This account of the Codex Australia Book Fair was written soon after the March 2014 Codex Australia Symposium and Book Fair. By October 2014 Codex Australia was wound down, and no longer exists. Many articles that were on the Codex website are now on Pretext. Pretext would like to thank Codex Australia for their invaluable activities whilst operational.
Codex Australia is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the traditional arts and crafts of the hand-made book, as well as the latest print technologies, imaging sciences, and contemporary art and design. Based in Melbourne, Australia, it aims to serve the interests of book makers, their books, and the people who love them in Australia and New Zealand.
Since forming in 2011, Codex Australia has published two chapbooks and hosted public lectures, and recently it held a substantial two-day event, a symposium and book fair at the Centre for Theology and Ministry at the University of Melbourne. With a strong focus on fine books and related crafts, it had two morning sessions of speakers and registered attendees, and the afternoons open to the public to see both Australian, NZ and further international stalls of books and other printed works. The keynote speaker was the founder of the US-based Codex Foundation (upon which the Australian foundation is based), Peter Koch. Other speakers were:
Lyn Ashby (thistoopress)
Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck)
Tim Mosely (Silverwattle Bookfoundry)
Monica Oppen (Ant Press, Bibliotheca Librorum apud Artificem)
Donald Kerr (Otakou Press, NZ)
(The papers by Florance, Ashby and Oppen are published on Pretext.)
The symposium was hosted charmingly by Alex Selenitsch. There was an extra event on the afternoon of the day after the main symposium, a panel of the international artists holding a marvellous discussion about tradition and notions of making. It was a pity that it couldn’t have been on the Monday morning, as many attendees might have been able to stay just that little bit longer.
There were twenty-seven tables at the book fair, showcasing beautiful work on the fine end of the spectrum of book-making. International makers were:
Ido Agassi (Even Hoshen Press, Israel)
Sabine Golde (Carviari, Germany)
Peter Koch & Susan Filter (Del Milion/Editions Koch, US)
LeiLei Guo (China)
Richard Wagener (Mixolydian Editions, US)
David Pascoe (Nawakum Press, US)
Elizabeth Steiner (Steiner Press, NZ)
Peter Simpson (The Holloway Press, NZ)
Tara McLeod (Pear Tree Press, NZ); <a &
Ulrike Stolz & Uta Schneider (<usus>, Germany)
Australians present were:
Claire & David Bolton (Aust hybrids! Alembic Press, UK/WA)
Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck, ACT)
Monica Oppen (Ant Press, NSW)
Barbara Davidson (NSW)
Barbara Schmelzer (NSW)
Bruno Leti (VIC)
Deirdre Hassed (Calligraphic Works, VIC)
Alan Loney (Electio Editions, VIC)
Sue Anderson (Impediment Press, NSW
Juliana O’Dean (NSW)
Angela Gardner (Light-trap Press, QLD)
Peter Lyssiotis (Master Thief, VIC)
Anne-Maree Hunter (Psyclonic Studios, NSW)
Sheree Kinleyside (Red Rag Press, QLD)
Tim Mosely (Silverwattle Bookfoundry, QLD)
Lyn Ashby (thistoopress, VIC)
Gwen Harrison (Wand’ring Bark, NSW)
Wayne Stock (NSW)
Not present but essential to the visual presentation of the weekend was Nicolas Summers (Plumb Press/ Sylvan Type Works, NSW). Other groups/stockists who had tables were the Victorian Bookbinders Guild, and Magnani Papers.
Codex Australia president Alan Loney wrote in the Fair’s catalogue:
This is a rare opportunity for the public to see these books, handle them, and talk to the people who made them. While we believe that showing book like these under glass, where they cannot be handled or their pages turned, is an important way of getting to know something about the world of the book — the bibliosphere, as Peter Koch calls it — there is no substitute for doing with the books what we are supposed to do: touch them, feel the weight of them, turn their pages, even smell them. At Codex 2014 you are able to do all these things, and get to know at first hand what these remarkable books are all about.
There was a small but steady stream of the public coming to see the books, as well as representatives of many purchasing institutions, including the British Library. There was lots of touching, and admiring, and the chance to feel the books (usually a dedicated handling copy), for the most cases without gloves, did make it a notable occasion. It was also fantastic to encounter the international artists, many of whom were perhaps a touch dismayed by the size of the Australian market. Putting faces to names, discovering new things, networking and making connections: experiences like these are not to be underestimated. Many thanks to Codex Australia and the hard-working Board and their (essential) volunteers for making it all happen. The event proposes to be bi-annual; it would be great to have more Australians there next time, people who make books seriously, whether fine press or artists’ books; there were notable absences from our ‘canon’ of creative book makers. It was a wonderful first attempt, and sorely needed; it would be fantastic if it did continue, and grew to something that is anticipated eagerly and regularly by the book arts community. This can only really happen if we all get behind organizations like Codex Australia and continue to be active in our own book-related circles.