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Release: Jan. 17, 2003

New Iowa City group revels in ‘the book’

Photo l to r: Sid Huttner, Arthur Bonfield

Is the book dead? A group of book lovers and collectors from the Iowa City area doesn’t think so and have formed a new organization to promote the vitality of the word on the printed page.

The Iowa bibliophiles formed last fall and drew about 35 people to its first discussion in November, according to Sid Huttner, special collections librarian at the UI Libraries who co-founded the group with Arthur Bonfield, a professor in the UI College of Law and associate dean in charge of the college’s law library. Huttner said the public is encouraged to attend the monthly meetings, which resume Feb. 12.

“The group is for anyone with a serious interest in books, their creation, preservation, and collecting,” said Huttner. “From book designers to publishers and bookbinders, to buyers, sellers, librarians, anyone who just plain loves and accumulates books, we encourage all of them to join us.”

Although some critics say the book won’t survive the electronic revolution, bibliophiles believe books have a healthy future because they provide a vitality that can’t be matched by words electronically reproduced on a computer monitor.

“While some say the book is dying, others see a resurgence of interest in books and point to the book's exuberant vitality,” said Huttner. “Our group is made up of people who believe the latter.”

The genesis for the bibliophiles came in a meeting last summer between Bonfield—who had wanted to start a book group in Iowa City for many years—and Huttner, who had formed one in Tulsa, Okla. several years ago when he worked there, along with David Schoonover, the UI Libraries’ rare book curator. The group held its first meeting in November and heard about Bonfield’s life-long love of book collecting, “Confessions of a Bibliomaniac.” Future meetings will feature Schoonover discussing the library’s Louis Szathmary collection of culinary arts books in February; and Shari DeGraw, printing specialist in the UI Center for the Book, discussing letterpress print and bookmaking in March.

The group meets the second Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Special Collections room on the third floor of the UI Main Library. Meetings will not be held in June, July or August. Huttner said the group is still just loosely organized, but hopes to put together a more formal organizational structure later this spring.