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«Book Design in St.Gallen»

Spring 2007 - an exhibition catalogue is created in the Sitterwerk

In conjunction with the guest appearance of St.Gallen at the International Book and Press Fair in Geneva in 2008, the internationally renowned St.Gallen maker of books Jost Hochuli was commissioned by the Canton to bring together an exhibition on the theme of book design. The exhibition was accompanied by a publication written by the Zurich art historian Roland Früh. He spent several weeks working on the concept and development of the text for the catalogue in the Art Library in the Sitterwerk and lived during this time in the guestroom in the Library.


There is a sentence by Jose Luis Borges that I gladly claim for myself: «I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.» To shuffle in felt slippers past book boxes filled with old prints in the eternity of paradise or to stand in front of neatly labeled revolving racks in a climate-controlled cellar room, would not, however, be interesting enough in the long term. A living collection of books like that in the Art Library in the Sitterwerk, in contrast, would be extremely desirable in paradise. A wild accumulation of several thousand books on art and architecture is collected in this room. It is fortunately also permitted to browse in the shelves, look at all of the books, and to be astounded by Daniel Rohner's ordering of them. Although this «dynamic order» may not be beneficial in every case, it is immensely fascinating to fundamentally question the system by which the library is arranged and to think about new, innovative possibilities for classifications. Everyone and anyone who has more than one book, has to decide how they will be placed on the shelves. In the collection of Daniel Rohner and Felix Lehner there are a few more books, which means that the problem becomes that much more complex - and the benefit of deciding not to stubbornly arrange the books alphabetically is apparent even during a short visit. The library becomes an inspiring place where new ideas come easily, and no longer has anything in common with a dusty archive or book storage. I had the good fortune of being allowed to live in this library for three weeks in the autumn of 2007. During the day I was able to work, read and write, and at night to sleep in the guestroom at the back of the library. I was always the last to turn out the light. I also regularly joined the staff of the Sitterwerk Foundation and the Kunstgiesserei as part of the familial circle around the large table enjoying the good coffee and the abundant midday meal. During these three weeks, I was also allowed to put aside some forty books from the collection as a reference collection and thus add a further, substantially smaller universe. My books were all such books about the City of St.Gallen that helped me to work on the text that would describe the history of book design in the city, the graphic artists, publishing houses and printing presses. And since this spring there has also been this text, this small universe in book form, with the title «Buchgestaltung in St.Gallen» (Book Design in St.Gallen), and published by the VGS (Verlagsgemeinschaft St. Gallen). One copy is also part of the collection of Daniel Rohner's Art Library - and I am pleased by the thought that the book can be found at the location where it was written, by the fact that it is there perhaps standing for a time next to the books relating to St.Gallen, then sojourning for a couple of weeks near the books about graphic design - and thus becomes part of this dynamic order.
(Roland Früh)