The Ninth Helen Warren DeGolyer Competition for American Bookbinding

Exhibit dates: May 19, 2022—July 15, 2022
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries

In 2020 a national invitation went out to bookbinders for designs to bind Bridwell Library’s copy of Five Poems by Toni Morrison with silhouettes by Kara Walker. Ten remarkable proposals were received, along with completed books showing related techniques. The submissions were reviewed in February 2022 by the competition jury—

Karen Baker-Fletcher, Professor of Systematic Theology
Perkins School of Theology

Jane Elder, Head of Reference, Research, and the Theological Writing Center
at Bridwell Library, and entrant to the Fifth Competition, 2009

Elyan Hill, Assistant Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History
Meadows School of the Arts

James Reid-Cunningham, bookbinder and conservator
Commission winner of the Eighth Helen Warren DeGolyer Competition, 2018

Nishiki Sugawara-Beda, Visual Artist, Assistant Professor of Art–
Painting and Drawing, Meadows School of the Arts

The jury selected one entry for special distinction on the strength of the binding proposed for Five Poems. Another was distinguished for the skill and artistry evident in the completed binding. A third, owing to the integrity of design and craft to the printed expressions of Toni Morrison and Kara Walker, was named winning entry of the Helen Warren DeGolyer Award for American Bookbinding. The creator of that submission will be offered the commission to bind Five Poems.

Helen Warren DeGolyer (1926–1995) Dallas bibliophile and supporter of the arts, studied bookbinding with Mariana Roach, Dorothy Westapher, and noted Swiss binder Hugo Peller. Married to Everette DeGolyer Jr. who was the founding director of SMU’s DeGolyer Library, she established a fund that has supported a triennial bookbinding competition, exhibition, and conference at Bridwell Library since 1997.

For the 2021 competition, American bookbinders were invited to propose a design binding for Five Poems by Toni Morrison, and to submit a completed binding of any work as an example of techniques they propose to use. 

Five Poems

Five Poems represents Toni Morrison's only published verse, and each poem is accompanied by a silhouette by artist Kara Walker. The partnership of Morrison and Walker represents a unique collaboration between two extraordinary African American artists. The two artists never actually met; Walker simply responded to Morrison's words through the illustrations.

Five Poems is published in a signed edition of 399 numbered and 26 lettered copies. This is copy number 79. The book was designed by Peter Rutledge Koch. It was printed letterpress from digital imaging and photo-polymer plates at Peter Koch, Printers in Berkeley, California. The typeface is Rialto Piccolo designed by Giovanni de Faccio and Lui Karner. The text paper is Rives BFK, tan. The copyright is held by Rainmaker Editions, 2002.

Toni Morrison

Nobel Prize winner in Literature Toni Morrison (1931–2019), authored eleven novels including Beloved, Pulitzer Prize winner in 1988, and Song of Solomon, National Book Critics Circle Award winner in 1977. She was known for her prose and her exploration of the black experience, in particular black women. In addition to her novels, Morrison also published children's literature, essays, song lyrics, a play, and a libretto for the American opera, Margaret Garner. She was a longtime faculty member at Princeton before retiring in 2006, and lectured around the world. Toni Morrison was a champion for the arts, and spoke often about the power of the written word and the importance of fighting censorship.

Kara Walker

Kara Walker (born 1969) is well-known for her cut-paper silhouettes depicting the tragic legacy of slavery. Walker utilizes drawing, painting, text, shadow puppetry, film, and sculpture to develop her historical narrative work. She was born in Stockton, California, and received her B.F.A. at the Atlanta College of Art and an M.F.A. at Rhode Island School of Design. Walker made her debut in New York in 1994 with her silhouettes cut from black paper, adhering them directly to the gallery wall. In 1997, Kara Walker was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship, making her one of the youngest-ever recipients at twenty-eight.