February 21, 2018
The Bibliophile as Bookbinder: The Angling Bindings of S.A. Neff, Jr., a new exhibit exploring one man’s passion for the natural world and the world of books, will open with a reception on Friday, February 23 from 6-9pm at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. The show will continue for two months, and a comprehensive retrospective catalogue and forty-seven minute documentary will accompany the exhibition.
Over five decades ago, Mr. Neff began a serious pursuit of trout fishing and collecting books on the art of angling. His travels took him to some of the most picturesque and challenging trout rivers in this country and abroad. His collection of angling books grew into a proper library of three thousand volumes—the oldest dating from 1554—with a focus on fly-fishing for trout and salmon.
In the early 1980s, Mr. Neff transitioned from a career in graphic design to fine bookbinding. An autodidact by nature, he began his training with occasional workshops and seminars sponsored by the Guild of Book Workers. Since 1986, his work has been exhibited in at home and abroad.
Neff is cognizant of the traditional structures in bookbinding that have evolved over numerous centuries. He has chosen to embrace rather than negate these traditions. However, he prefers to stretch the boundaries whenever possible. For over two decades he has focused his binding efforts exclusively on work for his angling library. Neff has created sets of bindings with multiple volumes contained in drop-back boxes. Usually working with goatskin, the design on the box serves as an introduction to its contents. Even single volumes are housed in a decorative box. The works range from bindings with intricate pictorial panels of Japanese dyed paper to decorative leather bindings with multiple onlays and elaborate gold tooling. In bridging centuries of binding design, Neff has often focused on modern interpretations of 17th and 18th century panel designs. His collection of angling bindings is unique in its genre, and will remain intact in perpetuity.