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.

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