A Degree of Mastery: A Journey through Book Arts Apprenticeship

by Annie Tremmel Wilcox

New Rivers Press, 1999

readability rating
5 star readability rating This book is like a conversation with a good friend, one who shares my love of bookbinding. It's a pleasure to read.
content rating
3 star content rating Although Wilcox does write about bookbinding techniques in some detail, it is not an instructional manual.

This is the narrative of one woman's discovery of bookbinding, her growing love of the craft, and her apprenticeship to a master of the art. Wilcox is a skilled writer, and knows how to create an engaging and delightful book.

The Good Stuff
The surprise of discovering how many of my own little obsessions like buying tools and making equipment are bookbinding universals. As a result of her descriptions, I've reconditioned two of my bone folders and am now on the lookout for an oyster knife. But it's more than that - I have recognised how much my pleasure in bookbinding depends on my relationship to my tools, and to my image of myself as a craftsman. It's a telling bit of self-knowledge.
Could Do Better
Although the book is a narrative about her apprenticeship (and in many ways a description of her deep affection for her instructor, the late Bill Anthony), the ending as her apprenticeship ends feels fairly abrupt. I would have liked about one more chapter of transition to where she is now.
Best Bit
Hearing about the mistakes she made. I make so many myself, and the instructional books I read are so rarely willing to discuss the ways things go wrong.