Bookmarking Book Art – Kees Moerbeek

No Nonsense (2020)

No Nonsense (2020)
Kees Moerbeek
Pop-up construction: corrugated cardboard, 1.5 mm thick; printed four-color/four-color with an additional print with silver Coldfoil.
Cover: Greyboard four-color/no-color, 3 mm, with an additional layer of unprinted and laser cut courrugated cardboard 1.5 mm thick.
Closed: H700 x W500 x D20 mm. Open: H700 x W1000 x D560 mm.
Published by OptArt in an edition of 100, of which this is #56.
Acquired from OptArt, 20 January 2020.

Artist’s description: The two lions holding the coat of arms function as a connecting hinge for the two separate base plates.

From the place where the crown belongs, a impressive tree arises, with roots, branches and countless shiny leaves.

The base for this entire construction is a simple corrugated cardboard, an unpretentious material that reflects the typical no-nonsense mentality of the Dutch.

The tree trunk, branches and its roots represent the cultural values of all of Dutch people and the silver leaves symbolize the true assets of the Netherlands: the Dutch people. All parts of this artwork are interlocked representing the fact that all elements in a society are also interconnected. The cloudy sky visible through the base of the pop-up represents fantasy and the unreachable….

The silver printing on the cardboard is a cold-foil printing technique and in combination with the oversized dimensions, this pop-up can be considered as a one-of-a-kind publication.

This is the largest pop-up in the Books On Books Collection.

Further Viewing

A video of the work in motion can be found here.

Books On Books Collection – Chris Ruston

Holuhraun (2015)

Holuhraun (2015)
Chris Ruston
Box: Exterior – Greyboard covered with Nepalese Lokta paper painted with Indian ink; Interior –  Greyboard covered with Washi paper with fibre inclusions and painted with Indian ink.
Closed: H215 x WW224 x 78 mm. Open: H110-210 x W484 x D625.
Acquired from the artist, 9 March 2017.
Photo: Books On Books

On 31 August 2014, the active Bárðarbunga volcano in Holuhraun, Iceland erupted. On 27 February 2015 — 181 days later — it ceased.

Chris Ruston’s artwork inspired by this event sits monolithically when closed, a flicker of orange-red barely visible through the jagged crack across its top. When the top and bottom of the box are removed, the color wells up more clearly through four sides of the upright fissure.

Free of its enclosures, Holuhraun “erupts”, the four flaps of black “basalt” falling away and displaying the full burst of “lava”. The flames come alive with any change of light or viewpoint.

The shallow tray of Lokta-covered greyboard contains 181 individual ”pages” documenting each day of the eruption. Each page consists of two torn pieces of Canson Black glued together and tipped with a “flame” of Japanese Ogura Lace paper made from Manila Hemp fibres and torn into various shapes. The Canson Black and Ogura Lace have been painted with Rohrer & Klingner Traditional Drawing Indian Inks. Here are the first and last days’ pages, followed by the work’s colophon.

The destructive and regenerative nature of geological phenomena is but one of several muses driving Ruston’s imagination as is evident from these other works in the collection.

The Great Gathering
Seven Books, Seven Moments in Time (2015)

The seven volumes of The Great Gathering (or “the ammonite books”) first appeared as an installation at the Natural History Museum in Colchester from March through May 2016. They then moved to “Turn the Page“ in Norwich, where attendees and visitors awarded the work First Prize in the show.

The Great Gathering, Seven Books, Seven Moments in Time (2015)
Chris Ruston
Detail of the display at the Natural History Museum, Colchester, Essex. A nicely ironic touch for this seven-fold artwork, the museum is housed in a de-consecrated church.
Photo credit: Chris Ruston
Acquired from the artist, 27 June 2016.

The Great Gathering, Seven Books, Seven Moments in Time (2015)
Chris Ruston
Awarded First Prize, on display at “Turn the Page”, Norwich, England, May 2016
Photo credit: Chris Ruston

The Great Gathering reaches beyond the event of one volcanic eruption and introduces human knowing of such events and the associated shadowiness of beginnings and change. Combining traditional techniques of the book arts, painting and sculpture with the biblioclastic techniques of book art, the artist charts our perceptions of the mysteries of cosmic origin (Volumes I and II), the sedimentary earth and the ocean (Volumes III and IV), natural history and human geography (Volumes V and VI) and our creative future (Volume VII).

In using the form of the ammonite fossil as a unifying thread, Ruston reflects the influence of her recurring visits to natural history museums, in particular the Natural History Museum in Colchester and the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences in Cambridge. The use of the ammonite form for the pre-fossil periods of Vol. I Dark Beginnings and Volume II The Age of Light & Shadow might seem odd, but it symbolically underscores the anthropocentric lens through which we naturally explore the origins of the universe and this world in it.

Vol. I Dark Beginnings
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W210 x L210 x D60 mm
Lining: Shoji Gami Kozo paper soaked in Sennelier Indian Ink.
Pages: Shoji Gami Kozo paper, soaked in Sennelier Indian Ink and then cut to size.
Binding: Black Gutterman Thread sewn over tapes.

Fittingly, the first and smallest box contains the only untorn set of pages. All black, the first volume stands against the last volume’s all-white blank pages.

Vol. II The Age of Light & Shadow
Box: Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W420 x L410 x D95 mm
Lining: Unryu laid over Shoji Gami Kozo paper, painted with various Rohrers Inks.
Pages: Torn book pages.
Binding: Red Gutterman Thread pamphlet-sewn and sewn over a single tape.

The book from which Volume II’s pages are made is Hubble: Window on the Universe by Giles Sparrow (Quercus Publishing, 2010). The painstaking effort with which the pages have been shaped across the length of the volume and then sewn together leaps out from the finished work and the following work-in-progress photo.

Work in progress: Vol. II The Age of Light and Shadow
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Vol. III The Age of Ocean
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W350 x L360 x H90 mm
Lining: Shoji Gami Kozo paper painted with Rohrers Inks.
Pages: Fabriano Artistico Watercolour Paper painted with Rohrers Inks.
Binding: White Gutterman thread pamphlet-sewn and sewn over two white tapes.

The colours and patterns of all the lining papers and of the pages in Volumes III and IV are so remarkable they are best explained by the artist: “The marks are created by laying the paper on a plastic sheet over a variety of other textured papers. A wash of water is applied carefully with a large soft brush followed by a wash of various Rohrers inks. Once the paper has throughly dried the pages are ‘peeled off’ the plastic. It is similar to a monoprint technique but using watercolour process rather than traditional printing inks.”

Vol. IV The Age of Innocence
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W370 x L480 x D105 mm
Lining: Shoji Gami Kozo paper painted with Rohrers Inks.
Pages: Fine Rice paper painted with Rohrers inks.
Binding: Yellow Gutterman thread pamphlet-stitch and sewn over two brown tapes.

Although the painting technique applied to Volumes III and IV is the same, the visual and tactile effects are as different as sheets of ice on the one hand and sheets of sediment and mineral on the other.

Vol. V The Age of Transition
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W380 x L360 cm x D85 mm
Lining: Unryu paper laid over Shoji Gami Kozo paper with Rohrers Ink
Pages: Windsor and Newton Smooth Cartridge Paper 220 gsm and torn book pages.
Binding: White Gutterman Thread pamphlet-stitch and sewn over a single beige tape.

Volume V blends pieces of blank white paper with shaped pages torn from a copy of On the Origin of Species.Volume VI draws on pages from National Geographic magazines. While the titles and “contents” of the two volumes suggest a forward, evolutionary movement in human knowledge, the juxtaposition of the sewn binding, carefully torn pages and 30,000-year-old red ochre hand prints and stencils from the Chauvet caves in France evokes a different view of human creativity across time. It is a variant of the suite‘s “ammonite” paradox of the entanglement of constancy and change.

Vol. VI The Age of Knowledge
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W280 x L290 x 100 mm
Lining: Shoji Gami Kozo paper painted with Rohrers Inks.
Pages: Torn magazine pages.
Binding: Yellow Gutterman thread pamphlet-stitch sewn over a single brown tape.

Photos: Books On Books and Courtesy of artist, respectively

Vol. VII The Time is Now
Box: Greyboard glued in several layers and covered in Buckram Bookbinding cloth.
W330 x 330 x D75 mm
Lining: Nepalese Decorative paper made with Lokta fibres – Little Dot – Pale Grey.
Assemblage of pages of Blank Windsor and Newton Smooth Cartridge Paper 220 gsm pamphlet-stitch sewn with white Gutterman Thread over a single grey tape, among cut photos of objects and Contents page from Planet earth – the future: what the experts say by Fergus Beeley, Mary Colwell and Joanne Stevens (BBC Books, 2006) pasted to a mirror.

The seventh and concluding volume offers a sort of boxed performative installation platformed on a mirror that implicates any viewer who leans over to take a closer look. A reminder that, whether from a scientific perspective or that of modern aesthetic theory, observation affects and effects results. And a closer look at the table of contents pasted to the mirror offers another reminder: that all of us in the present anthropocene era are implicated in the planet’s future.

In progress
Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Lost Voices Artist Books
The Captain’s “Ditty Box” (2017)

The Great Gathering has an optimistic innocence to it. It moves from The Age of Transition to The Age of Knowledge. By openly alluding to the diligence in the series‘ creation, Volume VII suggests an art- and science-based path to the future. Even the last chapter of the pasted-down Contents page is “Optimism and Hope”. But Ruston’s more recent works leaven that with a lament for what has been and is still being lost.

Lost Voices Artist Books
The Captain’s “Ditty Box” (2017)
Chris Ruston
Repurposed wooden box: H150 x W325 x D40 mm, containing two unique palimpsest journals and various objects. The text in both journals — The Captain’s Log Book and his Wife’s Journal — is hand printed with rubber stamps or hand written. The images are drawn, hand printed with rubber stamps or painted. The papers consist of Gampi, Kozo, Fabriano and Resurgence Magazine pages; the latter are coated in gesso to submerge the text. The fold-out page in the Wife’s Journal is a photo of whale’s baleen (taken in the Natural History Museum, London) backed with a darker inked sheet. The bindings for the log book and journal are limp leather. Sources of text: Moby-Dick, or The Whale by Herman Melville (Harper and Bros, 1851); One Whaling Family by Harold Williams, ed. (Houghton Mifflin Co, 1964); Whale Nation by Heathcote Williams (Jonathan Cape, 1988); The Hull Whaling Trade: An Arctic Enterprise by Arthur G. Credland (The Hutton Press Ltd, 1995); Heroines and Harlots, Women at Sea in the Age of Sail by David Cordingly (Random House, 2001); and
Resurgence Magazine. Acquired from the artist, 1 December 2019.

Here is a work of art that invites the very acts required by a keepsake box: unpacking, manipulation, rearrangement, regarding and repacking. Only by responding to the invitation do discoveries within discoveries come. On one level is the discovery (or recovery) of the lost voices of a whaling captain, his wife and child, his crew and the creatures they hunt. On another level are voices from other times that underlay and overlay the mid-nineteenth century voices in a time-twisting palimpsest that leaves the reader/viewer in a limbo of pasts, presents and futures. On yet another level are the found objects (pens, a clay pipe) from the past that rest alongside objects clearly made by the artist in the present (the sperm whale cutout and coloured lining papers).

The white cutout of a sperm whale and the inscription from Moby-Dick on its reverse reflects one of several inspirations for this assemblage. Others came from the artist’s wide reading (noted in the opening caption above), trips to Hull and visits to museums as with The Great Gathering, but perhaps most important is the one that came from the creative process:

I love the process of building a history onto the page – things can be ‘hidden’ leaving just a trace, or revealed in part fragments. During this period of whaling it wasn’t unusual that journals and ledgers were reused due to the cost of paper. This was the inspiration and starting point in making these journals. Correspondence with Books On Books,

The Captain’s Log Book

In every respect except the captain’s and his wife’s own words, the log and journal are artifice. Not even all the words belong to them. By letting the words from elsewhere and other times bleed through or overlay their words, by painting and ink stamping over the words, Ruston is stealing the phenomenon of palimpsest from the realm of artefact for that of artistic technique.

Pages overdrawn or ink-stamped, watercolor printing, use of mixed papers, manipulation of spread layouts and fold outs, hand stitching — so many of the techniques of book art and the book arts are brought to bear in the log and journal that they echo the assemblage that The Captain’s Ditty Box is.

The Wife’s  Journal

The inclusion of The Wife’s Journal underlines the artist’s embrace of the surprising fact that women and their children did ship on the whalers. Physically, the Journal is as “muscular” as the Log. The use of gesso to ‘knock back’ the text on the printed sheets changes their texture and makes them feel stiffer and heavier. Turning the stiffened pages and the pages made of translucent Gampi and Kozo gives a tactile imitation of the visual palimpsest.

With its reference to the baby, the Journal has its tendernesses. But even with these and her moment of fastidiousness about entering the mouth of a beached whale, the captain’s wife has the air of a natural historian and seafaring field biologist.

Through its keepsake-box metaphor, The Captain’s Ditty Box is an immersion in time. Through the artist’s choice of assemblage and palimpsest as technique, it is an immersion in natural and human consequences.

Lost Voices Artist Books
Just One Bone… (2017)


Lost Voices Artist Books
Just One Bone… (2017)
Chris Ruston
Fabriano Artistico Watercolour Paper.
Double gate fold, with a fold out central page. Sewn together with pamphlet stitch. Board cover consisting of collaged vintage sea chart, and hand painted paper. Painted paper envelope wraps around the book.
Text: Moby -Dick ,’The Whale’ by Herman Melville (Harper and Brothers, 1851) and The PowerBook by Jeanette Winterson (Jonathan Cape, 2000).
H340 x W215 x D150 mm. Acquired from the artist, 1 December 2019.

Just One Bone is a different kind of assemblage, yet with similarities and ultimately the same aim. The multiple folders or enclosures reprise those of the “ditty box”, and as with the log book’s and journal’s palimpsest pages, there are layers on layers here.

The double gate-fold silhouette of a whale’s vertebrae below echoes the multi-page white outline in The Captain’s Log above.

Just One Bone may begin with the same handwritten quotation from Melville that appears on the cutout in The Captain’s “Ditty Box”, but it concludes with lines from Jeannette Winterson clearly articulating the aim underlying both works.

Whaling Logbook (2017)

Whaling Logbook (2017)
Chris Ruston
Soft cover, Pamphlet Stitched pages
Various papers including Ingres paper and Translucent paper. Hand carved stamps and text printed using rubber stamps. Inks.
H190 x W110 mm. Acquired from the artist, 1 December 2019.

Compared to Lost Voices, The Whaling Log Book and Moby Dick (below) are small. They may be works preparatory to, or left over from, The Captain’s Ditty Box and Just One Bone. Although less wide-ranging, they each deliver.

The Whaling Log Book celebrates those handstamps used on whaling ships to document sightings and, at the same time, strikes dual notes of lament and loneliness.

Moby Dick (2017)

Moby Dick (2017)
Chris Ruston
Soft cover, concertina fold sea chart on Fabriano Artistic Watercolour paper. Inks.
Images from hand carved whale stamps, Text from rubber stamps.
Quotation from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (Harper and Brothers, 1851).
H185 x W235 mm. Acquired from the artist, 1 December 2019.

Although the handstamps make an appearance in Moby Dick, the main celebration here is how the printing gives the viewer’s eye and imagination freedom to fare and find as they will. In the upper left, a whale’s eye seems to emerge from the pattern. In the upper center, a diving right whale. In the upper right, ocean depths in the underlying chart. Across the lower row’s fold outs, ice floes break up on the sea’s surface.

Further Reading

Chris Ruston”, Books On Books, 10 June 2017.

On the Origin of Species”, Books on Books, 12 February 2017.

Books On Books Collection – Wilber Schilling

Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (1995)

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, 1853. Indulgence Press, 1995.
Type composed in 12 point Bulmer on the Monotype System and printed by Wilber Schilling on Arches MBM mould made paper at Janus Press. Calligraphy by Suzanne Moore. Ochre-coloured endpapers handmade by MacGregor & Vinzani.
Wilber Schilling created the frontispiece photo as a Kallitype print from a negative generated in Adobe Photoshop. The binding, also by Schilling, is cloth over sewn boards and, over the cloth, an embossed print of details from the frontispiece photo.
Edition of 100 of which this is #71. H320 x W158 x D14 mm. Acquired from Indulgence Press, 17 December 2015.

Further Reading

Adamson, Chris T. “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street, by Herman Melville, Indulgence Press (1995)”, Books and Vines, 11 August 2014. Accessed 14 January 2020.

Bookmarking Book Art – Wilber Schilling, 23 November 2015.

Books On Books Collection – Philip Zimmerman

Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene (2017)

Landscapes of the Late Anthropocene (2017)
Philip Zimmerman
Offset. Two-staple binding. 44 pages. H134 x W107 mm
Acquired from Journal of Artists’ Books #41, 25 July 2017. Photos: Books On Books

It opens with sunrise, closes with sunset. Each landscape shows water meeting land. A lighthouse or comms or water tower appears in each landscape. Some stand on promontories, some are nearly submerged. Tinted pages of NOAA charts of the Bahamas, Florida Keys and Gulf of Mexico lay between the pages of landscapes. The sentences placed across the charts in silvery white come from the random-seeming, poetic-sounding “Harvard Sentences“, used by audio engineers and speech scientists in Harvard’s Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory from the mid-20th century to the present to test the effects of noise on comprehension.

There are 72 ten-sentence banks in the Harvard Sentences. The artist’s choice of three sentences for each chart page is like a painter’s choice of colors and strokes.

“Men think and plan and sometimes act” is the first chosen. “A pink shell was found on the sandy beach” is the last. In between come “reds” like “Let it burn, it gives us warmth and comfort”, “greens” like “Lush ferns grow on the lofty rocks” or “blacks” like “That move means the game is over”. The sentences seem to change their color or meaning as the eye moves among the landscapes. What color has “Canned pears lack full flavor”?

The only other man-made structure in the book appears halfway through: the roof of a log cabin with the water almost to the eaves.

A small work of book art with an overwhelming force.

Further Reading

An Online Annotation of The Cutting Edge of Reading: Artists’ Books“, Books On Books, 7 September 2017.

Interview with Colin Rafferty, Book Arts Podcasts, University of Alabama, 12 January 2006. Accessed 6 February 2014.

Van Wyk, Gary. Our Anthropocene: Eco Crises (New York: Center for Book Arts, 2018), p.18. Descriptive catalogue of an exhibition (19 January – 31 March 2018).

White, Tony. “From Democratic Multiple to Artist Publishing: The (R)evolutionary Artist’s Book“, Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring 2012), pp. 45-56. Accessed 17 January 2020.

Zimmerman, Phil. Artist’s statement on the work. Spaceheater Editions. See also a video of the hard bound edition.

Books On Books Collection – Suzanne Moore

A Blind Alphabet (1986)

A Blind Alphabet (1986)
Suzanne Moore
34 pages, accordion-fold. Edition of 200 of which this is #91.
Calligraphic letters designed and drawn by Suzanne Moore, printed by Harold McGrath on T.H. Saunders cold-pressed watercolour paper, bound by Claudia Cohen in marbled paper by Faith Harrison. 
Closed H128 x W93 D28 (spine) D22 (fore-edge) mm; open 3200 mm.
Acquired from Veatchs, 1 May 2018.

Bartleby, The Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street (1995)

Herman Melville, Bartleby the Scrivener: A Tale of Wall Street, 1853. Indulgence Press, 1995.
Calligraphy by Suzanne Moore.
Type composed in 12 point Bulmer on the Monotype System and printed by Wilber Schilling on Arches MBM mould made paper at Janus Press. Ochre-coloured endpapers handmade by MacGregor & Vinzani.
Wilber Schilling created the frontispiece photo as a Kallitype print from a negative generated in Adobe Photoshop. The binding, also by Schilling, is cloth over sewn boards and, over the cloth, an embossed print of details from the frontispiece photo.
Edition of 100 of which this is #71. H320 x W158 x D14 mm. Acquired from Indulgence Press, 17 December 2015.

Wilber Schilling (Indulgence Press) designed and printed this edition of Herman Melville’s well-known story. Part of Schilling’s genius was to invite Suzanne Moore to provide the calligraphy for Bartleby’s hallmark (his only) words “I prefer not to”. Another part was to print Moore’s calligraphy in ever-increasing size in ghostly ochre and in descending position across the pages of the book.

Further Reading

Bookmarking Book Art – ABCs, 29 November 2015.

Bookmarking Book Art – Wilber Schilling, 23 November 2015.

Gwinn, Mary Ann. “Vashon artist among those who worked on handmade St. John’s Bible”. Seattle Times, 24 December 2014. Accessed 13 January 2020.

Hayden, Danielle. “Meet the Vashon Island Artist Keeping Lettering Alive”. Seattle Magazine, July 2018. Accessed 13 January 2020.

Yin, Joyce. “From the Collection: Thomas Ingmire, Susan Skarsgard, Suzanne Moore“. Letterforms Archive, 29 March 2018. Accessed 13 January 2020.

Books On Books Collection – Islam Aly

28 Letters (2013)

28 Letters (2013)
Islam Aly
Laser-cut handmade flax paper. Three hole pamphlet binding in an accordion binding. Linen thread, handmade paper covers. 
Twenty-eight folios; edition of 40 of which this is #4.
Closed H147 x W154 x D15 (fore-edge) D37 (spine) mm; open 845 mm.
Acquired from the artist, 5 February 2019.

Each of the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet is laser-cut on a folio. The binding‘s flexibility allows for exploration and interaction with the letters as well as multiple forms of display.

Further Reading

Interview by Matt Kalasky for TGMR, the Galleries at Moore Radio, Moore College of Art and Design. Suzanne Seesman, Islam Aly, Abdul Karim Awad, and Yaroub Al-Obaidi discuss Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project, Philadelphia, PA. Podcast 8 May 2019. Accessed 12 January 2020.

Interview for Sheffield Artist’s BookCentre, October 2, 2019. Accessed 12 January 2020.

Interview by Laurence Kesterson, for Friends, Peace, and Sanctuary project, Swarthmore College Library and the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility 2017. Accessed 12 January 2020.

Interview by Spring 2017 Scripps College Art 137 seminar class. This interview was featured in Of Color: Race & Identity in Artists’ Books exhibit catalogue. Accessed 12 January 2020.

Golden, Alisa. “Book for a Book: A Trade with Artist Islam Aly“, Making Handmade Books, 20 April 2015. Accessed 12 January 2020.

Bookmarking Book Art – ABCs, 29 November 2015.

Books On Books Collection – Leilei Guo

The Way (2008)

The Way (2008)
Leilei Guo
Concertina of 88 pages. Woodcut and silkscreen on rice paper. Bound in cloth, front board in white, back board in black.
13.625 x 12.75
Acquired from the artist, 2 February 2019.

Almost a decade after a first viewing at the Frankfurt Book Fair, The Way became part of the Books On Books Collection. One thing such an experience teaches is carpe diem. It has taken all those years to have the chance to learn that the book opens from left to right, that the “red figure” in the woodcut is the standard grid on which Chinese letters are brushed, that the grid and the character remain constant under the wash that darkens as the pages turn, and that the embossed character on the front and back covers is reversed on the back cover.

The other lesson, perhaps the reverse, is patience and persistence.

But, with every viewing or reading — and its calming pleasure — The Way has its own lesson to teach.

Further Reading

Bookmarking Book Art – Leilei Guo, 4 September 2016.

Books On Books Collection – Bodil Rosenberg

Vandstand (2019)

Vandstand (2019)
Bodil Rosenberg
Twelve sheets of newsprint overpainted on both sides multiple times with acrylic. Four-hole stab binding with waxed black cord. H200 x W425 mm. Acquired from the artist, 6 July 2019.

On several fronts, Vandstand contributes richly to this collection: its inspiration from climate change, its visual narrative, its technique leading to its unusual tactile quality and its binding and format.

Denmark claims the lowest point below sea level in the European Union: Lammefjord, which is nearly 7 meters below sea level. Not surprisingly, Rosenberg notes that the key words associated with her inspiration for Vandstand were “global warming”, “floods”, “harbour” as well as “Venice”, “Copenhagen” and “Bristol”, places she has visited and in which she has exhibited. So with those thoughts in mind, she applied layer after layer of acrylic paint to both sides of sheets of newsprint torn carefully into rectangles of 200 x 425 millimetres.

“What I wanted to accomplish I was not sure, but I knew I would recognize it when I achieved it, so I painted the sea darker, lighter, warmer or colder — I moved the horizon line a bit up or down until I was satisfied” (Correspondence with Books On Books, 5 December 2019).

The word “vandstand” means “water level”.

As the water level rises, falls, and rises, the turning pages are cold to the touch and rough at the edges and on their surfaces.

They flex like thick sheets of rubber, leather or whale skin. They drape over the hand turning them. If left open, the book’s pages take on the curved shape in which they rest, and when closed, they hold the shape, relaxing slowly back to flatness.

The effect is that of swells in a harbour.

At first glance, the book’s only text looks stencilled, but on closer inspection, it looks handwritten. It appears only on the two strips of painted binding board, which on front and back give the impression of barrier walls against the sea. Poring over Vandstand again and again, I’m reminded of a poem from another northern latitude:

“Neither Out Far Nor In Deep”

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be,
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
Btu when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep? 

— Robert Frost

Bodil Rosenberg is a member of Artists’ Books Group CNG, founded in 2006.

Further Reading

Entry at artistsbooks.dk. Accessed 1 December 2019.

Books On Books Collection – Hanna Piotrowska (Dyrcz)

Homonim (2015)

Homonim (2015)
Hanna Piotrowska Dyrcz
Charcoal sketches and frottage
Digital print on Woodstock Betulla (uncoated, rough paper) from Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Indesign
16 unnumbered pages including the cover, bound and sewn by hand, H250 x W200 mm

This work’s title appears only as the headword in a definition: “Homonym: words having the same pronunciation but different meanings” (translated here from the Polish). Also the only text in the booklet, it appears flush left vertically on page six as a clue to the less clever Polish-fluent reader/viewer who has not yet attached a word to the image of the tree trunk (bal) and then the same homonymic word to the image of the plank. Having had its visual/verbal fun with those two meanings, the booklet gives the image of a single tree trunk’s cross-section on page seven to set the stage for bal’s third meaning (”ball” as in a dance or masquerade). Over the following pages, the multiple cross-sections gradually turn into a top-down view of whirling dancers who seem to emerge from the bole of the wood.

The artist has filmed the handling of the booklet, but of course, that does not capture the weight and finish of the paper nor the turning back and forward of the pages in the dance on which the words and images lead the reader/viewer. Turning word play into image play in the book form’s sequential and back-and-forth “affordances” makes Homonim a solid conceptual fit in the Books On Books Collection, and the skilful handling of charcoal and its digital transformation provide pleasure with every viewing.

Books On Books Collection – Zhang Xiaodong

Diamond Sutra, Dragon scale binding (2017)
Zhang Xiaodong
In 32 zhuan (seal) fonts, 152 x 382×160mm
Edition: 197/300
Acquired from Sin Sin Fine Arts (Hong Kong), 31 October 2019

Ranged horizontally, these are the characters in the column carved into the wooden box holding the scroll and its silk encasing.

金剛般若波羅蜜經

Jin gang bo re bo luo mi jing = Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, or “The Perfection of Wisdom Text that Cuts Like a Thunderbolt” or “The Diamond of Perfect Wisdom Sutra”, often shortened to “Diamond Sutra”.

The silk encasing

Views of the scroll, rolled and bound

Unrolling the scroll

Views of scroll standing

Views of scroll standing

The paper used for the book is Shengxuan, a kind of raw rice paper from An Hui province. The inks used to print the Diamond Sutra are Japanese mineral inks; the printing technique, Ultra Giclee on a Japanese printing machine. The page turning wand is made of camphorwood . 

Further Reading and Viewing

Brokaw, Cynthia and Kornicki, Peter. The History of the Book in East Asia (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013)

Burkus-Chasson, Anne. “Visual Hermeneutics and the Act of Turning the Leaf” in Printing and Book Culture in Late Imperial China, ed. Cynthia Brokaw (Berkeley: University of California, 2005).

Chinnery, Colin. “Whirlwind binding (xuanfeng zhuang)”, International Dunhuang Project, British Library. Posted 07 February 2007. Accessed 12 December 2019.

Chung Tai Translation Committee. The Diamond of Perfect Wisdom Sutra (January 2009). Accessed 28 November 2019. The full text in English alongside the Chinese characters.

Ko, Stella. “Resurrecting the art of China’s dragon scale bookbinding”, CNN Definitive Design, 3 April 2018. Accessed 15 November 2019.

Song, Minah. “The history and characteristics of traditional Korean books and bookbinding”, Journal of the Institute of Conservation, 32(1), March 2009, pp. 53-78. . Accessed 12 December 2019. DOI: 10.1080/19455220802630743

Tsui, Enid. “Art Basel in Hong Kong: city’s small galleries shine through with memorable displays“, South China Morning Post, 2 April 2018. Accessed 15 November 2019.

Witthus, Rutherford. Skip for Joy (2005). A single-sided version of the binding.

Xing Wen. “Bringing the past into the future“, China Daily, 10 January 2019. Accessed 15 November 2019.

Xing Wen. “Craft binds past and present”, China Daily, 21 February 2019. Accessed via Culture/China Watch/The Telegraph, 15 November 2019.

Yang, Hu ( 肖阳) and Xiao, Yang. Chinese publishing : homeland of printing (Beijing : China Intercontinental Press, 2010).