Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 3, Page 5 Spring 1992 Spell-binding books Under a rolled ridge that resembles eyebrows, two hooded glass eyes peer off the spine of the red Moroccan leather guest book. Designed "to sit on the shelf and stare at you," the humorous hand-bound book is the work of Don Rash, Delaware '74. A bookbinder trained in the European tradition, Rash marbleizes end papers, sews books, lines spines, laces cover boards, pares and trims leather and executes lettering to produce limited and one-of-a-kind editions. Any one project can take him from 10-32 hours, and the end results have been called "stunning and surprising." Although Rash majored in American Studies at the University, he says he felt most at home in the basement of the Morris Library, browsing through the "Z" section that houses the book arts--printing, bookbindings and calligraphy. It is not surprising then that he has devoted his life to making books that can be cherished not just for what's on the inside, but for what's on the outside as well. "In America, books are looked on as disposable, but I view them as permanent," he says. "A well-made book can last 100, 200, 500 years. In Europe, they have a tradition of books as valuable, long-term possessions. That's a tradition I value, and that's why I do what I do. I am really just a bookworm at heart." During his college years, Rash developed his own style of calligraphy, an art he still practices, doing custom-ordered lettering for clients. In 1976, he and his late wife, Pam Addy, Delaware '75, installed a printing press in the front room of their Newark apartment, dreaming of making their living as printers and binders of rare editions. Meanwhile, to put food on the table, he worked construction jobs and she taught horseback riding. Despite his lack of experience but probably because of his enthusiasm and love of the book arts, Rash was hired two years later as an assistant bookbinder at Haverford College near Philadelphia. When he learned that Fritz Eberhard, one of the country's most highly regarded contemporary bookbinders, lived nearby in Harleysville, Pa., Rash summoned up the nerve to ask Eberhard to take the couple on as students. Eberhard and his wife agreed, and the Rashes studied with their mentors for about seven years. "Fritz and Trudi Eberhard were trained in Germany," Rash says. "With them, we were able to study formal German hand-bookbinding, restoration and leather tooling. They do the highest-quality book repair and restoration and artistic bookbindings. Fritz is great at calligraphy, too." The Rashes set up their own business in the Poconos in 1986, working on restorations and limited edition bindings. The red Moroccan guest book with the humorous eyes, which is now on exhibit in Africa, was one of their collaborations. After his wife's death in 1989, Rash relocated his business, settling in Wyoming, Pa., just outside Wilkes-Barre. Although he's not living in the center of the book world, Rash's work has not gone unnoticed. He has exhibited bindings in eight shows in the U.S. and abroad over the past 10 years. He recently had two books accepted in the first juried show of American bookbinding in France. One of these, a book of horror stories, Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, by H.P. Lovecraft and others, is designed to make you shiver before you read a word. Rash executed a cover in blue-green Morocco goatskin with raised green glass cat eyes inset in the front and back. Bone horns project from the top of the book, and bone teeth form a clasp. Rash's work in binding and restoration can be found in rare book libraries and private collections in the U.S., Mexico and Europe. He was recently asked to be one of three judges for the 10th Canadian National Show in October and to judge the National Guild of Bookworkers Show later in the year. A one-person show of his work will travel to Lehigh, Bucknell and Pennsylvania State universities and Haverford College this fall. An upcoming project that excites him is the chance to bind limited copies of a three-volume set of the original syndicated Star Wars comic strip. One of the sets will go to Star Wars creator George Lucas. Rash is convinced the works should be bound in plastic and metal, complete with their own book stands made to resemble nothing less than the two-legged Imperial Scout Walkers that Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the other good guys fought in the film.