Other exhibit jewels include a dainty 1857 book whose cover shows a pert young woman and the title The Course of True Love Never Did Run Smooth ("by the author of It Is Never Too Late to Mend"). There's a proto-Art Nouveau masterpiece of swirly ribbonlike flowers against a background of tiny gold bubbles, and a case showing modern art binding techniques. There's also the free, superinformative sixty-four-page exhibit catalog itself, bound with a couple of staples.
The exhibit title is Miller's riff on Shakespeare's characterization of the amateur actors in A Midsummer Night's Dream as "rude mechanicals." It sums up her view of these books as information machines with moving parts that are also objects of sophisticated beauty that are "suave like Cary Grant . . . with a little age, a little patina, a real character of beauty."
Suave Mechanicals continues through July 26.
[Originally published in May, 2003.]