Books On Books Collection – Andrew Morrison

Chroma Numerica (2019)

Chroma Numerica (2019)
Andrew Morrison
Perfect bound cased in quarter-hinged paper-on-board binding. H143 x W145 mm, 60 pages, printed on one side. Edition of 30, of which this is #17. Acquired from the artist, 2 September 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

In the children’s book tradition, counting books and alphabet books often come paired. Chroma Numerica‘s partner appears with the same binding earlier in Andrew Morrison’s work below, and in both cases, the printing process is the real subject — not the learning of numbers or letters. From his wood type, Morrison rolls out oversized numbers 1-30 printed in a chromatic scale on Somerset Book 200gsm paper.

Provenance (2018)

Provenance (2018)
Andrew Morrison
Casebound with dustjacket. H152 x W155 mm, 9 foldouts, 6 leaves (including 1 trimmed short), 2 end leaves. Edition of 30, of which this is #28. Acquired from the artist, 2 September 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

While Chroma Numerica and A-Z use printing processes to count and spell out their subjects, Provenance uses folds and stitching to conceal texts and images that reveal the making of the book itself. More than the other two books, Provenance requires “reading with the hands”. The two sequences below show the result and process — or the effect then cause — of needle perforation and wire stitching. In the first, the perforation can be seen along the right-hand edge, then along the left, and then in the middle of the unfolded image, which is annotated with a description of the printing process and paper. In the second sequence, the wire stitch can be seen in the gutter; then, with the two tabs pushed back, the German stitching machine comes in view, again annotated with a description of the printing process.

Provenance recalls those sets of binding models produced by Gary Frost, Karen Hanmer and others, but it may be too fragile for the constant reading with the hands that it would undergo as a teaching tool. It is more to be carefully and gently admired — a beautiful peacock admiring itself in the mirror of itself.

Two Wood Press A-Z (2013)

Two Wood Press A-Z (2013)
Andrew Morrison
Hardcover. Casebound glued. H180 x W155 mm, 56 pages. Edition of 30, of which this is an A/P. Acquired from the artist, 5 May 2020.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

An inspired A-to-Z, with tongue in cheek evident in the material form as well as the text. At first, there seems to be no letter A, but closer inspection reveals the ampersand sneakily placed at the start of the alphabet on a page glued halfway up the pastedown. For the letter C, we have “chase” — the heavy steel frame used to hold type in a letterpress. Of course, the type held in a chase would read as in a mirror, and so “C. WADE.” and “HALIFAX.” do just that in their “paper” chase. E for embossing is, of course, embossed. The usually difficult search for a word or term beginning with X is not a problem for typophile and provides a self-defining demonstration as does “yellowing” for Y. For the letter Z, we have to take it on trust that the images are the result from “an etched letterpress printing plate made of zinc”.

Ampersand& (2007)

Ampersand& (2007)
Andrew Morrison
Board cover, perfect bound. H180 x W180 mm, 22 pages. Acquired from the artist, 5 May 2020.
Photos: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with artist’s permission.

The sneaky ampersand at the beginning of Two Hand Press A-Z may have escaped from Ampersand& — or given the density and evenness of the possible escapee’s color, perhaps not. Any collection of wooden type will have “character”-giving flaws — nicks, nocks and abrasions. So it is with this … what is the collective noun for ampersands? The variation in shape of these ampersands and Morrison’s flaunty display of them deliver even more character. And note the watermark in the Somerset paper peeking through the third image below.

Further Reading

The Last Word on the Ampersand“. 27 June 2020. Books On Books Collection.

David Clifford“. 15 September 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Bliss, Douglas Percy. 2013. A history of wood engraving: the original edition. New York: Skyhorse Press. Originally published by J.M. Dent in 1928.

Frost, Gary. 1996. Teaching set of historical bookbindings. Utopia, Tex: Gary Frost, Dry Frio Bindery.

Hanmer, Karen. 2013. Biblio Tech. Glenview, IL: Karen Hanmer Book Arts.

Books On Books Collection – Tara McLeod

ABC (2015)

You think the beginner’s ABC, the primary colors and the humble linocut are so simple? That’s the challenge posed by this accordion wrapper’s overlap of a red A with a yellow B and its overlap with a blue C.

ABC (2015)
Tara McLeod
Miniature accordion book. Wrapper: H90 x W90 mm; Acccordion closed: H85 x W85 mm; 26 hand cut multi-color lino block letters printed on 200gsm Lana Desin Blanc. Acquired from National Library of New Zealand, 1 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with the artist’s permission.

With each letter’s stylistic shift in shape …

with each panel’s chromatic shift around the shifting shapes …

Tara McLeod’s artistry shows how these 26 signs, 3 colors, blade, block and surface are both anything but simple and everything that is simple.

Further Reading

The Last Word on the Ampersand“. 27 June 2020. Books On Books Collection.

Andrew Morrison“. September 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Tara McLeod: Pressing Boundaries Exhibition”. Emma Jean Framing Gallery. 19 September 2019. Accessed 21 August 2021.

McLeod, Tara. 2004. The ampersand : the character known as an ampersand is an abbreviated form of and. Auckland: Pear Tree Press.

Books On Books Collection – David Clifford

Letterpress Printing ABC (2004)

Letterpress Printing ABC (2004)
David Clifford
Miniature. H78 x W78 mm, 62 pages. Edition of 50 numbered copies, of which this is #48. Acquired from Bromer Booksellers, 1 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the publisher.

Among the several outstanding production features of Clifford’s miniature is its variation on Claire Van Vliet’s binding structure in The Gospel of Mary (2006). It first becomes apparent in the double-page spread below. As with most of the structures demonstrated in Woven and Interlocking Book Structures (2002), the binding structure consists of woven strips of paper to hold the folios together and attach the cover. The top-down view of Letterpress ABC shows the gathered folios and, if enlarged in a browser, also shows the paper tape running from the cover and across the gathers.

Staking his claim over Andrew Morrison as first past the post, Clifford starts his A-Z with the last symbol of the alphabet (“Ampersand”) and closes with the same Z term (“zinco”). There are other overlaps in terms, but the two efforts differ so rewardingly — Clifford’s woven binding, typeset definitions, miniature trim size and handmade paper versus Morrison’s children’s board book hinged binding, demonstrated definitions, larger trim and Somerset paper — that one cannot be chosen over the other.

An additional pleasure from Clifford’s book is its complement to two other Heavenly Monkey publications in the Books On Books Collection: Francesca Lohmann’s An Alphabetical Accumulation (2017) and Rollin Milroy’s Francesco Griffo da Bologna: Fragments and Glimpses (2020). If it were not for Rollin Milroy, the attentive reader and I would forever struggle with the puzzle of how Clifford’s 2004 binding came to be influenced by Van Vliet’s 2006 binding. Milroy writes:

Claire came to Vancouver in ’04 and gave a day-long class, which David (& his daughter Yasmine) attended. The project was already in development (probably even printed), and D showed Claire a dummy and got some pointers. I didn’t realize ABC preceded her own Gospel. 

And here is the entry for Letterpress extracted from proofs for Heavenly Monkey’s checklist to be published in 2022:

Courtesy of Rollin Milroy. 2021 © Heavenly Monkey.

Further Reading

Andrew Morrison“. 15 September 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Francesca Lohmann“. 25 June 2021. Books On Books Collection.

Heavenly Monkey“. 21 November 2020. Books On Books Collection.

Allen, Susan Macall, Fletcher Manley, Kathleen Burch, and Claire Van Vliet. 2015. The Janus Press at sixty: San Francisco Center for the Book : February 14 through May 24, 2015. See p.108 for Van Vliet’s binding of The Gospel of Mary.

Books On Books Collection – Borje Svensson & James Diaz

Letters (1982)

Letters (1982)
Borje Svensson and James Diaz
Book in a box. H61 x W61 X D61 cm, 18 accordion panels and diorama. Collins © 1982, Borje Svensson.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Animals (1982)

Animals (1982)
Borje Svensson and James Diaz Letters (1982)
Book in a box. H61 x W61 X D61, 18 accordion panels and diorama. Collins © 1982, Borje Svensson
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Given the effectiveness of Svensson and Diaz’s Letters alphabet book-in-a-box effort, it is surprising that they did not follow up the alphabetical theme from Animals, especially since animals have made up the most popular category of alphabet books for centuries. Another 24 or 25 books in boxes beckon. Alphabetical cubes of birds, cats, dogs and the zemmi! And what about the ampersand? And what different paper artistry might Diaz have performed if requested to fill out the series with further innovation? Consider Claire Van Vliet’s alphabetical Tumbling Blocks for Pris and Bruce (1996), Helen Hiebert’s Alpha Beta (2010) and Karen Hanmer’s The Spectrum A to Z.

Before its acquisition by Harpers in 1985, William Collins & Sons settled on the less risky venture of four books in boxes: Animals, Letters, Numbers and Colors. First with Elgin Davis Studios, James Diaz was the paper engineer behind all four and later joined David A. Carter (see his tribute to Bruno Munari here) to produce The Elements of Pop Up: A Pop Up Book for Aspiring Paper Engineers (1999), still used as a primary textbook.

Of course, B. S. Johnson and Marc Saporta pioneered boxes containing loose pages or leaves to be read in any order, but to find contemporary books in boxes where the box is not just a storage mechanism but functionally integrated, we have to look to Ed Hutchins, Sue Johnson and Hedi Kyle among others.

More celebrations of the alphabet and book as “total expansion of the letter” to come.

Books On Books Collection – Molly Peacock & Kara Kosaka

Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions (2014)

Alphabetique: 26 Characteristic Fictions (2014)
Molly Peacock & Kara Kosaka
Casebound with headband and collaged endpapers. H236 x W146 mm, 158 pages. Acquired from The Book Depository, 6 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Given the intent spelled out in its specimen below, Frank Heine’s Tribute should add to the fabulistic atmosphere of Peacock’s fictions played out by her 26 characters each named after a letter in the alphabet. Despite the book’s colophon extolling the typeface, there is something about it, however, that does not quite work for Alphabetique.

Tribute (2003), Frank Heine, Emigré Fonts; Type specimen sheet attributed to François Guyot (1565), Luna: Folger Digital Image Collection.

For example, its capital G squats like an un-Guyot-esque toad in the seventh chapter, and the capital Q lacks Guyot’s swordlike swash so appropriate to the tale of Q, master of the quilloned thorn knife who rises to the position of Royal Flower Keeper. Nevertheless, the choices of font (lowercase and smallcaps for the children, uppercase for the grown-ups, roman for the married sister and italic for the single) and the use of color for each character’s name ring true throughout the narrative. Like the layout and choice of font, Kara Kosaka’s collages fuse with the narrative and, unlike the typeface, deliver the atmosphere the fictions deserve.

When the character T appears (a maple tree), characters from the other vignettes show up, including the offspring of the articles A and THE, but this coalescence is only a feint toward an ensemble tale. The stories of U-Y return to standalone status, making the twenty-sixth chapter a surprise gathering of all the letters, albeit not in their characters of the preceding twenty-five fictions.

What happens to Z, the zoologist, is perhaps the most original of all the fictions. Any hint beyond the choice of font in that preceding sentence would spoil the surprise for the book artist with a mastery of letterpress, access to an extensive collection of typefaces and the readiness to be inspired to complete delivery of what Alphabetique deserves.

Further Reading

Richardson, Charles Scott. 2009. The end of the alphabet. London: Portobello Books.

Winston, Sam. 2006. A dictionary story. London: Circle Press. This is an example of design and art delivering just deserts to the text.

Books On Books Collection – Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo

Alphabet Flag Book (2010)

Alphabet Flag Book (2010)
Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo (photos by Federico Novaro)
Flag book. H207 x W176 mm, 14 panels, 28 flags. Edition of 20. Acquired from the artist, 21 July 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

In part, the Alphabet Flag Book is a case of web-found art. In 2008 Federico Novaro initiated a blog of editorial news and reviews. Like a chapter in an illuminated manuscript, each article opens with the enlarged image of a letter or punctuation mark taken from Novaro’s photo of the cover of the book being reviewed. Friend of Novaro, Balbiano d’Aramengo proposed the flag book structure and then found that there were enough images for an edition of twenty unique copies.

For each copy, the artist could have followed an alphabetical order with each row of characters reading left to right. Or a boustrophedon order with A-G reading left to right in the top row, H-N reading right to left in the second row, and so on as the ox plows. Of course, the artist’s eye for harmonies of color and shape when selecting from the found images has a role in choosing the order of content. But then there is the need to fill the 27th and 28th flags. The availability of punctuation marks in the found images solves that constraint. In fact, the front and back covers embrace them. The symmetry of the marks on the covers is even enhanced by the precision of the belly band that holds the book closed. So what order will the covers reveal?

The artist has been kind enough to provide the following behind-the-scenes photos of the process.

Photos: Courtesy of Cristina Balbiano d’Aramengo.

Despite the alphabetical sorting process to assemble the content for each copy, the result is far from alphabetical.

To have followed a left-to-right order or boustrophedon order would not have embraced how a flag book’s structure breaks up the traditional codex pages vertically and horizontally no matter the angle of view. The explosion of non-alphabetical color and shapes inside the orderly covers is a bit like the chaos of the internet behind that simple rectangular search button between the clamshell covers of a laptop.

Further Reading

The Art of Reading in a ‘Post-Text Future’“. Bookmarking Book Art. 21 February 2018.

Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold: How to Make Innovative Books and Paper Structures (2018)“. Bookmarking Book Art. 24 September 2018.

Flanders, Judith. 2021. A Place For Everything: The Curious History of Alphabetical Order. London: Picador.

Books On Books Collection – Tana Hoban

A, B, See! (1982)

A, B, See! (1982)
Tana Hoban
Hardcover, casebound. H252 x W286 mm, 32 pages. Acquired from Cattermole 20th Century Children’s Book, 7 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

Made in dark-room conditions with light-sensitive paper, actual objects and cutouts, these photograms lift this simple ABC book to the plane of object recognition and to the level of art. Other artists who have applied photographic techniques to the abecedary are Anthon Beeke, Eileen Hogan, Peter Hutchinson, Simon Jennings or Stephen T. Johnson. Each has a distinctiveness of eye, technique or conceptualizing. Hoban’s seems to lie in extracting something more from that simple imposition of white on black.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection. 31 March 2020.

Anthon Beeke“. Books On Books Collection. 21 June 2021.

Books by Tana Hoban and Complete Book Reviews“. Publishers Weekly. Accessed 19 August 2021.

Photogram“. Art Terms. Tate Gallery. n.d. Accessed 19 August 2021.

Allison, Alida & Hoban, Tana. 2000. “I” of the Beholder: An Interview with Tana Hoban. The Lion and the Unicorn. 24. 143-149.

Batchen, Geoffrey. 2016. Emanations. The art of the cameraless photograph. München: Prestel Verlag.

Books On Books Collection – The Poetics of Reason (2020)

The Poetics of Reason (2020)
Text: Éric Lapierre, Ambra Fabi and Giovanni Piovene, Mariabruna Fabrizzi and Fosco Lucarelli, Sébastien Marot, and Laurent Esmilaire and Tristan Chadney. Design: Marco Balesteros
Five-volume set of perfect bound paperbacks in bellyband; laminated display letters on front cover, tinted fore-edges. H212 x W130 mm, 712 pages. Acquired from Small Projects, S.A., 19 February 2020.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection.

“The Poetics of Reason” was the title and theme for the fifth Lisbon Architecture Triennale in 2019 (the first was in 2007). Awarded the ADG Laus 2020 Golden Prize in the category of editorial graphic design, this work stands well with Bruno Munari’s three small 1960’s books on the square, circle and triangle, now available in a single volume, and calls to mind several works testifying to the relationship between architecture and book art. In the first of the five volumes, Éric Lapierre even interweaves with his text on architectural rationality illustrations from book artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sol Lewitt and Ed Ruscha — all without comment, in itself conveying their implicit relevance. His similar display of a page from Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard — that progenitor of modern and post-modern book art — speaks to the role that space — les blancs, as Mallarmé calls it — plays in these adjacent communities.

136 pages

The second volume, by Ambra Fabi and Giovanni Piovene, draws in Leon Battista Alberti, of course, whose columns ornament works by Mari Eckstein Gower, Helen Malone and many other book artists.

136 pages

Drawing on Gaston Bachelard and Juhani Pallasmaa as it does, the third volume, by Mariabruna Fabrizzi and Fosco Lucarelli, calls to mind the work of Olafur Eliasson and Marian Macken here in the Books On Books Collection and elsewhere. Anyone familiar with Richard Niessen’s The Typographic Palace of Masonry will appreciate Fabrizzi and Fosco’s exploration of where architecture, imagination and memory intersect.

136 pages

In the lengthiest of the five volumes, Sébastien Marot takes us into the territory of urban architecture and the anthropocene, also occupied by book artists Sarah Bryant, Emily Speed, Philip Zimmermann and many others.

216 pages

The last and shortest volume, put together by Laurent Esmilaire and Tristan Chadney, consists mostly of photos that may remind the viewer of Irma Boom’s Elements of Architecture, with Rem Koolhaas, or Strip, with Kees Christiaanse — especially in conjunction with the tinted fore edges.

88 pages

Referenced below, Pedro Vada’s review of the Triennale and the five separate sites across which it occurred in Portugal provides more insight into the five volumes themselves. Marco Ballesteros LETRA website provides additional images of the five volumes’ design.

Further Reading

Architecture“. 12 November 2018. Books On Books Collection.

SOCKS Studio, an extraordinary website run by Fabrizzi and Lucarelli.

Beaumont, Eleanor. 16 January 2019. “Interview with Irma Boom“, The Architectural Review.

Munari, Bruno. 2015. Bruno Munari: Square Circle Triangle. New York: Princeton Architectural Press.

Vada, Pedro. 24 July 2019. “Details about Lisbon Triennale 2019“. ArchDaily. Accessed 17 August 2021.

Bookmarking Book Art – Books on Book Art | 4 August 2013

See also Resources (in progress) page.

81sxtcfbKiL._SL1500_

Abt, Jeffrey. The Book Made Art: A Selection of Contemporary artists’ Books Exhibited in Joseph Regenstein Library – University of Chicago, February Through April 1986 Exhibition catalog.

Antaya, Christine and Sloman, PaulBook Art: Iconic Sculptures and Installations Made from Books Gestalten (May 26, 2011). Documents current art, installation, and design created with and from books. “The fascinating range of examples in Book Art is eloquent proof that–despite or because of digital media’s inroads as sources of text information–the book’s legacy as an object and a carrier of ideas and communication is being expanded today in the creative realm.” Book jacket. See interview with Antaya and some of the artists here.

The Book as Instrument: Stephane Mallarmé, the Artist’s Book, and the Transformation of Print Culture – Anna Sigridur Arnar. An academic study of the literary and cultural seedbed of book art. “This is a highly ambitious, original account of Stéphane Mallarmé’s lifelong engagement with the book and the vast network of forces (cultural, aesthetic, political) that both informed this engagement and were transformed by it. Anna Sigrídur Arnar seamlessly brings together divergent areas of inquiry in order to support the idea that the book was and remains a site of numerous debates about democracy, public and private space, the uses of art and print, and the role of authors and readers. The Book as Instrument is elegantly written, in engaging and highly readable prose. Arnar succeeds in presenting and analyzing with remarkable lucidity ideas that many of us have learned to approach as difficult and thus nearly off-limits. This will be an important work of scholarship for a variety of disciplines.” (Willa Z. Silverman, Pennsylvania State University).

Art Is Books: Kunstenaarsboeken/Livres D’Artistes/Artist’s Books/Künstlerbücher – Guy Bleus. Catalog of a travelling exhibition in 1991. See also Artists’ Books on Tour edited by Kristina Pokorny-Nagel.

No Longer Innocent: Book Art In America 1960-1980 – Betty Bright. A history of an important period in book art. Like Drucker (below), Bright categorizes book art, places it within the movements of the period and profiles its individual and institutional supporters. Artbook review.

Artists’ Books: The Book As a Work of Art, 1963-1995Stephen Bury. Explores the impact artists had on the format of the book.

A Century of Artists Books — Riva Castleman. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1994. NAL pressmark: AB.94.0020. A catalog of an exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The selection tends toward the livre d’artiste but does address the impact of the digital shift on artists’ books.

Chapon, François. Le Peintre et le Livre: l’Age d’Or du Livre Illustré en France 1870–1970. Paris: Flammarion, 1987. NAL pressmark: 507.C.172

Courtney, Cathy. Speaking of Book Art: Interviews with British and American Book Artists. Los Altos Hills: Anderson-Lovelace, 1999. NAL pressmark: AB.99.0001

New Directions in Altered Books – Gabe Cyr. A book of projects and techniques by a book artist.

The Century of Artists Books – Johanna Drucker. “A folded fan, a set of blocks, words embedded in lucite: artists’ books are a singular form of imaginative expression. With the insight of the artist and the discernment of the art historian, Drucker details over 200 of these works, relating them to the variety of art movements of the last century and tracing their development in form and concept. This work, one of the first full-length studies available of artists’ books, provides both a critical analysis of the structures themselves and a basis for further reflection on the philosophical and conceptual roles they play. From codex to document, from performance to self-image, the world of artists’ books is made available to student and teacher, collector and connoisseur. A useful work for all art collections, both public and academic.”Paula Frosch, Metropolitan Museum of Art Library, Library Journal.

#5168 Altered Book – Special Effects (Design Originals) – Laurie Goodson. One of a series of booklets on book-alteration techniques. Other authors include Beth Cote and Cindy Pestka.

Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Bookmaking – Holly Harrison. A showcase of book art with an emphasis on multi-artist collaborations.

The Cutting Edge Of Reading: Artists’ Books – Judd Hubert and Renee Hubert. Published in 1999, a close examination of 40 examples of book art. Illustrated.

Books Unbound – Michael Jacobs. A book of projects by a book artist.

Johnson, Robert Flynn. Artists Books in the Modern Era 1870–2000: the Reva and David Logan Collection of Illustrated Books. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002. NAL pressmark: AB.2001.0002

Artists’ Books: A Critical Survey Of The Literature – Stefan Klima. A 1998 monograph summarizing the debates over the artists’ book. 

Book + Art: Handcrafting Artists’ Books – Dorothy Simpson Krause. A book of projects by a book artist; covers mixed-media techniques as well as bookbinding.

The Penland Book of Handmade Books – Jane LaFerla (Editor); Alice Gunter (Editor); Lark Books Staff. Tutorials, inspiration and reflective essays by book artists.

500 Handmade Books – Steve Miller. A highly illustrated, wide-ranging coffee table book.

Artists’ Books on Tour – Kathrin Pokorny-Nagel. Catalog of a travelling exhibition organized and sponsored by MAK (Austrian Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna), MGLC (Llubljana’s International Centre of Graphic Arts) and UPM (Museum of Decorative Arts) in 2011.

1,000 Artists’ Books: Exploring the Book as Art – Peter and Donna Thomas, Sandra Salamony. External and internal views of works, descriptions at the end of the book.

Joseph Cornell’s Manual of Marvels: How Joseph Cornell reinvented a French agricultural manual to create an American masterpiece – Dickran Tashjian and Analisa Leppanen-Guerra (editors). A part-facsimile, part-DVD, part-boxed-presentation that gives some idea of the artwork by Joseph Cornell held in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The artwork is Cornell’s alteration of the Journal d’Agriculture Practique (Volume 21, 1911), a handbook of advice for farmers.

Playing with Books: The Art of Upcycling, Deconstructing, and Reimagining the Book – Jason Thompson. Techniques-driven; covers bookbinding, woodworking, paper crafting, origami, and textile and decorative arts techniques.

Masters: Book Arts: Major Works by Leading Artists – Eileen Wallace. Illustrated selection of work from 43 master book artists with brief comments from the artists about their work, careers, and philosophies.

The Book As Art – Krystyna Wasserman; Audrey Niffenegger (Text by); Johanna Drucker (Text by). An illustrated volume covering over 100 artists books held in the permanent collection of the Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.

Book Art: Creative Ideas to Transform Your Books, Decorations, Stationary, Display Scenes and More – Claire Youngs. A crafts book of 35 projects.

Books On Books Collection – Bruno Munari

Munari’s Books (2008/2015)
Giorgio Maffei
Perfect bound book. H240 x W170, 286 pages. Acquired from Wordery, 25 June 2015.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of  Corraini Edizioni. © Bruno Munari. All rights reserved to Maurizio Corraini s.r.l.

Giorgio Maffei’s 2008 definitive collection of book designs by Bruno Munari brings together two of Italy’s renowned book artists. Giorgio Maffei’s own work, his writing and gallery/bookshop (highlighted by his son Giulio Maffei’s extraordinary video catalogues Le vite dei libri) warrant a catalogue raisonné in their own right. The Italian edition published by Munari’s long-time publisher Maurizio Corraini was followed up in 2015 by this translation by Martin John Anderson and Thomas Marshall in 2015. For the Books On Books Collection, one of the great pleasures of Munari’s works is its attention to the alphabet, which this book documents.

Although not shown in Munari’s Books, an alphabet-related work that underscores Picasso’s calling Munari “our Leonardo” is ABC con fantasia (1973/2000). If we are to believe Fra Luca Pacioli, it was Leonardo da Vinci who inspired his “straight lines and curves” exposition for creating letters. Following in their footsteps, Munari provides the linear and curvilinear basics for the collector and offspring to join the game.

ABC con fantasia (2008)
Bruno Munari
Boxed set of shapes. H x W Acquired from Corraini Edizioni, 4 August 2020.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of  Corraini Edizioni. © Bruno Munari. All rights reserved to Maurizio Corraini s.r.l.

Another pleasure is how Munari’s works lead to other works in the collection. Just by preceding them in Pieter Brattinga’s Kwadraatblad/Quadrat-prints series, Munari’s An Unreadable Quadrat-Print (1953), below, conjures up Wim Crouwel‘s, Gerard Unger‘s, Timothy Epps and Christopher Evans‘, and Anthon Beeke‘s more alphabetical contributions.

Libro illeggibile bianco e rosso/An unreadable Quadrat-Print/Een onleesbaar kwadraat blad/Ein unlesbares Quadrat-Blatt (1953)
Bruno Munari
Artist book. 250 x 250 mm + 1 wrapper (770 x 770 mm folded to 260 x 260 mm). Acquired from Antiquariaat A. Kok & ZN, 4 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of  Corraini Edizioni. © Bruno Munari. All rights reserved to Maurizio Corraini s.r.l.

Although there are no words on numbered pages that have to fall in the right order, An Unreadable Quadrat-Print still presents the author/printer/binder with a challenge in imposition. White and red alternate, which is easy enough, but to cut or not cut a folio on the left and right, how to cut it, how to place the differently cut folios in the right order to achieve the variation in images when the pages turn, how to ensure a sewable area down the center for each folio whether it has a horizontal cut extending into the spine or a diagonal one extending from some point along the spine — that is impressive. It speaks to the sculptural process and result in making books, as well as the sculptural process of reading them.

The following sequences — the book’s first five double-page spreads and then its last six — take a normal page-turning approach, always turning from the upper right corner of whatever shape/page is available. Note how, in the last six double-page spreads, the pages and shapes become more complex.

Libro illeggibile (1966), below left, calls to mind Katsumi Komagata’s A Cloud (2007), and the one in the middle foreshadows Eleonora Cumer’s subtle artistry with transparent paper in Circoscrivere lo spazio No. 3 (2021). While Munari’s rare works press modest budgets, some of it — in its simplicity and popular appeal — has led Corraini Edizioni to put it within easier reach. Numerous reissues of the 1984 Libro illeggibile MN 1 have pushed its price to €5. Short of the artist’s signature (which would likely obstruct the aesthetic intention), a copy from the latest 5000-copy print run will “perform” and deliver the same experiential value as one from the earliest run.

From Munari’s Books.

Libro illeggibile MN 1 (2006)
Bruno Munari
Booklet. H100 x W100 mm, 28 pages from 14 sheets cut in various shapes, notched at the center, bound with single loop of red thread over the notch and knotted at the foot of the spine. Acquired from Corraini Edizioni, 4 August 2020.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of  Corraini Edizioni. © Bruno Munari. All rights reserved to Maurizio Corraini s.r.l.

Munari’s many series of illegible books tap into book artists’ longstanding and ongoing preoccupation with whether a book without words can communicate information, narrative, sensations or feelings through material, shape or color and their permutations. The colors, shape, feel and binding of Libro illeggibile MN 1 evoke simple and sophisticated pleasure in their juxtaposition and sequence. The unchanging straightness of the top edge and the anchoring red thread of the binding set off the changeability of shapes and colors.

Although not a book of Munari’s making, David A. Carter’s Le sculture da viaggio di Munari is one way of bringing the spirit of Munari’s “travel sculptures” into the collection. Carter’s homage carries the blessing of Corraini Edizioni, further justifying its inclusion.

Le sculture da viaggio di Munari (2019)
David A. Carter
Pop-up book. H210 x W210, 10 constructions over 5 spreads, 2 with fold-out leaves. Acquired from Corraini, 4 August 2020.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of  Corraini Edizioni. © Bruno Munari. All rights reserved to Maurizio Corraini s.r.l.

Travel sculptures started off as small sculptures (some even pocket-sized) to carry with you, so you could take part of your own culture to an anonymous hotel room. Later they were turned into ‘travel sculptures’, five or six metres tall and made of steel. One of these was seen for a few months in Cesenatico, another one in Naples. Others are sleeping among huge trees in the Alto Adige region.’ This is how Italian designer Bruno Munari (1907-1998) described his ‘travel sculptures’, which in turn inspired American illustrator and designer David A. Carter for this pop-up book. –Corraini Edizioni website. Accessed 3 August 2021.

Munari’s travel sculptures also recall works in the collection like Cumer’s scultura da viaggio dipinta n.2 (2017), Komagata’sIchigu(2015) and, albeit less portable, Ioana Stoian’s Nous Sommes (2015).

Further Reading

Morison, Stanley, and Philip Hofer. 1933. Fra Luca de Pacioli of Borgo San Sepolcro: some consideration of his life and works. New York: Grolier Club.

Tanchis, Aldo. 1987. Bruno Munari : design as art. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Books On Books Collection – Maria G. Pisano

XYZ (2002)

XYZ (2002)
Maria Pisano
Housed in a paste paper wrapper, a miniature concertina book, case bound, each page individually sewn to the next in a light green cotton thread. The title is watermarked on the front cover. H72 x W65 mm closed, 26 lettered pages alternating in colors. Edition of 26, of which this is #17. Acquired from the artist, 22 July 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

This work finds its way into the Books On Books Collection on several counts. Many of the ABC books in the collection use the accordion, concertina or leporello structure, but none combine fine beaten abaca in two colors and the watermark technique to print. The colored abaca resonates with the collection’s interest in “Strange Papers” as Fred Siegenthaler labelled them and in “painting” with the watermark as Siegenthaler, Gangolf Ulbricht, John Gerard and others have done (see below under Further Reading.

Besides fusing papermaking with printing, Pisano unifies XYZ by making the alternation of colored paper and printing by watermark extend outwards from the “text block” to the case and paste board housing. The photos below follow this from the outside in.

Usually a watermark is barely noticeable, a thin-lined monogram or insignia created by a wire fixed into the mesh or screen in the “deckle” (frame in which the mesh is stretched and into which paper pulp is poured). As the water drains from the pulp through the mesh, the papermaker shakes the deckle to mix the fibers evenly. The fibers thin against the mesh and watermark leaving impressions in the paper.

Each letter shape lies face down and runs head to tail along the “laid lines” (made by the closely spaced wires in the mesh) and perpendicular to the “chain lines” (made by the wider spaced wires in the mesh). One of the chain lines can be seen just under the upper stroke of the letter E below. When a sheet is pulled from the mesh, laid between layers of felt and subjected to pressure to squeeze out the remaining water, the rough side (the side previously face down on the mesh) becomes the right reading side. If your screen permits enlargement, the mirror reading side on the right below displays its smoothness.

Given the shaking of the deckle that goes on, those letter shapes had to have been secured to the mesh. Their points of attachment can just be detected; see the curves of the C and P.

Further Reading

The First Seven Books of the Rijswijk Paper Biennial“. Books On Books Collection. 10 October 2019. See the section on Timeless Paper (2002) for coments on watermark art and Gangolf Ulbricht.

John Gerard“. Books On Books Collection. 13 August 2020. Another practitioner of watermarking art.

Claire Van Vliet”. Books On Books Collection. 8 August 2019. See Tumbling Blocks for Pris and Bruce (1996) for a similarly small but perfectly formed ABC work of art.

Fred Siegenthaler”. Books On Books Collection. 10 January 2021.

Herdeg, Walter, and Armin Renker. 1952. Art in the watermark = Kunst im Wasserzeichen = L’art du filigrane. Zurich: Amstutz & Herdeg.

Hills, R.L. 1988. “The Art of Watermarking”, pp. 30-44. In Papermaking in Britain 1488–1988: A Short History. London: Bloomsbury Academic. 

Hunter, Dard. 1978. Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, 2nd ed. New York: Dover. Republication of the second, revised and enlarged 1947 edition.