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Behind the Spine: Revealing the Art of Bookbinding

April 2 - August 31

Curated by Briar Bell ’24 and Charlie Knieff ’26, Student Associates for Exhibition and Instruction Support

Books surround our lives no matter where we are. They populate our libraries, schools, workplaces, and homes, to the point that we hardly notice them at all. But where do these books come from? How are they made? What hides behind their perfect, rectangular exteriors? Come and explore what binding is, how it works, and how it has changed (and stayed the same) throughout time and place.

Behind the Spine explores these questions through examples from the St. Olaf College Special Collection, breaking these books down to their most basic ingredients. By momentarily setting aside the words and ideas held inside these books, we can fully appreciate them as visual objects. Through close looking, we can start to understand the numerous steps that go into their creation. The processes involved in the craft of bookbinding date back hundreds of years. The techniques and visual styles developed and changed through time, but the core principle remains the same: finding a way to efficiently bundle material together in order to communicate and exchange information and ideas. 


April 2
August 31
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