We are seeking funds to restore our vintage presses and promote the history of the book at NIU!
Together NIU Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) and the NIU English Department built a nationwide reputation for work on the history of the book. The emblem of this specialization is the replica of the Common Press built by NIU student Joe Frieders in 1976 that greets one when entering RBSC. Unfortunately, that press and other smaller presses, along with other accoutrements used to enhance the student understanding about the history of print, have fallen into disrepair just as national academic interest in the history of the book is on the rise. In an interdisciplinary effort, we aim to restore NIU's legacy and retake our rightful place on the national stage in this field.
At NIU, departments like English and History are clamoring for the use of our presses while the School of Art and Design and College of Education are invested in making the history of the book more central to their programs. The history of the book, which examines the materiality and craft involved in printing, book binding, publishing trade routes, censorship practices, facets of reading, and much more, needs materials in good working order. So while time and lack of use have stopped Northern Illinois University Libraries’ presses, we are working to get them started again!
Our smaller presses are in fair shape but need adjustments to bring them into superb working condition. The Common Press replica Frieders produced has been a staple in teaching methods of historical book production for four decades at NIU. However, as the Common Press approaches a half-century its central pillars have warped so that it only operates with great difficulty. Printing demonstrations and production work are no longer possible. In other words, it needs more than a facelift to work as it was originally designed. We need funds to restore these gems and some supplies to demonstrate what they can do.
Furthermore, we are already in the money! The Friends of the Library are providing matching funds. For every full increment of $1000 we raise, the Friends will kick in another $1000 up to $3000. Let's not leave that money lying on the table!
History Professor Brian Sandberg on a book lab at NIU! (Link)