Books On Books Collection – “Inscription: the Journal of Material Text”

I want the physicality of the book to create a physical message through the hands and the eyes that makes the reader more susceptible to the text.

Claire Van Vliet, “Thoughts on Bookmaking“, Poets House, 10 October 2019.  

Inscription: the Journal of Material TextTheory, Practice, History (2020)

Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History
Edited by Gill Partington, Adam Smyth and Simon Morris
Dos-à-dos (flipped), perfect bound softcover, H314 x W314 mm, 132 pages (including the end pages left intentionally blank); fold-out double-sided print of Jérémie Bennequin’s erasure of Edgar Allen Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom”, H940 x W940 mm; saddle-stitched chapbook of Craig Dworkin’s “Clock”, held in a mock 45 RPM record sleeve, H180 x W180 mm; vinyl LP recording of Sean Ashton’s novel Living in a Land, H314 x W314 mm; Acquired from Information as Material, 10 October 2020.

In its design, typography, format and media components, the first issue of Inscription: the Journal of Material Text – Theory, Practice, History embodies its domain. So much so that this metaphorical box of artifacts stands as a contribution to the study of material texts as much as any of the journal’s inaugural articles.

Jérémie Bennequin’s double-sided, bilingual print of his erasure of Poe’s “A Descent into the Maelstrom” recalls the palimpsest — a longstanding topic of material text study. Also, by standing in for Poe’s swirling maelstrom, the print’s image of spiralling erasure raises the domain’s recurrent theme of text-and-image interaction as well as that of the self-reflexiveness of such art. Using the book or text as physical material with which to create a work is central to book art as is the self-referencing that arises.

Bennequin’s choice of text also alludes to his other work. The short story’s themes of abyss, shipwreck and nothingness occur prominently in Poe-loving Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira le Hasard, the 19th century poem that made us modern and launched (is still launching) scores of artists’ books paying material and conceptual homage. Bennequin is one of those artists.†

The print’s spiral erasure on a background of text serves as one of several voices in this journal issue’s intermedial†† harmony (or cacophony). The spiral reappears in Craig Dworkin’s meditation that scales up a pocket watch’s clock spring to the size of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1980). Dworkin finds the spiral in the fossil of a Holocene fish that swam over the bed that became the jetty. He “materializes” the watch’s minutes against the geological and evolutionary time frames of the formation of the Great Salt Lake and the fossil. On the back cover of the chapbook, its entire text is repeated in a spiral of text blocks. The chapbook slips back into its 45 RPM-size sleeve to echo the spiralling inscription of sound in vinyl grooves that actually occurs on the LP recording of Sean Ashton’s novel Living in a Land.

After Bennequin’s print, Dworkin’s meditation and Ashton’s LP, the journal itself appears, sporting the spiral as a logo on its trompe l’oeil cover. Not only drawn from Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, the logo draws from the stage costumes of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, which recur throughout the journal’s pages reminding us of drama as another medium in which the materiality of the text matters. In its own physical manifestation, the journal wears the materiality of the text on its sleeve and in its pages. The pages themselves spiral around a hole drilled through the center of the issue, echoing the sculptural extremity of inscribing, the book art technique of excising and the concept of nothingness central to many artists of inscription such as Robert Barry and Carl Andre, as this exchange shows:

RB: There is something about void and emptiness which I am personally very concerned with. I guess I can’t get it out of my system. Just emptiness. Nothing seems to me the most potent thing in the world.

CA: I would say a thing is a hole in a thing it is not. — Arts Magazine 47 (1972): 46

On its two page 2’s (a result of the dos-à-dos or back to back binding), Incription offers its own Magrittean take on holes:

In dos-à-dos binding, two codices are bound back to back in a Z form. So usually there are two fore-edges, two spines, and both codices have the same vertical orientation.

Example of traditional dos-à-dos binding: Odd Volumes: Book Art from the Allan Chasanoff Collection (2014). Photos: Books On Books Collection.

Inscription is bound dos-à-dos, but with only one fore-edge and one spine. Materially emphasizing the theme of inward spiralling, Inscription‘s two halves are upside down to one another. Their vertical orientations differ as can be seen in the following photo of the two front covers splayed away from the spine. The cover designer has obviously joined the fun by creating two fore-edges with the trompe l’oeil and “two” spines, one downward reading in the English style and, when flipped, one upward reading in the European style. Of course, therefore, there are two Tables of Content in opposite orders and two editorial prefaces, of which “one is considerably better: this is deliberate”. (Tongue-in-cheek humor seems to reside in the DNA of material text studies — and especially in book art.)

Two Tables of Content — naturally in reverse order for the dos-à-dos bound volume.

With the page layout spiralling from each end of the issue toward the spiral-set colophon placed in the center (usually part of the endmatter), we have spirals inscribed within spirals.

Left (or is it right?): the drilled hole centered on Ubu Roi‘s omphalic costume. Right (or is it left?): the spiral-set colophon.

Across the issue, the text block rotates like a vinyl record around the central hole.

By the time the colophon is reached, the reader/viewer’s head may be spinning, which could make it easier to read the colophon — wherein it is revealed that the book has been set in twenty different versions of Garamond type in a sequence such that the first letter of a line comes from the first version of Garamond, the second letter from the second version and so on, with the sequence starting anew with the next line. More spirals within spirals.

The materiality of this inaugural issue demonstrates how Inscription‘s focus “is not just on the meanings and uses of the codex book, but also the nature of writing surfaces (papery or otherwise), and the processes of mark-making in the widest possible sense”, as the editors put it. The care and creativity with which this first issue has been put together offer raw material with which to “take the study of material texts in new directions”. Mark-making by erasure, printing, juxtaposing, drilling, vinyl inscription, land erosion, evolution, land art, stage costumes, choice of type, page layout, binding, sleeving — all this even before we come to the articles themselves (see the photos of the Table of Contents above)!

For academics, book artists, printmakers, poets, and artists – and every permutation of roles, subsidiary roles and sub-subs of role — Inscription is rich, exuberant, eye-opening and eye-twisting, and eminently collectible as a work of art in its own right. Which is why it is in the Books On Books Collection.

† For Bennequin’s homage to Un Coup de Dés, see “Jérémie Bennequin“, Books On Books Collection, 11 April 2020.

†† “Intermedial” is taken from Trevor Stark’s Total Expansion of the Letter: Avant-Garde Art and Language after Mallarmé (2020), p.9. It refers to “the zone of indeterminacy between mediums, social practices, and temporalities” into which Mallarmé’s question “Does something like Letters exist?” threw the poet and avant-gardists. The question is ultimately a phenomenological one, which the study of material text inherently addresses.

A similar, related neologism — “intermediation” — was adopted from Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1965 by the language-, book-, and publishing-artist Dick Higgins in “Intermedia“, republished in Leonardo, Volume 34, Number 1, February 2001, pp. 49-54. It is not the same thing as intermediality or mixed media. As Higgins expressed it, “Many fine works are being done in mixed media: paintings which incorporate poems within their visual fields, for instance. But one knows which is which. In intermedia, on the other hand, the visual element (painting) is fused conceptually with the words.”, p. 52. It can be argued that works of intermedia are one way in which artists address intermediality.

Bookmarking Book Art – An Online Annotation of “The Cutting Edge of Reading: Artists’ Books”

Renée Riese Hubert and Judd D. Hubert’s The Cutting Edge of Reading: Artists’ Books (Granary Books, 1999) is a signal work of appreciation and analysis of book art.  Nearly twenty years on, it can be read and appreciated itself more vibrantly with a web browser open alongside it.

To facilitate that for others, here follows a linked version of the bibliography in The Cutting Edge of Reading — a “webliography” Because web links do break, multiple, alternative links per entry and permanent links from libraries, repositories and collections have been used wherever possible. These appear in the captions as well as the text entries. Also included are links to videos relating to the works or the artists. At the end of the webliography, links for finding copies of The Cutting Edge (now out of print) are provided.

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Alechinsky, Pierre; Matta, Sebastian; Mansour, Joyce. Le Grand jamais. Paris: Aimé-Maeght Éditions , 1981. [See also video 1, video 2.]

Arnal, André-Pierre. Conviction du contresens. Paris. Self-published, 1994. [See also video.]

Barrett, Virginia. Sometimes Feeling Like Eve. San Francisco: VB Press, 1992.

Blais, Jean-Charles; Artaud, Antonin. Tuguri. Paris: Ric Gadella, ed.; Frank Bordas, Printer, 1996. [See also video.]

Boltanski, Christian. La Maison manquante. Paris: La Hune, 1990. [See also video.]

Boltanski, Christian. Inventory of Objects Belonging to an Inhabitant of Oxford introduced by a preface and followed by some answers to my proposalWestfalicher Kunstverein, 1973. [The entry here corrects and extends the title given in the book’s entry. The exhibition itself, held in different locations, appeared with a different title and at different dates.]

Boltanski, Christian. Sachlich. Wien/Munchen: Gina Kehayoff Verlag, 1995.

Boni, Paolo; Butor, Michel. La Chronique des asteroïdes. Paris: Jacqueline de Champvalins, 1982.

Paolo Boni and Michel Butor
La Chronique des asteroïdes (1982)

Braunstein, Terry. On Wrinkles. Self-published, 1978.

Broaddus, John Eric. France I. Altered book, n.d. [See also video 1video 2, video 3, video 4.]

Broaddus, John Eric. Satyricon. Altered book, 1973.

Broaddus, John Eric. Space Shot. One-of-a-kind book, n.d. Wellesley College Library, Special Collections.

Broaddus, John Eric. Sphinx and the Bird of Paradise. New York: Kaldewey, n.d. [See also video.]

Broaddus, John Eric. Turkestan Chronicle. One-of-a-kind book, n.d. Private collection.

Broel, Elisabeth. Aus dem Liederbuch des Mirza Schaffy. Unikatbuch no. 2. Altered book of Bodenstedt’s, 1992.

Broodthaers, Marcel. Reading Lorelei. Paris: Yvon Lambert, 1975.

Brunner, Helen. Primer of Ritual Elements (Book 1). Washington, D.C.: Offset Works, The Writing Center, Glen Echo, MD, 1992.

Chen, Julie. Octopus. Berkeley: Flying Fish Press, 1992. [See also video.]

Octopus (1992)
Julie Chen
Poem by Elizabeth McDevitt
Letterpress on paper
13.4 X 10.75 in.

Chopin, Henri. L’Écriture à L’ENDROIT. Limoges: Sixtus Editions, 1993.

Chopin, Henri. Graphèmes en vibrances. Paris: Les Petits Classiques du Grand Pirate, 1990.

Chopin, Henri; Zumthor, Paul. Les Riches heures de l’alphabet. Paris: Les Éditions de la Traversiere, 1995.

Closky, Claude. De A à Z. Paris: n.p., 1991. [Compare with Scott McCarney’s Alphabook 13 (1991).]

Crombie, John; Rimbaud, Arthur. Une illumination. Paris: Kickshaws Press, 1990.

Dautricourt, Joelle. Sentences. Paris: Self-published, 1991.

Delaunay, Sonia; Cendrars, Blaise. La Prose du Transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France. Paris: Les Éditions des Hommes Nouveaux, 1913. [Title corrected.]

Dorny, Bertrand; Butor, Michel. Caractères. Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1993.

Dorny, Bertrand; Butor, Michel.  Lug à Lucinges. Paris: Self-published, 1993. [Butor added; title corrected.]

Dorny, Bertrand. Supermarché. Paris: Self-published, 1992.  [Butor added.]

Dorny, Bertrand; Deguy, Michel. Composition 7. Paris: Self-published, 1992.

Dorny, Bertrand; Deguy, Michel. Écrire. Self-published, 1992.

Dorny, Bertrand; Deguy, Michel. Éléments pour un Narcisse. Paris: Self-published, 1993.

Dorny, Bertrand; Deguy, Michel. Le Métronome. Paris: Self-published, 1984.

Dorny, Bertrand; Guillevic, Eugène. Si. Nice: Jacques Matarasso, 1986. [First name of Guillevic corrected.]

Dorny, Bertrand; Noel, Bernard. Matière de la nuit. Paris: Self-published, 1990.

Dorny, Bertrand; Smith, William Jay. The Pyramid of the Louvre. Self-published, 1990.

Drucker, Johanna. Narratology. New York: Druckwerk, 1994.

Ely, Timothy; McKenna, Terence. Synesthesia. New York: Granary Books, 1992. [See also video.]

Ely, Timothy. Approach to the Site. New York: Waterstreet Press , 1986. [See also Getty interview; see also video.]

Ely, Timothy. Octagon 3. One-of-a-kind book, 1987. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Ely, Timothy. Saturnia. One-of-a-kind book, 1995. Private collection.

Ely, Timothy; Kelm, Daniel E. Turning to Face. One-of-a-kind book, 1989. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Epping, Ed. Abstract Refuse: A Heteronymic Primer. New York: Granary Books, 1995.

Ernst, Max; Eluard, Paul. Les Malheurs des immortels. Paris: Librairie Six, 1922.

Ernst, Max. Une Semaine de bonté. Paris: Pauvert, 1963. [See also video.]

Fahrner, Barbara; Cage, John. Nods. New York: Granary Books, 1991.

Fahrner, Barbara; Schwitters, Kurt. A Flower Like a Raven. Translations by Jerome Rothenberg. New York: Granary Books, 1996.

Finlay, Ian Hamilton. Ocean Stripe Series 3, Wild Hawthorn Press, 1965.

Gerz, Jochen. 2146 Steine: Mahnmal gegen Rassismus. Saarbrucken and Stuttgart: Haje Verlag, 1993. [See also video.]

Gerz, Jochen. Die Beschreibung des Papieres. Darmstadt: Luchterhand, 1973.

Gerz, Jochen. Les Livres de Gandelu.  Liège: Yellow Now, 1976.

Golden, Alisa. They Ran Out. Berkeley: Nevermind the Press, 1991.

Groborne, Robert. Une lecture du Livre des ressemblances [d’] Edmond Jabès. [Xonrupt-Longemer, France]: Æncrages, 1981.

Hamady, Walter. Gabberjab 6. Mount Horeb, WI: The Perishable Press Limited, 1988.

Gabberjab No. 6 (1988)
Walter Hamady

Hamady Walter. Gabberjab 7. Mount Horeb, WI: The Perishable Press Limited, 1997.

King, Ron; Fisher, Roy. Anansi Company. London: Circle Press, 1992. [See also video.]

King, Ron; Fisher, Roy. Bluebeard’s Castle. Guilford, England: Circle Press, 1972. [See also video.]

King, Susan E. Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride. Los Angeles: Paradise Press, 1978.

King, Susan E. HomeStead. Los Angeles: The Power of Place, 1990.

King, Susan E. I Spent Summer in Paris. Rochester NY: Paradise Press at Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1984.

King, Susan E.  Salem Witch Trial Memorial. Santa Monica, CA: Paradise Press, 1994.

King, Susan E. Treading the Maze. Rochester, NY: Montage 93: International Festival of the Image, 1993.

King, Susan E. Women and Cars. Rosendale, NY: Paradise Press, 1983. [See also video.]

Koch, Peter; McEvilley, Thomas. Diogenes Defictions. Berkeley: Peter Koch, Printers, 1994.

Kosuth, Joseph. Two Oxford Reading Rooms. London: Book Works, 1994.

Labisse, Félix. Histoire naturelle. Paris: Chavane, 1948.

Histoire naturelle (1948)
Félix Labisse
Histoire naturelle (1948)
Félix Labisse

Lacalmontie, Jean-François. Le Chant de sirènes. Limoges: Sixtus Editions, 1995. [See also video.]

Laxson, Ruth. [H0 + G0]² = It. Atlanta: Nexus Press, 1982. [See also video.]

[H0 + G0]² = It  (1982)
Ruth Laxson

Laxson, Ruth. Measure/Cut/Stitch. Atlanta: Nexus Press, 1987. [See also video.]

Laxson, Ruth. Wheeling. Atlanta: Nexus Press, 1992.

Le Gac, Jean. La Boîte de couleurs. Amiens: Fonds Régional d’Art Contemporain de Picardie, 1995. [See also video at 4’55”.]

Lehrer, Warren; Bernstein, Dennis. French Fries. Rochester/Purchase: Visual Studies Press, 1984.

French Fries (1984)
Warren Lehrer and Dennis Bernstein

Ligorano, Reese. The Corona Palimpsest. New York: Granary Books, 1996.

Lohr, Helmut. Visual Poetry. Berlin: Galerie Horst Dietrich, 1987.

Visual Poetry (1987)
Helmut Lohr

Lovejoy, Margot. The Book of Plagues. Purchase, NY: SUNY Visual Arts Division, 1994.

Lown, Rebecca. Procrustes’ Bed. Purchase, NY: Center for Editions, 1990.

Lyons, Joan. The Gynecologist. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1989.

Malgorn, Jacques; Mabille, Pierre. En N’Ombres. Limoges: Sixtus Editions, 1993.

Mallarmé, Stéphane. Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasardCosmopolis, mai, 417-28, 1897.

Manet, Edouard; Mallarmé, Stéphane. L’Après-midi d’un faune. Paris: Derenne, 1876.

Martinez, Roberto. Moi Aussi j’aurais peur si je recontrais un ange. 1. La Bataille de Midway. Paris: n.p., 1991.

Martinez, Roberto. Moi Aussi j’aurais peur si je recontrais un ange. 2. L’Anatomie d’un ange. Paris: n.p., 1991.

Masson, André; Mallarmé, Stéphane. Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. Paris: Amateurs du Livre et de l’Estampe Modernes, 1961.

Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (1897; 1961)
Stéphane Mallarmé; André Masson

Masson, André; Rimbaud, Arthur. Une saison en enfer. Paris: Société de femmes bibliophiles Le Cent Une, 1961.

Matta, Sebastian; Jarry, Alfred. Ubu roi. Paris: Atelier Dupont Visat, 1982.

Matta, Sebastian. Garganta-tua. Florence: Edizioni della Bejuga, 1981.

McCarney, Scott. Diderot/Doubleday/Deconstruction. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1994. [See also video.]

McCarney, Scott. Memory Loss. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1988. [See also video.]

Memory Loss (1988)
Scott McCarney
2 1/2 x 22 in., 40 pp.
offset edition of 500

Meador, Clifton. Anecdote of the Jar. Purchase, NY: SUNY Visual Arts Division, 1989. [See also video.]

Meador, Clifton. The Book of Doom. Barrytown, NY: Zimmerman Multiples, 1984. [See also video.]

Messager, Annette. D’Approche. Paris: Jean-Dominique Carré Archives Librairie, 1995. [See also video at 5’56”.]

Messager, Annette. Mes ouvrages. Arles: Actes Sud, 1989.

Nannucci, Maurizio. Art as Social Environment. Amsterdam: Lugo, 1978.

Nannucci, Maurizio. Provisoire et définitif. Écarts, 1975.

Newell, Peter. Slant Book. New York: Harper Bros., 1910.

Osborn, Kevin. Real Lush. Arlington, VA: Bookworks, 1991.

Osborn, Kevin. Tropos. Arlington, VA: Osbornbook, 1988.

Tropos (1988)
Kevin Osborn

Osborn, Kevin. Wide Open. Arlington, VA: Bookworks, 1984.

Penck, A.R. Analysis. Berlin: Edition Klaus Staeck, 1990.

Phillips, Tom. A Humument. London: Thames & Hudson, 1980.

Polkinhorn, Harry. Summary Dissolution. Port Charlotte, FL: Runaway Spoon Press, 1988.

Reese, Harry. Arplines. Isla Vista, CA: Turkey Press, 1988.

Roth, Dieter. Daily Mirror. Köln: Hansörg Mayer, 1961. [See also video.]

Roth, Dieter. Bok 3C. Stuttgart: Hansörg Mayer, n.d. [See also video.]

Rullier, Jean-Jacques. 10 exemples. Limoges: Sixtus Editions, 1994.

Ruscha, Edward. Twentysix Gasoline Stations. Los Angeles: National Excelsior Press, 1963. [Publisher added; see also video.]

Sharoff, Shirley; Lu Xun. La Grande Muraille/The Great Wall. Paris: Self-published, 1991.

La grande muraille/The Great Wall (1991)
Shirley Sharoff
La grande muraille/The Great Wall (1991)
Shirley Sharoff

Sicilia, Jose Maria; Lux, Thomas. You Are Alone. Paris: Michael Woolworth, 1992.

Sligh, Clarissa. Reading Dick and Jane with Me. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1989. [See also video.]

Sligh, Clarissa. What’s Happening with Momma? Rosendale, NY: Women’s Studio Workshop, 1988.

Smith, Keith. Construct. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1985. [See also video.]

Spector, Buzz. Broodthaers. 1988. Altered book. [See also video links embedded in the artist’s name below.]

Spector, Buzz. Kafka. 1988. Altered book.

Spector, Buzz. Malevich. 1988. Altered book.

Spector, Buzz. A Passage. NY: Granary Books, 1994.

Spector, Buzz. The Picture of Dorian Gray. 1987. Altered book.

Spector, Buzz. Silence. 1989. Altered book.

Staritsky, Anna; Albert-Birot, Pierre. La Belle histoire. Veilhes, Tarn: Gaston Puel, 1966.

Staritsky, Anna; Butor, Michel. Allumettes pour un bûcher dans la cour de la vieille Sorbonne. Paris: Self-published, 1975.

Staritsky, Anna; Guillevic, Eugène. De la prairie. Paris: Jean Petithory, 1970.

De la prairie (1970)
Eugene Guillevic (text)
Anna Staritsky (art)

Staritsky, Anna; Iliazd. Un de la brigade. Paris:Atelier Lacourière-Frelaut, 1982. [Publisher identified.]

Staritsky, Anna; Lemaire, Jacques. Le Zotte et la moche. Moulin du Verger de Puymoyen, 1969.

Stokes, Telfer; Douglas, Helen. MIM. Deuchar Mill, Yarrow, Scotland: Weproductions, 1986. [See also video.]

Stokes, Telfer; Douglas, HelenReal Fiction: An Inquiry into the Bookeresque. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1987.

Stokes, Telfer; Douglas, Helen. Spin Off. Deuchar Mill, Yarrow, Scotland: Weproductions, 1985.

Van Horn, Erica. Scraps of an Aborted Collaboration. Docking, Norfolk: Coracle Press, 1994.

Van Horn, Erica. Seven Lady Saintes. New York: Women’s Studio Workshop, 1985. [Publisher identified.]

Van Horn, Erica. Ville aux dames.Vitry-sur-Seine: n.p., 1983. One-of-a-kind. [Title corrected.]

Walker, Anne; Coppel, Georges. Les Formes de l’univers (ou l’univers des formes). Paris: L’Oeil du Griffon, 1995. [Name of publisher corrected.]

Wegewitz, Olaf. Mikrokosmos. Edition Staeck, 1992. [Publisher identified; date reflects publisher’s information; see also video.]

Yvert, Fabienne. Transformation. Marseille: Éditions des Petits Livres. 1995.

Zelevansky, Paul. The Case for the Burial of Ancestors. New York: Zartscarp, Inc. and Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1981.

Zimmermann, Philip. High Tension. Rochester, NY: Visual Studies Workshop Press, 1993. [See also Craft in America video and video of High Tension.]

Zimmermann, Philip. Elektromagnetism. Barrytown, NY: Space Heater Multiples, 1995.

Elektromagnetism (1995)
Philip Zimmerman

Zubeil, Francine. Panique générale. Marseille:  Éditions de l’Observatoire, 1993.

Zweig, Janet. This Book is Extremely Receptive. Cambridge, MA: Pyramid Atlantic, 1989.

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The Cutting Edge of Reading: Artists’ Books by Renée Riese Hubert and Judd D. Hubert available:

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