James Reid-Cunningham is a bookbinder and conservator in private practice in Cambridge, MA. He studied history and art history at Johns Hopkins University and Tufts University before beginning his career in conservation at Harvard University. He studied bookbinding with Mark Esser at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. Following twelve years as the conservator of the Graduate School of Design at 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 served as deputy director from 2013-2015.

He was the adjunct lecturer in book conservation in the graduate art conservation department at Buffalo State College (SUNY) from 2009 to 2013, 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. He served as the President of the Guild of Book Workers from 2006 to 2010.


James Reid-Cunningham is a curent Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.

Recent lectures and publications:

“Post-Codex,” Ohio Preservation Council, Columbus, OH August 4, 2017

Artistic Bookbinding in the Twenty-First Century,” Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, June 16, 2016

“Enigmatic Devices: the Art of Contemporary Bookbinding,” in Elisabeth R. Fairman, The Poet of Them All: William Shakespeare and Miniature Designer Bindings from the Collection of Neale and Margaret Albert, (New Haven, CT.: Yale Center for British Art), 2016, p. 26-54

“The Art of Contemporary Bookbinding,” Grolier Club, New York, NY, March 23, 2016

“Inherent Vice: Five Decades of Book Conservation,” Technology & Conservation (forthcoming 2016)

“Miniature Books from the Collection of the Boston Athenaeum,” Miniature Book Society Conclave, Boston, August 16, 2014

"People of the Book: James Reid-Cunningham," Ploughshares Online, July 9, 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


Recent exhibtions:

Xtra Small, Museum Meermanno, Den Haag (October 3, 2017 – January 8, 2018)

Heroic Works, Designer Bookbinders Exhibition
Weston Library, Oxford, UK (July 18 - August 20, 2017)
Library of Birmingham, UK (August 23 - September 28, 2017)
St Bride Foundation, London (October 2 - 14, 2017)
North Bennet Street School, Boston

The Poet of Them All, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, June 23, 2016 – August 11 2016

Body of Evidence, UNISA Art Gallery, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, April 9 – April 22, 2016

Brush Up Your Shakespeare: Miniature Designer Bindings, Grolier Club, New York, NY, March 23, 2015 – May 28, 2016

7th DeGoyler Triennial Exhibition and Competition for American Bookbinding, Bridwell Library, Dallas, TX 2015

St. Bride Foundation, London, May 15, 2014-August 22, 2014
Houghton Library, Harvard University, September 11, 2014-December 13, 2014
Minnesota Center for Book Arts, January 10, 2015-March 28, 2015
Bonhams, New York, April 10, 2015-April 19, 2015
San Francisco Center for the Book, June 6, 2015-July 5, 2015

Liverpool Artists’ Book Exhibition, Liverpool Central Library, June-July 2014

Fluxjob, Minnesota Center for Book Arts February 7, 2014 to July 6, 2014

5th international artist book exhibition, King St. Stephen Museum, Budapest, May-October 2013

Prize Volumes: Designer Bookbinders International Exhibition
Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, June 13-August 10, 2013
St Bride Foundation, London, August 13–September 20, 2013
Bibliotheca Wittockiana, Brussels, September 27, 2013–January 13, 2014
National Library of Estonia, Tallinn, January 24–February 15, 2014
Museum of Western Bohemia, Pilzen, February 22–April 6, 2014
Library of the Bauhaus University, Weimar, April 12–May 9, 2014
Museum of Printing Arts, Leipzig, May 12–June 29, 2014
Imprenta Municipal, Madrid, July 10–August 3, 2014
Ente Casa di Risparmio di Firenze, Florence, August 8–September 5, 2014
Nerima Art Museum, Tokyo, September 28 to November 30, 2014
Museum of Modern Art, Shiga, Japan, February 7 to April 5, 2015

Locating Boccaccio
John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, U.K., July 2013
University of the West of England, Bristol, December 2013-January 2014

Brush Up Your Shakespeare, John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, U.K., 2012


n 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 has taught bookbinding and conservation workshops at many venues including:

Paper and Book Intensive
Garage Annex School for Book Arts in Easthampton, MA.
North Bennet Street School, Boston
Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University
Guild of Book Workers
New England Museum Association
Dartmouth College Libraries
King Library Press, University of Kentucky at Lexington
Miniature Book Society
San Francisco Center for the Book
Kilgarlin Center for the Preservation of the Cultural Record at the University of Texas at Austin
University of Utah
Hand Bookbinders of California








Limited Editions

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