The Lorenz Schwartz Collection of Nolan J. Goodman
It is said Lorenz Schwartz worked alone, designing, forwarding, and finishing, with none but a singing canary as company (link). As one peruses the volumes Schwartz produced over a twenty-plus year career, this manner of working seems to fit his output. His influences can be very clear at times—French art nouveau, German jugendstil, American arts & crafts—but no tidy category fits the vast majority of his bookbindings. Many of his design choices seem to have been pulled from the ether, and to those unfamiliar with his work, can be seen as downright unusual. But when presented en masse, tools from each period flow from one volume to the next, and gouges, onlays, and even gauffering seem to all work in harmony.
Though the headline of Schwartz’s obituary in 1947 referred to him as the “Best Bookbinder in [the] U.S.” (link), he has been nearly forgotten in the pantheon of American bookbinders--outside of a few dedicated collectors & dealers. Lawrence S. Thompson’s seminal “Hand Bookbinding in the United States Since the Civil War” (1954) mentions four binders of note who emerged from the Roycrofters--none of them being Schwartz. The last eighty years of auction records bring up very few mentions of him, even amongst the work that were assuredly bindings that he designed and finished. Even during the time he was actively binding, the most prominent references to him were from Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft Shop, which never missed an opportunity for promotion of any kind.
Schwartz was a journeyman--a craftsman that only worked in the binderies of others: Otto Zahn/S.C. Toof, the Roycroft Shop of Elbert Hubbard, and The Monastery Hill Bindery. Thus, the bindery always received top billing in the “signing” of the binding in the front of the book, and almost always received primary billing in exhibitions and sales. In addition, Schwartz’s “LS” monogram stamp that he used to sign his work is consistently in the rear of the volumes he bound, making it easy to overlook.
The primary goal of the collection is to appropriately place Lorenz Schwartz within the history of American bookbinding: a master bookbinder whose hand-tooled bindings are among the finest ever produced within the United States.
The volumes pictured below comprise my collection of Lorenz Schwartz bookbindings. Click an image to see more about each volume. (As you might suspect, none are for sale!)