My intention with the "Art of the Book Exhibit: Rare books from the Alkek Library Collections" exhibit was to highlight the unique and beautiful books which belong to the Alkek library’s collections. Over the years, faculty has requested the library purchase books which are virtually works of art, but hardly ever get seen outside of the class or the library.
Several months ago, I was asked if I would formulate some kind of exhibit for our large, four sided exhibit case on the first floor of the Alkek building. I had never worked with this case. Usually it was reserved for campus groups or classes (like our interior design graduates final projects) who had 3 dimensional objects along with 2 dimensional pieces to display. Not only did they need something in the cases for the month of April, but they needed something to remain through June. I felt obliged to help out, and tried to think of books large enough to fill the enormous case, and might not be needed or used by the students during the rest of the semester. The Alkek library’s Special Collections material contained many large books, which also didn’t normally check out. In the end, not all of them were from Special Collections. Several large, beautiful art books were in our circulating oversized book area. They seldom checked out, because they were just too big to carry away.
The library has also been the repository of several beautiful limited editions, handmade books, along with the many oversized, art plate books of famous artists or works of art. These books have been purchased by the library, or donated to us, and in some cases, the provenance of how they became part of our collections is lost in time. While perusing the shelves, I found some beautiful, old, oversized Mexican landscape painting books. I asked how they came into the collection. Nobody knew. It was also clear, that no one had seen them in many, many years. One of the books was issued in 1910, in commemoration of the centennial of the Mexican republic. We had another new book, issued to commemorate the Mexican Bicentennial in 2010. In all, we used 6 books from Mexico, located on one side of the case, and dedicated it to the Mexican republic.
The exhibit is intended to showcase what the Alkek Library owns, along with our awe and respect for the beauty and art of books.
Selene Hinojosa, Collection Development Librarian