Celebrating Eleven Years in Downtown Staunton

"I knew much later what I didn't know then, so I did not remain in my six year apprenticeship with Henry Southern, booksellers. I was eighteen and thought London in the 1960's was far too three dimensional to work at a job selling books.  Half a decade later I was collecting books but had not entertained a consideration to selling any of them. Footloose and free, but without the fancy part that money offered, I was slipping into dull humdrum with occasional bouts of jocularity, as the amusement park photo attests to.  A couple of decades or more later, my collection had turned into a book scouting commodity and then into a bookstore in Blue Hill, Maine.  In September of 2008, we opened Barrister Books in Staunton, Virginia."

- Anthony Baker

Barrister Books.jpg

Lyall Harris "Winter Flame"

Lyall Harris, “Winter Flame”, book arts exhibit in place from Wednesday, November 29 through Sunday, January 14, 2018

at Barrister Books, book arts / paper arts: re-imagining the book

As part of a continuing series featuring book arts, Barrister Books presents “Winter Flame”, an exhibit of work by Virginia book artist Lyall Harris.  Lyall’s work will be on view at Barrister Books from Nov 29, 2017 through Jan 14, 2018. These works include structures from Harris’ A Year in Books during which she made a new project every week for one year, book objects, such as Outing Yourself, featuring text on miniature hangers, and fully developed artist’s books like Interior Landscape, a reflection on Sylvia Plath’s journals, and Paper Boats, a collaborative book Harris made with Patricia Silva about contemporary mass immigration to Europe. Most works are for sale, prices start at $10. 

About “book art,” Harris says: Book art might indeed look like a book and it usually references the book form in some way, but this art medium doesn’t have prescribed parameters. It allows for a broad range of expression through a unique combination of text and/or image, sequence, and structure, and in so doing, it does something a “regular” book just can’t do. Works on display at Barrister Books run the gamut from very simple structures to more elaborate works. Even in easy structures, I try to conceptually push what a “simple gesture” can accomplish as I often explore charged and layered content. My identity as an artist-mother is near at hand in much of my book art. Originally from Virginia, I am happy to be back, now living in Charlottesville, after 30 years on other coasts and continents. 

Bio: Lyall Harris is a visual artist and writer with a BA in Art History from Northwestern University (Phi Beta Kappa) and an MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her book art is held in dozens of Special Collection libraries, among these at Yale, Stanford, Smith, Vanderbilt, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Utah, University of Texas, Indiana University, Washington University, University of Vermont, Savannah College of Art and Design, Duke, UNC, VCU, and University of Virginia. Harris’ painting has been exhibited in over 100 juried group shows and several solo exhibitions across the US in venues such as National Academy Museum, Purdue University, Creative Arts Workshop, National Art League, Maryland Federation of Art, Sonoma Museum of Visual Art, City College of San Francisco, and many others. Her poetry has appeared in such publications as The New Guard, The Prose Poem Project, Pure Francis, and San Francisco Bay Guardian, and her creative nonfiction has been featured in The Montréal Review. She was a selected BANG! writer in 2016. Her writing has been a finalist in numerous writing contests, including The Bunchgrass Poetry Prize, The Briar Cliff Review Poetry Contest, The River Styx International Poetry Contest, The Ruth Stone Poetry Prize, and Glimmer Train Press Very Short Fiction Award; she received the Honorable Mention for the Mary Merritt Henry Prize in Poetry. Harris is the co-editor of the online literary and art journal The Sigh Press, which she co-founded in 2014.

Barrister Books, at 1 Lawyers Row, is celebrating its ninth year of buying and selling old, used, and rare books in downtown Staunton by featuring a series of exhibits of work by local book artists.  “We have taken on this direction in an effort to support local book artists, expand opportunity for book arts venues, and broaden the discussion about the nature of books; it is a natural extension of the bookshop's mission” said Anthony Baker, proprietor of Barrister Books.  “In addition, we are excited about the possibilities to collaborate with local artists, teaching venues, and arts organizations for future book arts exhibits at Barrister Books.”   

Lyall Harris “Winter Flame” exhibit at Barrister Books will remain in place from Wednesday, November 29 through Sunday, January 14, 2018.  Barrister Books is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10:30-5:30 and by appointment.   

Web Site: lyallharris.com

Literary and Art Journal, The Sigh: thesighpress.com


Barrister Books joins the celebration for QCMM!

We are excited to be part of this year's Queen City Mischief and Magic!  Join us September 22 - 24.  We'll be featuring: 

* a magic corner with a Big Book Selfie Spot, 

* flying books throughout the bookshop, 

* magic hands holding books emerging from the shelves, 

* and handmade bookmarks featuring a quill pen and envelope bookmark, red lion wax seal and QCMM ~ 2017 dedication. 

A Snowy owl overlooks the proceedings.  We are looking forward to all of the fun - 

Artist Books and Paper Objects

We are now featuring collected small, surprising, fun, and affordable artist books and paper objects from Printed Matter in New York:

Yearbook by Sophie Arnold; paper tags, vintage yearbook pictures

Earbooks by Purgatory Pie Press; letter press, paper books, featuring the poetry of Sommer Browning

Le Travail by Susanne Bürner; folded heavy paper, photographs, map

Patterns by Sara Diamond; paper, stapled spine

Coffee by Evah Fan; paper, stapled spine

DNAids cups by Creative Time; set of five paper cups

Handling, Miniature Garden 2015; digital print on gray paper, edition of 50 by Claudia Peña Salinas and Denise Shatz

Float Float by Sandy Son; paper, stapled spine

books as objects, a fine arts exploration

as published in the Friends of the Staunton Library Newsletter, Summer 2015

"Some books were meant to be adored, venerated and treasured, kept in a sacred place in your home and stored in memory as well, relinquished only on your death. Upon your demise the children will divvy them up, sell them to a book dealer (most likely scenario) or take them to a thrift store. It doesn't matter, you are dead, but while you were alive they were objects of special beauty.  

"Books were meant to be read", cry the intellectual purists, as if mere words were the reason for a book's existence.  

Books are objects, in their very basic three dimensional form, but when they are bound in full Moroccan leather, or illustrated with tipped in colored plates, or protected in a hand made box, a new realm is entered.  

"Skilled Defense", is a book meant to be viewed face up, the gold embossed cover advertising the author's intent to garner converts to his school of instruction. Hundreds of photographs depicting police and civilians disarming gun, knife, and club wielding denizens of the underworld comprise the 175 page volume. Published in 1936, it has a laudatory dedication to J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI.  

"Samantha at the World's Fair", was published in 1893 at a time when the Chicago fair was a national attraction. The format of this popular book was designed as a gift book, printed on paper of quality, profusely illustrated, nicely bound with decorations in gilt and silver. It's appearance garnered attention and was likely displayed In book stores with cover to the buyer.  Thick, with a decorative spine, it would have also have been worthy of being shelved and still attract the eye of a parent, relative, or friend of the youthful recipient. The publishers note that this book is also available in a 'popular edition for reduced sum'. The hint that love required a certain amount of generosity is often suggested in the advertisements located in the back of books of this nature.  

Books bound in leather have always been popular, the volumes in the photo highlight the diversity of topics, mirroring the choices available in the construction of a personal library. Three of the books have gift inscriptions within, exhibiting the buyers choice in binding for a book that can last a lifetime. Leather bound books will require periodic care. Correspondence with the dresser of Queen Elizabeth's leather books (a designated occupation) might yield practical advice! The books on either end are attractive cloth bound American adventure books with tales of valor and glory within; another subset with thousands of titles issued during the waning days of the 'wild' West.  

And talking of subsets, invariably many of these volumes have hidden or subtle features not always readily apparent at first glance. Gilt edges, beveled covers, colored lithographs and a collectible on it's own - marbled interior boards, with some collectors buying books for just this aspect alone.  

The newsletter budget precludes a further thousand or so pages which is about what it would take to have a broader overview of the book as object, but more pictures worth a thousand words will follow in other issues. Oh, and please read any book however valuable, just don't open it more than forty five degrees, wear gloves and keep it in a climate controlled room!"

molly, the library cat

as published in the Friends of the Staunton Library Newsletter, Winter 2015

"On a warm summer day Molly will pause on her way to work and examine flowers in the library garden. Her job at the Staunton Library, even in cat steps, is but a short commute, as she lives just across the street.  Ever present, polite, calm, she is loyal to all the patrons of the library. Any attempt to curry favor with a cat treat will result in being treated no differently than any other one of her loyal subjects.  After setting out from her home in the morning Molly walks leisurely through the terraced garden and patrols the side entrance of the library. She may choose to take a bite or a sip of water from bowls set for her at this location. A favorite posting for Molly is on the steps of the library entrance, especially on a day when the sun has warmed the concrete cap on the stone railing. It is a good location for evaluating library visitors and acknowledging library employees.  

Two hundred generations ago (in cat lives) some of Molly's distant cousins guarded the libraries in Egyptian temples. According to the Greek historian Herodotus the cats were specially trained to prevent rodents and snakes from destroying the rolls of papyrus. Monks in monasteries kept rats from eating their laboriously made manuscripts by allowing cats to roam their workrooms. Rats and mice eat paper, and libraries have a lot of paper. The British government once payed a stipend to libraries for the housing of good mousers!  Modern library cats, the occasional mouse bounty aside, are well fed, content and happy, and unlike a library dog, of which there are no known samples, cats don't bark and they have tiny teeth. The general demeanor of a cat, along with purring and pet-able fur can create a relaxed atmosphere for both patrons and librarians alike. Occasionally there have been reports from patrons regarding allergies, real or imagined, and a tussle or two between a library cat and a companion animal.  Warning! When the library in Putnam Valley New York removed their cat, two members of the community were so upset they took the library out of their wills, producing an $80,000 dollar loss in revenue.

Perhaps the most famous library cat in the world is Dewey Readmore Books. When still a kitten Dewey had been dropped, on the coldest night of the year, into the book return box of the Spencer Public Library in Iowa. Dewey was found the next morning by library director Vicki Myron. He won her heart, and the hearts of the staff by pulling himself up and hobbling on frost bitten feet to nudge each of them in a gesture of thanks and love. Dewey lived at the library for nineteen years and after his death a popular book was written about his life.  Thanks to Gary Roma of Iron Frog productions we now have an accounting of where all the library cats are!  There are 809 known library cats world wide, with 664 in the United States. The number is a bit skewed depending on one's viewpoint as 27 are in the form of statues, 6 are stuffed (as in toys) and one is a ghost cat. Not counting Molly, there are 14 cats in Virginia's libraries. But of all 809 library cats, our Molly is the sweetest, kindest, and most intelligent of all!"