A Brief History of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild
In 1982 Jill Willmott, a bookbinder and restorer from Kingston, Ontario, perceived the need for a
single cross-Canada listing of craftspeople working in the hand book arts and as a private venture
undertook the task of collecting names and addresses of Canadian hand bookworkers, including
papermakers, paper decorators, bookbinders, book restorers, and paper conservators, both
amateur and professional. She mailed a questionnaire to the 242 names she had collected and
received an enthusiastic response.
Shelagh Smith, bookbinder and paper decorator from Woodbridge, Ontario, had been organizing
seminars and workshops in the book arts as a private undertaking. She took up the challenge
started by Jill Willmott and, with the help of other bookworkers, organized a founding meeting in
February 1983, where she and Betty Elliott were asked to write a draft constitution for a
Canadian book arts organization. In May 1983 a public meeting was held and the Canadian
Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild was formed.
The aims of CBBAG were set in response to the need expressed by those who responded to the
•to provide contact among workers in the hand book arts in order to foster a spirit of co-operation and kinship;
•to provide access to education in the book arts;
•to promote greater awareness of the book arts by the general public;
•and to advocate and promote high standards of excellence in the book arts through
exhibitions, workshops, lectures and programme meetings, and publications.
Led by a fifteen member board of directors, CBBAG is a volunteer-run organization with over 500
members. Originally the mailing address of CBBAG was care of the Secretary and
correspondence to members was hand addressed. In 1988 CBBAG rented a small office in The
Chalmers Building, Toronto. In the summer of 1997 CBBAG moved to a 675 sq.ft. studio –
divided into office, library and meeting area, and bindery for workshops and open studio – in the
Queen Street West area of Toronto. Six years later, in the spring of 2003, CBBAG moved to a
762 sq. ft. studio in Toronto Artscape’s Liberty Village building. CBBAG has a small library
collection which is available to the public by appointment. The Canadian Bookbinders and Book
Artists Guild is a non-profit, charitable organization.
CBBAG sponsors a yearly book arts fair which is available to members for display and sale of work or supplies at
a very small table fee; the event is open to the public at no charge. CBBAG participates yearly in many book
related fairs to publicize the book arts field. CBBAG has a collection of bookbinding and book arts related books
and periodicals which is housed in CBBAG's offices and is available to members by appointment. A large library of
video tapes, housed in Newfoundland, is available to members to borrow by mail for the cost of return postage
From its founding, education has been at the core of CBBAG programmes. Each year 35 - 40 workshops are
organized. They vary from weekly courses offered over five or six Saturdays or Sundays to one to six day long
intensives in bookbinding or a variety of topics ranging from paper marbling to book box making, from tool
sharpening to techniques for limited edition binding. Workshops have been led by Canadian book artists such as
Don Taylor, Betsy Palmer Eldridge, Reg Beatty, Mira Coviensky, Dan Mezza, Mercedes Cirfi Walton, and
many others, international binders such as Deborah Evetts, Hedi Kyle, Claire Van Vliet, Christopher Clarkson,
Carol Barton, and Ed Hutchins, and renowned papermakers Timothy Barrett and Katherine Clark. CBBAG is the
only Canadian association with a structured bookbinding curriculum. Courses offered are at a professional level.
Students have been drawn from every province in Canada, the United States, and overseas.
To address the needs of book artists, both beginners and advanced, who are unable to travel to attend in-studio
workshops, CBBAG has developed a Home Study programme. This major initiative, the development of which
was begun in June 1998, includes a written and illustrated manual and a video component for each segment.
Students may complete prescribed projects to be returned to CBBAG for critique. The Home Study programme
incorporates the CBBAG basic curriculum and consists of the following components: Bookbinding I;
Bookbinding II; Bookbinding III; Finishing; Repair and Restoration; Endpapers; Introduction to Leather; and
Paper Treatments for Binders. Additional titles include Marbling: a guide to the craft of watercolour marbling.
Itinerant Teachers is a new programme to encourage the use of the CBBAG instructor’s for teaching across
Canada and the United States and is being instituted in 2005.
In 1993 CBBAG had its first gathering, Bookworks '93, six days of workshops, lectures, and demonstrations and a
key-note speech by Timothy Barrett. In June 1996, CBBAG held its first three-day conference, The Book Arts
Towards the Century's End, which included workshops, papers, a tour of the Osborne Collection, the Thomas
Fisher Rare Books Library, and Massey College Printery & Ruary McLean Collection, a panel discussion, and a
book arts fair. Other gatherings took place in 1998, in June 2000 featuring renowned English binders James and
Stuart Brockman, in June 2001, and September, 2003. Bookevent ‘03, at Harbourfront Centre, organized in
conjunction with the opening of The Art of the Book ’03 exhibition, included workshops by Hedi Kyle and
Sigrid Blohm, demonstrations by Don Etherington, Monique Lallier, and Martha Cole, a lecture by Hedi Kyle,
and a book arts fair.
To facilitate communication between book workers, CBBAG publishes the CBBAG Newsletter which is
distributed to all members and is exchanged with a large number of related institutions. This excellent
publication is produced quarterly with technical and historical information, a calendar of events such as
exhibitions, recent publications, and calls for entry, artist profiles, and news items. In addition to the newsletter,
as part of its ambitious publications programme, CBBAG publishes an annual Membership List and triennual
book artists, suppliers, and educational opportunities list, as well as the regularly updated Video Loan
Catalogue, all membership benefits, as well as catalogues for all major exhibitions.
The Membership List is circulated to members only and lists all members with addresses, e-mail addresses, etc.
A Directory of Book Artists iscirculated to members and to the general public and lists addresses, subjects of
specialization, teaching, collaborations of those members who choose to participate. ADirectory of Book Arts
Educational Opportunities lists both institutions and individuals who teach book arts subjects. The list of Book
Arts Suppliers includes suppliers in all major book arts categories. Fully-illustrated exhibition catalogues are
produced to accompany all major exhibitions, and seven have been produced to date. Several other major
publications have also been produced. Currently available are Bookbinding Materials and Techniques 1700-1920 (fully illustrated, this book describes each step in hand binding a book, the considerations that influenced
these techniques, and how all of these processes changed over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries), and a
Lexicon of Bookbinding Terms. A new publication in process is Journal of Valuable CBBAG Newsletter
Public awareness of the book arts has been increased by CBBAG's ambitious exhibitions programme. CBBAG has
circulated eight major and three Community Exhibitions to date across Canada and sent one exhibition to Japan.
In 1986 it circulated the U.S. based Guild of Bookworker's exhibit Bookwork: Form - Function - Finish in the
Modern Craft of Handbookbinding to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto (which included a display of work by CBBAG
members), Winnipeg, and Victoria. CBBAG initiated and circulated an exhibition of work by members of the
German Masters Guild, titled Meister der Einbandkunst, to Toronto, Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg, Burnaby,
and Dallas, Texas. Also that year CBBAG prepared and began to circulate a travelling Community Exhibition
titled Two Centuries of Bookbinding: Materials and Techniques 1700 - 1900. The exhibit travelled until January
1996 and was seen across Canada, from Victoria, British Columbia, to St. John's, Newfoundland. Both exhibits
were accompanied by a catalogue.
Contemporary Canadian Bookworks was a major CBBAG exhibit of Canadian fine binding, papermaking,
calligraphy, artists' books, paper decorating, and finely printed books and broadsides. It opened in April 1995 in
the Embassy of Canada, Tokyo, Japan, and was accompanied by a B+W catalogue. Fine Printing: the Private
Press in Canada, organized by CBBAG, featured eighty-five books, broadsides, and posters, beautifully printed
items produced mostly in British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec from 1931 to 1995. The exhibition opened at
the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library in April 1995. It was accompanied by an illustrated catalogue and
travelled throughout Canada for two years.
The Art of the Book (1988) was a members' juried exhibition organized by CBBAG to celebrate its 5th
Anniversary, which opened at the Craft Gallery, Toronto, and travelled to Halifax, Burnaby, Victoria, and Point
The Art of the Book '93, travelled for two years to Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary,
and Pointe Claire, Quebec. The Art of the Book '98, travelled to Toronto, Pointe Claire, Quebec, Winnipeg,
Calgary, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Halifax. Concurrent with TheArt of the Book ‘98CBBAG organized an
exhibit of fifteen books artists’ work which was on display at the Ontario Crafts Council. A display was also
organized by the book arts group Book Sublime for the Japanese Paper Place, in conjunction with the exhibits.
The Art of the Book ’03 which opened in September 2003, travelled to Toronto, Saskatoon, Halifax,
Winnipeg, Victoria, Medicine Hat, Quebec City, and Fredericton. Two exhibitions
concurrent with AB03 took place at Harbourfont Centre: Quebec Artists Booksfrom the collection of the
Bibliothèque nationale du Québecand Perspectives on the Book, featuring CBBAG book artists from four studios
across Canada. As well, the three other gallery spaces at Harbourfront Centre featured book and/or text related
The Art of the Book '08, celebrating the 25th anniversary of CBBAG, is currently on tour until eary 2011 to Toronto, Halifax, Fredericton, Leaf Rapids, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Gimli, and Victoria.
Seven local exhibitions have been mounted in the Uncommon Object Gallery at Harbourfront, in 1984, 1990,
1993, 1994, 1999, and 2000, and 2003, and smaller exhibitions have been displayed at a number of small
libraries. In 1995 CBBAG presented Boxed In: Book Boxes and Box Objects by Members of the Canadian
Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild in the Canada Trust Gallery of the Toronto Reference Library.
In celebration of the new millennium CBBAG invited 35 Canadian book artists to produce a new work for a
portfolio collection, Millennium in a Box, the second CBBAG Community Exhibition. Each artist created a
work in an edition of 50 in limited-size format. The works were collected in a specially designed hand made
box. This Community Exhibition, representing work in all fields of the book arts, has being circulated to over
forty libraries, schools, and small galleries across Canada and as far as Australia, since 2000 and to date. Each
participating artist received a portfolio and fifteen boxes are now part of public collections across Canada.
Information and some images of a number of exhibitions are available on the Exhibitions page.
CBBAG has an official web site at www.cbbag.ca, which gives information on CBBAG, its publications,
exhibitions, and educational programmes, and is a major resource with many features including an Online
Gallery of book arts work, a translation of book arts terms from English to French, a very large links page, and a
“bulletin board” where time-sensitive information on CBBAG and other organizations’ and members’ activities,
such as on exhibitions, workshops, suppliers, and other items of interest to book artists, is listed. Most recently,
five E-Networks (e-mail “networks”) have been formed for the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec, the Prairies and British Columbia,
and for the United States and overseas, to keep CBBAG members up-to-date on book arts activities in their
region.CBBAG members are encouraged to send in their own book arts information for circulation.
Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild
80 Ward Street, Suite 207, Toronto ON M6H 4A6 416-581-1071, email@example.com
Charitable Business Number 89179 5445 RR0001