcox writes well, mixing mundane details with measured accounts of epiphany and satisfaction, but her writing isn't the main attraction of the book. Her character sketches of her mentor and her fellow apprentices are astute and engag ...more
Shelton TRL
Jul 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-arts
A richly detailed memoir of an apprenticeship in bookbinding and book preservation. The careful description of the craft is interwoven with the telling of a special relationship -- mentor to student. William Anthony, the mentor in this book, was an internationally known book preservationist. The University of Iowa created its Center for the Book so that Anthony and others could teach the skills of bookbinding to students like Annie Tremmel Wilcox. Two-thirds of the way through her apprenticeship ...more
Dec 19, 2008 rated it liked it
I loved this book when it came sexy, with its descriptions of book conservation!

Reading it again, I found myself distracted by the voice of the writer. (Maybe it's because I'm writing cover letters and resumes every day. Am I projecting? At any rate, the writer seems overly concerned with being correct and thought well of.)

Still, I'd recommend it.
Apr 06, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very good book. It is perhaps a bit technical at times, but still easy to follow. The technical bits simply require you to step out of the flow of the story and figure out what you can about what's going on. The last section of the book is presented in a subtly cinematic style that beautifully attunes the reader to the emotional wavelength of the experiences being related.
May 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
Her experience as a female apprentice in the male-dominated craft of book conservation, interspersed with incredibly detailed descriptions of specific treatments. I trained as a book conservator; reading this I could almost smell methylcellulose dissolving the glue on a 90-year-old text block. I suspect anyone other than a book nerd would find it uncomfortably dry.
Jun 30, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: book arts people
A nice walk along with someone going through a book arts course. For those not yet 'in the know,' that includes book binding, book repair, and such like. Especially interesting to a rare books person, but also fascinating to anyone who works with his/her hands.
Dec 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although I'm willing to bet that folks unfamiliar with book arts might be confused or bored by this text, for those of us with a love for the craft, it is a masterful tale of one woman's experience in her apprenticeship--something that would-be conservators and bookbinders would do well to read.
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a perfect treat! Quiet and full of reverence for books, it felt like I took a steady, meandering perusal through my favorite libraries and book shops, running my fingers across the oldest books and marveling at their condition all the while. Beautifully written.
Mar 29, 2009 rated it it was ok
The only thing that kept me reading this book is that I became truly interested in her descriptions of conserving rare books. Otherwise, her story was sappy and poorly written. It felt more like the biography of a young adult rather than a grown woman. Sweet but trite.
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Read the entire thing on a four hour drive today. Interesting, educational. Had me rather wishing I'd chosen different majors in college; I'd really enjoy this profession. (I did some mild conservation as my student job while in university, and loved that, but was majoring in theology.)
Aug 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Having made books in the past, I especially appreciated Wilcox's thorough description of her process. It makes me want to make books again!
Aug 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
excellent memoir on apprenticing in bookbinding
Caroline Rogers
May 10, 2010 is currently reading it
What an amazing experience/journey!
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Awesome! Makes me really want to take bookbinding lessons and work in a special collections. Also a beautiful blending of art, craft, and library science.
Jan 30, 2008 rated it liked it
A bit self-indulgent, but there's nothing else quite like it these days.
Astrid Natasastra
Jan 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
I also got this book at a discounted orice, $2!
What an interesting profession! Can't wait to read the detailed process...
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Melissa by: David Levy and Sandra Kroupa
I got to read this for a class then make a book, sewing the binding and all. Wonderful!
rated it it was ok
Jan 10, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Apr 22, 2012
Julia Algire
rated it liked it
May 01, 2012
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