Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Honoring Patrice Warin, Trench Art, Book Object Advisor

Patrice Warin  has been a long-time advisor to me on the subject of Trench Art book objects and I'd like to honor him in this post. Patrice is an historian of Trench Art and has written several books on the subject, including one on writing- and another on tobacco-related objects. Since there are many book-shaped tobacco-related lighters and boxes, I've always written to Patrice for his opinion and he has helped to educate me about their manufacture, authenticity and use. 

The term ‘trench art’ describes the decorative and practical objects made by soldiers, civilians and prisoners of war, during wartime. Beyond their significance as military ephemera, the objects testify to the skill and determination of humans under the extreme pressure of war and their need to create objects that reflect their feelings of spirituality, grief, love and friendship. During World War I, book-shaped smoking paraphernalia was made in great variety. The 'bullet lighter', for example, was a common book object made from dicarded shell casings and driving bands. The lighters were easily made and their compact, flat format, fit nicely in pockets. Lighters were necessary, as matches could not be used in trenches because of humidity, and having a light could be a question of life and death. The images below are example of the Trench Art book objects that Patrice has sent me over the years.

This lighter is an example of a French 'bullet' lighter: 

This is a match safe:
This looks to be a match box cover with a very nice Grolieresque binding design; but Patrice may correct me if I'm wrong:

This is a wooden box like a book made by a French soldier (FS monogram on back cover), to protect his letters or snapshots. The title is Guerre (War) 1914-1915-1916 and on the spine TOME 1 (volume 1): 

Thank you Patrice for your generous advice! You can find Patrice Warin's books on Trench Art on

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Lectures: "BLOOKS for the Masses: Fantasy and Invention in Book Objects" and "The Art of Books That Aren't: A Survey of Historic Book Objects"

All proceeds from these lectures will go towards the publication of an exhibition catalog for The Art of Books That Aren't. Grolier Club, January 28-March 14, 2016.  Please contact me if would like to plan a lecture for your class or group or if you are able to make a donation towards the exhibition, the catalog and its programs (

Blooks for the Masses: Fantasy and Invention in Book Objects

Blooks for the Massesis a chronological romp through the evolution of American patented book-objects, designed during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It will feature approximately fifty patents for practical and fanciful book objects of all kinds. In addition to patent drawings, Ms. Dubansky will discuss the objects’details as they relate to book culture and illustrate real objects that were produced from, or closely resemble, those produced from the patents.

The objects in the talk date from the 1860s to the 2010s. They elucidate how book objects were integrated into popular culture and how the commercial sector has developed the book form to add interest, function and market value to every-day objects. Items in this presentation are wide-ranging and include examples of objects made for the home, office, school and beyond. Shown here is a patent for a lunch-box (1875; patent 170,441) and Noonday Exercise, an unattributed toleware lunch box of a similar style and date.


The Art of Books That Aren't: A Survey of Book Objects

If you aren't able to come to my blook exhibition at the Grolier Club exhibition next year, but wish you could, this is the lecture for you. It is a thematic romp through the history of book objects made from the eighteenth century through today. This presentation will describe a wide variety of handmade and manufactured book objects and place them in historic context through discussing their inventors, marketing history and use -- and showing many beautiful images of book objects. This lecture can be shaped to address the specific needs of a particular audience, if requested. 

Hand warmer or flask. First half of the 18th century. British. Tin-enameled earthenware. Metroplitan Museum of Art, 37.123.3