A bench-trained bookbinder, James Reid-Cunningham studied history and art history at Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University before beginning his career in book conservation at Harvard University. He studied bookbinding with Mark Esser at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, and was the President of the Guild of Book Workers from 2006 to 2010.
Following twelve years as the conservator of the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, in 2003 he was named chief conservator of the Boston Athenaeum, a private membership library founded in 1807. After two years as associate director for digital programs and preservation at the Athenaeum, he was appointed deputy director in 2013. He is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, and has conserved books from the libraries of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. In 2006, he received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the North Bennet Street School.
Recent lectures and publications:
“Inherent Vice: Five Decades of Book Conservation,” Technology & Conservation (forthcoming 2013).
"Leather Rebacking", Seminar in Standards of Excellence in Hand Bookbinding, Guild of Book Workers, Washington, D.C., October 25, 2013.
"Inherent Vice," lecture at the Boston Athenaeum, May 29, 2013.
“The Long, Happy Life of the Book,” UnBound: Speculations on the Future of the Book, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, May 4, 2012.
"Roll to Codex to Kindle: Books and Libraries in the Age of Digitization," lecture at the Boston Athenaeum, February 7, 2012.
“Eye, Hand, Tool: The Collision of Art, Craft and Conservation in Contemporary Book Art,” Miniature Book News, no. 142 (86), March 2011, p. 11-17.
“The Book Protector: a Novel Conservation Innovation of the 1960s”, (with Rebecca Smyrl), Guild of Book Workers Newsletter, February 2011.
"Surface Gilding,” in The Bonefolder, vol. 6, no. 1, 2009.
"Pierced Vellum Bindings," Guild of Book Workers blog.
5th international artist book exhibition, King St. Stephen Museum, Budapest, May-October 2013
Designer Bookbinders International Exhibition
Brush Up Your Shakespeare, John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, U.K., 2012
An Evening of Traditional Craft, Boston, MA., 2012
6th DeGoyler Triennial Exhibition and Competition for American Bookbinding, Bridwell Library, Dallas, 2012
No Library Card Required: An Invitational Exhibition of Book Art, Santa Fe School of Art and Design, Center for Book Art and Printmaking, 2012
Time Travelers/ Historical Book Structures, Asheville BookWorks, 2012
The Art of Discovery: Boston Book Art, Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery, 2010
Art in Small Packages: Miniature Artists' Books by American Artists, 4th International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Azerbaijan Museum, Baku, 2009-2010
In addition to his conservation work, he is also the creator of design bindings and book objects that explore traditional bookbinding structures in conjunction with modern materials such as rubber, vinyl, tyvek and Formica. He has exhibited his books nationally and internationally.
He is the proprietor of Hematite Press and Wages of Fear, small presses that publishes illustrated limited editions of modern texts, with each copy in an original design binding.
He was the adjunct lecturer in book conservation in the graduate art conservation department at Buffalo State College (SUNY) from 2009 to 2013.
He has taught bookbinding and conservation workshops at venues across the country including:
Paper and Book Intensive