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Innovative Bookbinding Excursion at Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Central Library

Earlier this year the MOTAT Society went on an excursion to the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Auckland Central Library to see examples of innovative bookbinding by New Zealand bookbinders. Specialist librarians Renee Orr and Jane Wild took us on a tour of fascinating, innovative and unique books in the collection. Some, like the Down the Rabbit Hole made by Tara Bryan formed the hole Alice fell down into Wonderland, others formed waves of the ocean, and another slowed our pace of reading as it required turning alternate pages. One of New Zealand’s most innovative bookbinders is Elizabeth Steiner who wrote the book “Woven and Interlocking Book Structures.” Many of Steiner’s books are in the collection and her work was the focus of our visit. Her work demonstrates extraordinary bookbinding inventions. You can find Elizabeth Steiner’s book online here. It includes step by step instructions for some of her designs.



In addition to this special tour of books, Tara McLeod’s exhibition ‘About Type’ had just opened, and we got a personalised tour. Tara McLeod is an exceptional letterpress artist and specialist and the exhibition ranged across his repertoire including his collaborations with many New Zealand poets, and works McLeod produced in response to different modes of printing over time. The exhibition is on until 15th of July and I recommend you visit before it closes.


What did we see?

  • Moeraki boulders / Elizabeth Steiner

  • Letters from Tonga to the Welseyan Missionary Society, London 1826 – 1828 / designed and constructed by Elizabeth Steiner

  • Sing, weaving ; Elements / designed and constructed by Elizabeth Steiner; text by Judith Haswell

  • The tiriti book / Vanya Steiner

  • Full circle / Elizabeth Steiner

  • Along the lines / Elizabeth Steiner

  • ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ / Elizabeth Steiner

  • Aunt Sallie’s lament / Margaret Kaufman ; designed by Claire van Vliet

  • To a friend going blind / Joric Graham

  • The topography of home / Macy Chadwick

  • Bone songs / written by Clifford Burke ; to drawings by Ruth Fine ; book and structure by Claire Van Vliet

  • Night street / Barbara Luck ; illustrations by Lois Johnson

  • Beauty in use / Sandra McPherson

  • Compound frame : seven poems / by Emily Dickinson ; with relief prints by Susan Johanknecht ; book structure by Elizabeth Steiner

  • Rise : Governors Bay Sept/Nov 2000 / Alan Loney

  • Recollect : Italy / Judy Haswell

  • Lost at the South Pole = Verdwaald op de Zuidpool / Carolien Scholten ; illustrations by Marian Veldman

  • Cloud book work / John Reynolds ; designed by Inhouse ; produced by Source

  • The colour of water : (or a circumnavigation in three watches) / Paul Thompson

  • Down the rabbit hole / text by Lewis Carroll ; designed by Tara Bryan

If you’d like to visit the Special Collections to view any of the books we saw on this excursion, email specialcollections@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz and book a time. If you want to see something else, you don’t need to know exactly what you want to see, just let them know what you’re interested in and they’ll help you find something special.


Words by Makyla Curtis

Photography by Makyla Curtis and Scott Pilkington



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