WEST PLAINS, Mo. – An exhibit now on display at the Garnett Library on the Missouri State University-West Plains campus takes viewers on a historical journey through the development of books and printing.
“The Art of the Printed Book Through the Centuries” is a traveling exhibition of printed books, the book arts and printing history that is being presented across the state by The Missouri Center for the Book with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
The exhibit, which features pieces on loan from the St. Louis Mercantile Library Association, will be on display, free of charge, at the library through May 31, according to Sylvia Kuhlmeier, director of library services at the Garnett Library. The exhibit can be viewed 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays. The library will be closed Memorial Day.
“The exhibit steps you through the history of printing, century by century,” Kuhlmeier said. “Visitors can view a leaf from the Nuremberg Chronicle, perhaps the most elaborate illustrated book of the 15th century; a facsimile of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible; and other examples of fine printing up to the present-day printing arts.
“Many may be surprised to learn that the growth of printing and the explosion of mass production of all kinds of information in every subject came about faster in the 15th century than the development of the Internet in the 20th,” she added. “With a printer available in most homes today, this display provides a rare opportunity to appreciate the efforts that went into the development of printing and publishing.”
Organizers of the exhibit said the collection of printing history present in the Mercantile is deep and has grown into a superb research collection that can illustrate the development of fine printing and the history of the printed book through the past five centuries. The exhibit documents the origins of fine printing and how it developed to a very high level in England in the 19th century and then in America in the 20th century, becoming now a worldwide art form in the traditional format of binding with the familiar medium of paper in the 21st century.
“These are the main strands of a triumphant and inspiring story of the art of the printed book, which this small traveling program merely touches upon. A tale of even greater depth will include the book arts of other times and cultures in future programs,” exhibit organizers said.
Established in 1846 by civic leaders and philanthropists, The St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri-St. Louis is the oldest general library in continuous use west of the Mississippi River, according to the library’s website. It contains a core collection of over 250,000 volumes, as well as special collections consisting of over 400 individual collections with archival materials numbering in the millions, including over 100 historic newspaper titles, presidential letters, early travel diaries and civil war era letters, fur trade records and the newspaper and printing morgue of the St. Louis Globe Democrat. As a research library, its mission is to make its book, manuscript and art collections available to the widest number of local and national users through physical and online opportunities.
The mission of the Missouri Center for the Book is to bring the words and ideas of books into the thoughts and lives of Missourians. It is the only statewide organization that promotes the importance of books and reading to Missouri residents, celebrate’s the state’s literary heritage, and recognizes the contributions of Missouri’s authors, book illustrators, booksellers, publishers, librarians and others involved in the literary arts.
For more information about the exhibit, call the Garnett Library at 417-255-7945.