Jan Sobota


      Jan Sobota’s participation in the renaissance of American book arts came at a critical time and his significance can scarcely be overstated.  He came in 1984 as a Czech emigre via Switzerland to Cleveland, sponsored by the Rowfant Club, a private group of book collectors.  He came from a living book arts tradition that retained its skills and apprenticeships without interruption, but which was evolving within the context of modern trends in art as well.  He came with a solid reputation and memberships in the Meister der Einbandkunst as well as other European guilds of book workers.  The  evolving US book arts scene was largely a loosely associated, but gradually coalescing network of self-taught people.  We were finding one another and rediscovering lost aspects of the craft – often desperately grasping at those few remaining to us who had come out of  lineages that preserved the old knowledge and skills: Paul Hayden-Duensing comes to mind - as do  Kim Merker, Bill Anthony, Judith Jaidinger, Harry Duncan.  Jan served to enliven this community with a large, gregarious personality and contributed a great deal of energy, a focus of activity and a living evolving contact  with that tradition of book binding as a cross over art/craft from Europe.

County Survey: Jan Sobota and dog posing with his largest housing of a book -  a truly magnificent catch , a two-meter long sculptural book-object  in the form of a Pike (Hecht).  The book itself is is tucked into the far larger body of the fish and held in place with fins. 9 book is in private ownership and only the reprodution on a panel is available to travel)


     Jan Sobota provided one of the important exhibition venues with his Saturday’s Book Arts Gallery and frequent sponsorships of workshops and shows.  Later, at Southern Methodist University’s conservation labs he had much greater financial resources and sponsored more ambitious book arts events such as the 50 x 25 book show, (publishing catalogues as well ).  He then initiated the annual book show at SMU in memory of Helen DeGolyer. There were many others founding workshops and presses at this critical time, when the book arts were experiencing truly exciting growth.  Jan was among those visionaries and movers who in his 14 years in the USA  left a significant mark, helping the book arts come of age.  He passed on a great deal of knowledge,  serving as a model and catalyst in ways which didn’t end with his departure.  He continues to return to the Bridwell Library in Dallas for several months each year to do conservation work.  His workshops in Europe continue to attract American binders  to this day and thus he continues to influence the American Book Arts while actively participating in the European scene.

  I met Jan Sobota through my own involvement in the renaissance of the book arts taking place in the US from the mid-seventies.  Since meeting in 1985,  Jan and I have been collaborating on various books and exhibits for 25 years, beginning in Cleveland, where he ran a small gallery called Saturday’s Book Arts to Dallas Texas, where he worked as chief restorer at the Bridwell Library conservation labs of Southern Methodist University -  and finally back to Loket in the Czech Republic. This decades-long collaboration has generated several exhibitions, some of which have been substantial and traveled before being disassembled and sold off.  One such show, originating in Dallas, included 25  North American binders and was subsequently purchased whole by Special Collections at Western Michigan University in  Kalamazoo Michigan.  The current exhibition is the most ambitious yet and it has about run its course for showing in the Czech Republic.  However, before shipping it to the USA, we hope to see it shown elsewhere  in Europe.

Jan & Jarmila Sobota in the studio in Loket

Agricultural notation- binding by Jan Sobota

Books by Ladislav Hanka

     in bindings by Jan Sobota


Richard Neugebauer, Ladislav Haňka :

Čertův kámen.  Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 1981


Ladislav Haňka : Scripta Naturae –

Leaves of Organic Verse.

Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 1981.


Ladislav Haňka : 27 Lanscape. Rarach Press,

Kalamazoo, 1981.  Ruční papír, panel z


Wendy Popkes, Ladislav Haňka :

Iowa Couplets.

Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 1982.


Ladislav Haňka : The Frog prints,

Rarach Press

Kalamazoo, 1983               

JAN SOBOTA, 2006  

Ladislav Haňka : Fish from the Lake Michigan

Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 1984.


Ladislav Haňka : Agricultural Notation,

Rarach Press,

Kalamazoo, 1984.


R.M. Rilke, L. Haňka : Heilige, Svatí, Saint.

Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 1987.


  1. J.Armstrong, B. Mitchel & L. Haňka : 

  2. K.County Survey


Ladislav Haňka : Opus Salvelinus ,

Rarach Press, Michigan 1990.


Michael Delp, Lad. Haňka: The text on the River.

The Riverwatch, Farmington, MI 1993


James Armstrong, Ladislav R. Haňka: Purl.

Syphon  Press, Mineapolis, MN 1993.


Elizabeth Oness, Ladislav R. Haňka:

Fallibility. Sutton Hoo Press,

Winona,MN 2003.


   C.Mikal Oness, Ladislav R. Haňka

  CI. Oness – Haňka, Kalamazoo 2002.


Ladislav R. Haňka : Toads,

Rarach Press, Kalamazoo, 2005.

JAN SOBOTA, 2009                                                              

L. Haňka : Tibetan Monks


L. Haňka : Songbird Studies


L. Haňka : Wood Warbles


L.Haňka : Land of the Crooked Tree,

L´Arbre  Croche, Waganakising

In the Czech Republic today, Jan continues to be a focus of central-European book arts activity and is an active participant in European book binding, often showing in France, Germany and Belgium and more recently accepting honorary lifetime  membership in the German guild of Bookworkers (Meister der Einbandkunst).   In 1990, Jan and his master book binder wife, Jarmila Jelena Sobotova , founded the only museum dedicated to fine art /design bindings; located in their UNESCO-protected  home town of Loket (Ellenbogen). 

From Opus salvelinus:  Brook Trout IX

From Opus salvelinus:  Brook Trout IV

Scripta Naturae

Leaves of Organic Verse

Opus salvelinus: binding by Jan Sobota

Text of the River; Binding by Jan Sobota

Text of the River; Binding by Jan Sobota

Text of the River; Binding by Jan Sobota

Opus salvelinus: binding by Jan Sobota

27 Landcapes  Binding by Jan Sobota

                                 from the website of the American Guild of Book-workers

      Jan B. Sobota is the founder of artistic bookbinding in the Sobota family. In 1954, he was accepted at the School of Applied Arts in Prague. He studied bookbinding in Masters’ Studios of Karel Silinger in Pilsen, (then) Czechoslovakia, and Emil Pertak in Prague, completing his studies 1957. In 1969, he was awarded the title “Master of Applied Arts” and ten years later in Germany the title MDE, “Meister der Einbandkunst.” Jan Sobota’s contribution to modern bookbinding spans a broad spectrum, from creative art form to the painstaking craft and science of conservation and restoration work, which depends upon his substantial theoretical knowledge, and fifty years of experience. He is best known in the international bookbinding scene for his original and unusual book sculptures and objects. His work has been exhibited in countries on four continents (including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). Since 1969, he has participated in 137 group and thirty-two individual exhibits and has received some twenty-one prizes. Among them: II.Exhibition of the Society of Czech Bookbinders, Special Mention–Appreciation for the Contribution to the High Standard of the Design Bookbinding, 2000; X. Triennial of Design Bookbinding in Kromeriz, Jaroslav Dolezal’s Prize, 2001; Maesteri Rilegatori per Francesco di Assisi, Macareta, Italy. Silver Medal, 2002; Helen Warren de Golyer Triennial Exhibition and Competition for American Bookbinding, Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, Judges’ Distinction for Interpretation, 2003; II.Biennial, Bibliofilia 2003, Society of Slovak Bookbinders, First Prize, 2003; The Miniature Book Society Exhibition, Bath, England, Distinguished Book Award Winner, 2004. He has lectured and taught in USA and in Europe, and his work has been published widely in numerous international journals and books. Website at www.jsobota.cz.