The establishment of the Bindery as part of the Book Arts Center at Wells College was due entirely to the generosity of Jane Webster Pearce, Class of 1932. This took place in the spring of 1993. Jane repeatedly acknowledged Susan Swartzburg‘s encouragement and work behind the scenes to establish a Book Arts Center at Wells. Both knew that Wells was the perfect sort of institution where such a Center would flourish. Once Jane’s bindery equipment, the many tools and supplies, and her bookbinding library had been moved to Wells College, it took all summer to unpack and sort the tools and supplies so that the first Binder-in-Residence, Barbara E. Kretzmann, could begin bookbinding classes in the fall of 1993.
Before Jane W. Pearce ’32, took up bookbinding, she had had her hands full raising eight children singlehandedly following her husband’s death at an early age. After taking some books to a bookbinder to be repaired, and being disappointed in their condition upon their return, Jane thought, “I can do a better job than that!” She began her training with Fredericka Child, (sister-in-law to the illustrious Julia Child) who had studied in France with Charles Pagnier, a designer-finisher in Paris. After about five years, Fredericka retired, and Jane bought most of her bindery. About the same time, Jane saw an exhibition of Gérard Charrière, the internationally famous artist and designer binder working in NYC. Jane not only bought one of his bindings but persuaded him to come to Princeton, where Jane then lived, to hold classes in Jane’s studio for her and a group of others. Gérard continued to teach them regularly over the next six years.
Jane continued to be modest about her own bindings and considered herself an amateur, but having joined the Guild of Book Workers in 1973, she continued to attend their annual workshops, learning about new techniques and ideas until the time came that she was ready to retire. Knowing about the recent revitalization of the Wells College Press, begun originally by Victor Hammer in 1939, and how important a complete bindery would be to the establishment of a Wells College Book Arts Center, she made her decision to give her bindery to the College in 1993. She also continued to collect designer bindings from all the well-known binders of the day, building a large and impressive collection. Most importantly, she continued to support both financially and emotionally the Book Arts Center at Wells College, first as a Board member, and later from her home in Maine.
Wells Binder-in-Residence, 1993-95
Member of the Wells Book Arts Center Advisory Board
Proprietor of the Cutleaf Bindery
Ithaca, New York