Barry Moser exhibit comes to Trinity Special Collections

The Special Collections section of the library recently received a limited edition Pennyroyal Caxton Edition of the Holy Bible illustrated by Barry Moser, donated by philanthropists Bruce and Suzie Kovner of New York.

The Bible is a two-volume King James Version that took four years for Moser to complete. It is rare and expensive, considering only 400 copies were produced.

Moser illustrated the Bible with over 230 original resin engravings and orchestrated the entire project.

“He [Moser] calls himself a booksmith. He is most well known for his illustrations—he also does paintings—but he is more well known for the wood engravings and resin engravings. He does everything from the typography to the size of the book, he designs the entire book and coined the term booksmith,” said Brandi Russell, junior and curator of the exhibit.

Although he is a self-proclaimed booksmith, he did not make every part of the book himself. He was more of a director.

“He did not make the binding, that was hand-made by two women and the paper was made in a paper mill in Germany, but he orchestrated it and did all of the engravings. There were other people involved in the project but he directed it. He designed it,” said Megan Toups, Special Collections librarian and university archivist. “I would call him a book artist, but he calls himself a booksmith.”

Special Collections received the donation because the Kovners felt they would showcase the Bible and connect it with students and faculty instead of it sitting on a shelf, according to Toups.

“[The Kovners] went around to different schools trying to pick the best school that they thought would actually use the books on display and so we wanted to do something with the Bible since it was donated to us,” Russell said.

Russell and the Special Collections staff decided to do a Barry Moser themed exhibit because of his illustrations in the donated Bible, and the library had multiple Moser books on hand.

“Since we had around 30 other books by Moser, both in Special Collections and the general collection, we thought it would make a good exhibit. It is a great way to get the word out about the donation and then also to showcase Moser,” Toups said. “I like that, too, as a book person, because it is also focused on the book as an object in and of itself and worthy of paying attention to.”

Diane Graves, university librarian and professor, lent a few of her personal Moser books to the exhibit, including her copy of the Wizard of Oz. After meeting with Moser at a dinner with the University of California Press honoring Moser for his illustrations in their edition of the Wizard of Oz, Graves said she was an instant fan.

“I ended up sitting next to him at dinner and he is a really interesting guy, very engaging, such a talent and a really fun person to talk to. He’s a good storyteller and he has a good imagination,” Graves said. “I got a signed copy of the book and left the dinner saying, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I got invited to that,’ and started watching for his stuff and once you have seen his work you can spot it, you know what it looks like.”

The exhibit will be open until April, and anyone is welcome to view it weekdays from 1:15 to 5 p.m. in Special Collections, unless otherwise noted. Check libguides.trinity.edu.archives for up-to-date hours each week.