She didn’t hold back. Her excitement was as palpable as fresh, oil-based ink on a crisp sheet of paper. “You’ll look at it and say, 'Wow! That is so cool!' But if you rush right by it you’ll miss it. To appreciate it you need to spend a little time,” said Janet Brown-Lowe, executive director of the German American Heritage Center in Davenport.
Spending time at the center’s new exhibit, “A Look at the Book,” offers visitors an opportunity to see an array of historical books, book making tools, and book art, all of which Brown-Lowe calls, “an exhibit of little treasures.” Highlighting the display is a tribute to German Johannes Gutenberg whose efforts inspired the start of mass communication around the globe. In the mid-1400’s, Gutenberg, a goldsmith from Mainz, Germany, took a press commonly used for wine grapes and olive oil and mechanized the machine. In addition to creating letters (moveable type) with a lead-based compound that is still used today, he designed a moveable table for the press so sheets of paper could be quickly added, printed, and removed. Gutenberg’s press was a response to the demand for learning among the medieval middle class, which earned him the title of Man of the Millennium.
This is the first time the center has presented an exhibit to honor Gutenberg’s contributions. As there are two sides to every good story, the second part of this exhibit, the creative, shows the common printed word on paper in a new light. “It was a lot of fun to put together. We are a small non-profit and we don’t have a big budget (for exhibit artifacts/objects) so we look at the community first. We just were bowled over by what local artists are making in this regard. It is jaw-dropping to see this stuff.” One local book artisan whose work is part of the exhibit is Andrew Huot. He is a bookbinder, conservator, and book artist in Davenport. Huot hopes that visitors will “look at the book differently.” He stated, “I think the artists’ books on exhibit, mine, as well as the others, really make people step back and consider the format, and the materials, and the interplay of content and container." What “little treasures” are on your bookshelf that you could not do without? “A Look at the Book” exhibit is on display through June 27. The German American Heritage Center is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Image source: German American Heritage Center