Useful links to more information about technical art history

During our feedback session on the last day, some of you asked for more information about technical art history as a discipline, methodology, and practice.

Some definitions:
1. “Technical Art History is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of works of art that employs scientific and historical methods to explore the processes used by artists and considers how materials and techniques influenced creative practices through time.” (Thomas Primeau)
2. “Technical art history today concerns itself with all the processes for making art, and the technical and documentary means by which we throw light on those processes. It is principally concerned with the physical materials and structures of works of art, and how they are prepared, used, combined and manipulated…it charts the stages of invention, development, realization, elaboration and revision: in short it is a route into, and our access to the heart of the artist’s intentions and changing ambitions.” (David Bomford)

Useful information may be found at:

An entire Getty Newsletter was devoted to the topic:

A new journal has been started in the U.K. for technical art history:

NYC-area resources for learning historical techniques related to artists’ books

Interested in getting more hands-on experience in the different processes we learned about these past two weeks as we studied the technical art history of artists’ books? Here’s some New York area organizations where you can hone your craft, with an eye to understanding historical techniques:

The Center for Book Arts offers workshops on bookbinding and letterpress. At the time of writing, they have a Groupon for their weekend workshops, which are normally $325, available for $150. They are offering a Summer Intensive Workshop from July 12-20th for $1250. The New York Academy of Art will also offer a bookbinding class this fall.

The Center for Alternative Photography at the Penumbra Foundation offers workshops on a variety of historical processes. A collodion wet plate class costs about $500 for a two-day, 16-hour course. The George Eastman House also offers workshops in historical processes. Their 3-day, 24-hour developed-out salt paper print workshop this fall costs $570. John Coffer’s Camp Tintype limits participants to 4 students and costs $900 for a 3-day workshop covering ambrotypes, ferrotypes, glass plate negatives and albumen prints. The program is located on his farm in Dundee, NY, in the Finger Lakes region and comes with free camping. He also sells DVDs and kits so you can do wet-plate collodion at home.

The New School offers courses through its continuing education. Its 12-session, 30-hour Introduction to Printmaking costs $719. The Manhattan Graphic Center boasts “three etching presses, three lithography presses, a silkscreen area, and a complete darkroom.” Their 3-day, 18-hour photogravure class this summer costs $395 and their 9-week, 27-hour intaglio/etching class costs $455. The Lower Eastside Printshop also offers workshops, such as their 6-week, 18-hour intaglio class this fall for $395, which will cover 5 different processes: “hard and soft ground etching, aquatint, sugarlift, and spitbite.” Also in Manhattan, the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Program of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts offers classes, such as their Introduction to Etching, a 4-session, 12-hour class for $345. The New York Academy of Art also offers a introduction to printmaking class, a 12-session, 26-hour class for $545. The National Academy School offers a few printmaking classes as well. A 4-week, 60-hour summer course, “Learning the Techniques of Printmaking,” costs $620.

If you would like to learn more about papermaking, Dieu Donne Papermill in Chelsea is an excellent non-profit resource, which has been in existence since 1976. Their three-hour classes on topics such as “Casting with Molds & Laminate Casting” and “Embedding & Blowouts” costs $85 plus a materials fee.

Although we didn’t study painting techniques these past two weeks, many of us were interested in learning more about the technical art history of painting. A great resource for historical painting techniques is Kramer’s Pigments in Manhattan, which hosts workshops. They will be having a tempera painting and guilding master class this fall, September 15-19th, which will be organized around a trecento panel at the Metropolitan Museum and is $600. Other workshops are medium specific and are actually free, such as on “pigments & grounds,” “acrylics and watercolors,” and “oils.”

A little bit further afield at the Spannocchia Foundation in Siena, Italy, Margaret Krug, the author of An Artist’s Handbook: Materials and Techniques runs a two-week workshop Paintings on Panel, including encaustic, tempera, and oil. Cost $3,100.

The New School Continuing Education, the Cooper Union Continuing Education, the New York Academy of Art, the New York Studio School, the National Academy School , and the Art Students’ League offer a variety of classes on painting, drawing and sculpting more generally.

If anyone knows of other workshops, please let us know in the comments field, or send me a tweet!

Intaglio vs. Relief Printing

As a review of what we talked about regarding intaglio and relief printing processes, it might be helpful to take a look at these videos made by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. They provide a visual explanation for processes such as etching, aquatint, and drypoint (itaglio) and woodcutting (relief).



I’d also recommend taking a look at the Bamber Gascoigne book How To Identify Prints, which is on the reserve shelf at the Duke House.



Jean-Joseph Chamant: The Lost Sketchbook

Hi All,

This video explores the conservation work done on an 18th century sketchbook that was recently discovered at NYU’s Villa La Pietra, in Florence, Italy. The conservation was performed by SITAH Coordinator and IFA Alumna Morgan Adams under the supervision of Maria Fredericks, Drue Heinz Book Conservator, Thaw Conservation Center at the Morgan Library & Museum.



Hand Bookbindings

Waste paper reused in a 16th century binding. Bellum Catilinae & Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust (86-34 B.C.), Antwerp: Johann Gymnich, 1547., Princeton University Library, Gryphius Collection.

Waste paper reused in a 16th century binding. Bellum Catilinae & Bellum Iugurthinum, Sallust (86-34 B.C.), Antwerp: Johann Gymnich, 1547., Princeton University Library, Gryphius Collection.

At Columbia last week, Alexis recommended a website created by the Princeton University Library documenting a huge range of historic hand binding styles. The site presents books in the Princeton collection by style, region, time period, etc and lets you look closely at such features as binders’ marks and edge decoration.

Reanimation Library – Brooklyn, New York

In a couple of our recent sessions, I mentioned the Reanimation Library, so I wanted to take a moment to share a little more about this amazing place. For example, I brought up this library when Deirdre Lawrence, Principal Librarian at the Brooklyn Museum, showed us some of the books (doubles? non-collectables?) from the museum’s collection that artists have repurposed into artist books.I learned of the Reanimation Library several years ago, when I had the pleasure of working with Andrew Beccone, its founder and an all-around awesome librarian. The library is not only a depository for all the weird textbooks my parents (trained in medical fields in the late 1970s and early 1980s) used in school and subsequently left to gather dust in our basement but is also much, much more. It serves, primarily, to inspire artists and others, who can use the library as source material for projects, like artist books.

According to its website:

“The Reanimation Library is an independent presence library. (Presence library is a mistranslation of the German word for reference library, Präsenzbibliothek. In addition to being a non-circulating collection, the library encourages IRL encounters with actual books and actual humans.) The books in the collection—simultaneously prosaic and peculiar—are relics of the rapidly receding 20th century. Chosen primarily for the images that they contain, they have been culled from thrift stores, rummage sales, flea markets, municipal dumps, library sales, give-away piles, and used bookstores across the country.”

More information about the Reanimation Library can be found here and here. The former is a text and the latter is a short video, both by Beccone, who describes the library’s origins, its goals, and what kinds of books it houses. These include but are not limited to…

Exhibiting Poultry for Pleasure and Profit (1978) by Loyl Stromberg


Fun with Science (1947) by Ira and Mae Freeman


And finally, Secrets of Show Dog Handling (1973) by Mario Migliorini


You can visit the Reanimation Library in the the Proteus Gowanus complex, which is located at 543 Union Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Thursday/Friday: 3 – 6 PM
Saturday/Sunday: 12 – 6 PM
and by appointment: 718-710-0276

CFP – The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present)

Since SITAH has been keeping us very busy at lectures and discussions all around the city and beyond with artists, academics, curators, librarians, conservators, and others related to book arts, I would like to share this related CFP, in case anyone missed it in their inbox this week!

The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present): Workshop

Ertegun House, University of Oxford, 4 – 5 December 2014

The Global History of the Book (1780 to the present) is a two-day interdisciplinary workshop organised by doctoral and postdoctoral researchers in conjunction with the English Faculty’s Postcolonial Writing and Theory Seminar, the Oxford Centre for Global History and the University of Oxford’s Ertegun Graduate Programme in the Humanities, to be held on the 4th and 5th of December 2014 at Ertegun House, Oxford.

The aim of the workshop is to explore the global alongside the local, transnational and inter-imperial, textual and intertextual, dimensions of book history. Be it the book’s ability to travel, or its intervention in cultural politics, we are particularly interested in  papers that will demonstrate the crucial role that writing and print plays in the making and materialising of global history.

The workshop will have two main strands. The first strand comprises a panel discussion with Antoinette Burton and Isabel Hofmeyr, the editors of Creating an Imperial Commons: Books that Shaped the Modern British Empire, a collection of essays forthcoming from Duke University Press (2014).  They will focus on the critical implications of their project and new trends in Book History. This will be followed by readings and discussion with other contributors to the volume. The second strand will involve papers by graduate students and early career researchers, furthering the conversation of the plenary panels. Other confirmed speakers include Marilyn Lake, Catherine Hall and Elleke Boehmer.

Papers should be approximately 20 minutes long, and abstracts no more than 300 words. Abstracts, along with a short bionote (100 words) should be emailed by 15 June 2014.

Topics to be investigated include, but are not restricted to:
The book as worlded technology and the global politics of print
Travelling/transnational books and texts
The book as oceanic channel, the portable book
The relation between the book and other forms of print culture –pamphlets/newspapers/broadsheets etc.
Cultural translation and reception of texts/books – adaptations, appropriations of “canonical” texts
Documents/books and colonial bureaucracy
Interactions of oral and written cultures
Book cultures as “imperial commons”
Book types and genres— textbooks, primers, handbooks, manuals, travel guides, etc.
Publishing houses, publishing networks, the history of print
Approaches to postcolonialism and Postcolonial/Global book history
Sponsors and prize cultures, reception and the cult of the bestseller
World forms and global visions
Anglobalization via the book

Convenors: Elleke Boehmer, Dominic Davies, Rouven Kunstmann, Benjamin Mountford, Priyasha Mukhopadhyay and Asha Rogers

More information regarding possible paper topics etc, can be found at:

Rouven Kunstmann
Oxford University(Doctoral Candidate)
St Antony’s College
Visit the website at