On a recent trip to New York I had the wonderful opportunity to deliver my miniature book commission to Neale Albert in person. It was great being able to see Neale’s reaction to my binding, as he gives the bookbinder free rein over design and execution of the book. That afternoon Neale was extremely kind to share some of his favourite pieces from his beautiful library and vast collection of miniature books, artistic bindings, and artefacts. There were many extraordinary works in the collection, though my favourite piece was Atlas of the British Empire, bound by George Kirkpatrick and housed in an exquisite leather globe box. I also loved Kirkpatrick’s leather kaleidoscope, covered in miniature book onlays. These were just a few of the works that illustrate the fascinating and infinite variety of Mr. Albert’s incredible collection. I was thrilled to see several Jan Sobota books in person and experience the true three-dimensional and tactile nature of his work. Neale’s dedication, passion and enthusiasm for artistic binding, book arts, and related artefacts are truly inspirational.
Neale kindly gifted me a signed copy of The Poet of Them All: William Shakespeare and Miniature Design Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert, which includes an excellent introductory essay by James Reid-Cunningham on the art of contemporary designer bookbinding. The book is an exhibition catalogue of Mr. Albert’s Shakespeare collection including miniature artistic bindings, re-bindings, and various Shakespeare inspired artefacts. The overall exhibition contains a broad range of work focused around Shakespeare, my favourite being a three-dimensional miniature wooden model of the Globe Theatre by Tim Gosling.
At the center of the Alberts’ collection is a group of thirty-nine hand-bound miniature design bindings of “Brush up on Your Shakespeare,” which is the name of a song from Cole Porter’s musical “Kiss Me Kate” based around Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. All of the miniature bindings were commissioned from world famous bookbinders by Mr. Albert. The miniatures contain the music and lyrics to that song and each of the bindings is totally unique and wonderfully imaginative. The edition was published by Neale’s own Piccolo Press and letterpress printed by Tideline Press in New York. As Elizabeth Fairman points out in her “Introduction” to the book the works in the exhibition “provide a glimpse into the heart and mind of a true collector, one who does not merely accumulate things for their own sake, but actively engages in the process of creating a work of art and intuitively understands the resonance that certain objects can evoke.” The Alberts make collecting a work of artistic creation.
Photography by Ailene de Vries