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Po Box 193216
San Francisco, CA

A close-knit group of hand bookbinders, with shared interests in creating and collecting fine bindings, joined together to promote hand bookbinding and related book arts and to exchange information and ideas. 

the Gold Leaf Online

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The Legacy of Florence Walter: Celebrating a Century at The Book Club of California

Rhiannon Alpers

The Legacy of Florence Walter: Celebrating a Century at The Book Club of California
April 29, 2013 through September 2, 2013
Kathleen Burch & John McBride, Exhibition Curators The Legacy of Florence Walter at The Book Club of California features forty-five fine design bindings that her family has treasured for many decades. Her working sketches, photographs, keepsakes, and other printed ephemera supplement the portrait of Florence Walter as a matriarch and hand bookbinder. Since the opening reception, another fifteen bindings have been loaned by the Walter family for viewing through the end of the exhibition. At the opening reception on Monday, April 29, 2013, Professor Henry Snyder, OBE, introduced the exhibition and the grandchildren who have made it possible; they offered reminiscences of Florence and the family - and wonderfully, reminiscences that have been preserved on video by the Book Club. About Florence Walter: Born in 1884, Florence Walter began binding in 1936, and soon became one of the most prominent French-style binders in America; especially choice is her unique binding of James Joyce’s Ulysses, illustrated by Henri Matisse and published by the Limited Editions Club in 1935. Another wonderful volume is her dramatic binding of Henry Miller’s Into the Night Life (1947), personally inscribed by the author to her. Upon her death in 1972, her family donated her studio to Mills College: some 500 finishing tools and a book press (see our cover), as well as 42 books on binding & paper, a collection which has now grown to 340 volumes. Her work was shown at Mills in 1973 and at the Legion of Honor in 1976. The family retained her many bindings which are now on exhibition for the first time in nearly forty years. Florence, née Schwartz, married into the Walter family in 1907. Her husband, John Walter (1879–1930) was prominent in downtown retail and was an important figure in the San Francisco Art Association and the California School of the Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. His brother, Edgar (1878–1938) was a sculptor whose work can be seen on the proscenium arch of the San Francisco Opera. In the wake of the Panama-Pacific Exposition The Gold Leaf 16 of 1915, he designed a bronze plaque for the life members of The Book Club of California; the originals of these can be seen at the entrance of the Club’s rooms. Florence herself was an important bibliophile, a great patron of the Grabhorn Press; she joined the Club in 1913 and was both the first woman on its Board and its first woman president (1952–1955). In 1951, she commissioned Wurster-Bernardi to build a house at 2745 Larkin, on the north crest of Russian Hill overlooking Ghirardelli Square and Alcatraz. Her bindery was a notable and wonderful feature of this home. This exhibition was made possible by the generosity of the family of Florence Walter. At the time of her death, her bindings in her personal collection were divided up among her children, Eleanor, Marjorie and Carol. The three daughters in turn divided up the books they received among their children, who treasured these bindings for four decades. All eight grandchildren as well as one great-granddaughter, Liza Dodd, have contributed their grandmother’s bindings to the Club for this exhibition. John Walter Sinton has contributed two of his grandmother’s favorite volumes, bindings by Rose Adler and Marius Michel, as well as a book he bound under his grandmother’s tutelage, a volume of travels in Russia. In 2012, the three children of Marjorie Walter Bissinger (1912–2003) donated their bindings to the Book Club for its new Florence Walter Collection. Their wonderful gift inspired this exhibition and celebration. These seventeen volumes joined a Walter binding of The Jerome Kern Library which the family gave to the Book Club in 1972. The Library now houses eighteen Walter bindings, the largest collection on public view. The children of Eleanor Walter Sinton (1910–1997)have loaned twenty-seven bindings. Patricia Sinton Adler donated two marvelous photographs of Florence Walter by Johan Hagemeyer (1928), which grace these rooms as well as this program and the invitation to the exhibition. Margot Sinton Biestman has lent us the elegant watercolor of Florence, painted by her daughter, Eleanor “Nell” Walter Sinton. I am deeply honored by the enthusiasm and generosity of the Walter family. Their grandmother, Florence, joined the Club in 1913. A century later, we welcome them to these Club rooms, where the bindings of Florence Walter glow in the cases. We invite all of you to savor this work over the next months.