Aerssens and Hedi Kyle are long-time friends, whose correspondence has often consisted of an exchange of small models. Memories is an integrated variant of the Panorama Book structure, featuring as it does panels within panels, two 8-leaf booklets bound into front and back with paper hinges, and three pairs of mylar folders holding “found nature” items such as a feather, a grain stalk and whatever might have caught Aerssens’ eye.
Aerssen’s signature image of birds on his region’s wide, flat horizon.
Aerssens loves cardboard as a material and created Clamp to illustrate its beauty. It illustrates, too, his constant search for elegant closures (whether with magnets, folds, pin/dowel or tabs and slots). As he put it in a conversation, “I’m a structure guy”.
The four tinted papers that hang like small abstract paintings in the framing pages speak to another of Aerssens’ comments about this leanings: “Presentation — display — has always interested me”.
Aerssens’s first employment was in bookbinding, but early on, he turned to carpentry and its engineering side before ultimately returning to bookbinding and containers of books and other objects. The experience of careful planning and a carpenter’s approach shines out of his every work. Look especially under Further Reading at his design work for Pierre Lecuire’s Dédale. Yet his quick answer when asked what other bookbinders probably have to say about him and his work? “The anarchist of bookbinders!”
A Visit to Cor Aerssens’ Studio, Warffum, The Netherlands (7 June 2018)
Remote as Warffum may seem from the armchair, it is easily accessible by train (Amsterdam-Groningen-Warffum). Artists from around the world book the small number of places in Aerssens’ workshops years in advance.
The large display objects and containers atop the bookshelf are finished in encaustic, another of the unusual features of Aerssens work.
Every work opens to reveal some element of ingenuity such as layered reveal-flaps, framed sheets of mica or double-hinged spines. One of Aerssens several innovations is the Groninger binding, which is generally a fully cardboard binding. Books with this binding open and lay perfectly flat.
A part of the book block is sewn with and integrated in the boards as is the spine, which obviates any need for endpapers or covering on the boards to keep book block and boards together. Other material can be used for a Groninger binding, such as kozo in the example below.
Aerssens, Cor. Het dozen : activiteiten rond het begrip ‘dozen’ (Groningen: Cor Aerssens, 1998). Consists of two workbooks on creating boxes: part I ‘construction and covering of functional boxes’ and part II ‘step-by-step plan and objective boxes’.
Aerssens, Cor. “‘Box’: A Monument to the Last Period of a Friendship.” New Bookbinder, vol. 32, July 2012, p. 23.
Goddijn, Peter. Westerse boekbindtechnieken van Middeleuwen tot heden: een handleiding voor het maken van boekmodellen (Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 2001). Boekband. Met was behandeld bord in tinten goudbruin, en goudgeel (Warffum, 2002). The KB also commissioned this binding of Goddijn’s guidebook to making book models, based on his study of bookbinding techniques from the Middle Ages to the present. Note the encaustic finish of the cover and end papers. As the cover moves, the finish shimmers and changes colours across that spectrum of yellow-brown to yellow-gold in a way that the photos are hard-pressed to capture. In the preceding section, other works with an encaustic finish can been seen on the top shelf in the workshop photo. The binding itself takes a cue from the book’s content (see below), but it is in fact a Groninger binding (see section above).
My thanks to Paul van Capelleveen and the staff at the Dutch National Library in The Hague for their kind assistance.
The Anatomy Lesson (2004) Joyce Cutler-Shaw Middletown, CT: Robin Price, Publisher, 2004) Limited edition of 50, of which this signed copy is the binder’s copy (Daniel E. Kelm). Acquired 20 October 2018.
Twelve signatures of handmade cotton text paper, the central ten signatures each made up of one sheet H356 x W514 mm and one sheet H356 x W500 mm glued to the 14 mm margin of the first sheet, for a total of ninety-six pages, each measuring H356 x W253 mm. Binding of leather covered boards (a hologram embedded in front cover) with an open spine, taped and sewn into a reinforcing concertina structure: H361 X W259 mm. Contained in engraved steel box: H370 x W326 x D44 mm.
Clockwise: stainless steel box container, detail of sewing and detail of reinforcing accordion structure. For a description of this type of structure, see Hedi Kyle’s The Art of the Fold (London: Laurence King, 2018), pp. 82-85.
Top of photo: gives a view of the doublure, which is part of the reinforcing concertina structure. Bottom of photo: gives a view of page 1, which precedes a blank page and half-title. Note that pages are unnumbered.
Title page of the third signature.
Opening of the third signature.
Internal four-page spread of the third signature.
Left-hand page (from the Fasciculus Medicinae) of the four-page spread above. Note that the pagination (lower right) refers to the page number in the source text.
Second page (from Fasciculus Medicinae) of the four-page spread. Again note that the pagination (lower left) refers to the page number in the source text.
Third page from the four-page spread above. Print by Joyce Cutler-Shaw
Fourth page from four-page spread above. Poem by Joyce Cutler-Shaw.
Alphabet of Bones (1987)
The Alphabet of Bones (1987) Joyce Cutler-Shaw Munich, West Germany: VerlagKretschmer and Grossman Edition of 700. Acquired as a gift from Hubert Kretschmer, 10 January 2019
Twenty-six glossy photo cards, offset white on black, H70 x W114 mm with trifold panel of glossy photo paper, offset white on black: H70 x W458 mm Contained in pasted, open-ended box of matte card, offset white on black: H72 x W117 x D14 mm Contained in fold-flap box: H73 x W118 x D15 closed, H72 x W498 open
Cutler-Shaw, Joyce. “Embodied/Disembodied”, LitMed Magazine, 10 March 2009. Accessed 3 September 2019.
Hoffberg, Judith A. “Birds, Bones, and Books”, Episodes of The City – New York as a Source Book, Wallworks and Artists Books of Joyce Cutler-Shaw, exhibition catalogue (New York, NY: Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, New York University, 2007).
Cathryn Miller, colophon: “Part of an ongoing series of works based on exploration of colour-graphemic synesthesia. This book presents the poem ‘Westron Wynde‘ in a purely visual form. Letters become colours, and are used as graphic elements. The book manifests the essence, if not the sense, of the poem.”
Westron wynde when wyll thou blow, The smalle rayne down can rayne – Cryst, yf my love wer in my armys And I yn my bed agayne!
L is for Lettering
An alphabet book based on the artist’s personal struggle to become a practicing artist. Cathryn Miller: “The trials and tribulations of the art education process as recalled from a satisfactory distance after the author learns that everything is useful after all.”
Cathryn Miller, “Almost There”, Byopia Press, 23 February 2020. Accessed 26 February 2020. The artist comments on L is for Lettering.
The [artists’ book] movement had its beginnings with a few individuals (conceptual artists Dieter Roth, Hansjörg Mayer, and Ed Ruscha immediately come to mind), but in the area of structural experiment and invention only one person seems to have been markedly influential (albeit seriously ignored): Hedi Kyle.
Alastair Johnston, “Visible Shivers Running Down My Spine”, Parenthesis, Fall 2013m Number 25.
While Alastair Johnston’s 2013 interview with Hedi Kyle is a rich one and welcome, it is inaccurate to say Hedi Kyle has been seriously ignored. After all, in 2005, the Guild of Book Workers awarded her an honorary membership, and Syracuse University’s Library invited her to deliver that year’s Brodsky Series lecture. In 2008, the Philadelphia Senior Artists Initiative recorded her oral history and posted her artist’s statement along with an extensive list of prior exhibitions, honors, professional roles and board memberships stretching back to 1965.
And now, in 2018, Laurence King Publishers has brought out the eagerly awaited The Art of the Fold by Kyle and daughter Ulla Warchol, which is the immediate impetus for this essay. The authors aim their book at artists and craftworkers, but there is a secondary audience: anyone interested in book art or artists’ books or origami — and learning how better to appreciate them.
On picking up the book, the first thing its primary and secondary audiences should notice is the folded “dust jacket”. Why the quotation marks? Just look:
This innovative, subject-appropriate cut, fold and print can set the reader on a hunt for precursors such as Peter and Pat Gentenaar-Torley’s Paper Takes Flight/Papier op de Vlucht, designed by Loes Schepens, where the multilayered dust jacket has small envelopes attached to hold paper samples from the contributing artists, or Doug Beube’s Breaking the Codex, designed by Linda Florio, where the dust jacket includes a perforated bookmark, whose removal implicates the reader in a bit of biblioclasm and challenges Western parochialism.
The Art of the Fold‘s clean, balanced design (Alexandre Coco) and excellent diagrams (authors) mesh well with the text. While this integrated clarity in the introductory section on Tools, Materials, Terminology, Symbols and Techniques will be appreciated most by artists and paper engineers, the secondary audience of library/gallery curators, aficionados and collectors will benefit from the description and comments in particular on materials, terminology and techniques. Knowing these points about an object of book art enhances appreciation of it and improves its handling, presentation and preservation.
Following this introduction, Kyle and Warchol provide 36 sets of detailed instructions across 5 sections:
This double-page spread introducing the accordion structure shows off the the diagrams’ clarity, a feature throughout the book. Also in this spread are two important statements in the verso page’s final paragraph:
The accordion fold as an independent component is our focus point in this book…. Let us start with a brief visual display of a variety of folding styles. Hopefully they will inspire you to grab some paper and start folding. (p .28)
The focus on structure “as an independent component” is a strength and weakness. The strength is self-evident in the thoroughness and attention to detail. The weakness? More than occasionally, the authors make asides about the meaningful interaction of structure with content and, occasionally, with other components (type, color, printing technique, etc.). Some exemplars selected by the authors would have been welcome. The artist’s and reader’s challenge is to provide their own examples of how the structural component might work with different types of content, mixed media and other components that combine to deliver the artistic object.
The second statement — the exhortation “to grab some paper and start folding” — illustrates an unalloyed strength of this book. As towering an authority and figure in the book arts and book art as Hedi Kyle is, she and her co-author go out of their way again and again to keep readers open to playing with the techniques and structures and finding their own inventiveness and creativity. For those content to collect or curate, both statements push them to look for or revisit outstanding examples and inventive variants of the structures elucidated. After this section, a browse of Stephen Perkins’ accordion publications, a site running since 2010, would be a good start.
This double-page spread introducing the section on Blizzard structures delivers that blend of the anecdotal with essential engineering-like detail that is characteristic of the authors’ style throughout. Having explained how this family of folded structures that bind themselves got its name (a fold discovered in a daylong fold-a-thon due to a blizzard’s shutting everything down), the authors dive into the proportionality so key to getting them right. Perhaps because of its non-adhesive, origami-centric nature, the blizzard book structure generates more than its fair share of kitsch exemplars. When blizzard books do come along that rise to the level of art — integrating structure, content, printing, typography, color and other components of bookmaking in an artistically meaningful way — they stand out all the more. One such work took first place in the 23 Sandy Gallery’s juried exhibition in 2015, “Hello Hedi”:
Next to The Accordion section, the One-Sheet Books section has the most models. It is also the section that most addresses that challenge mentioned above:
A book folded from a single sheet of paper, including covers, offers a unique opportunity to consider the content and cover as one comprehensive design exercise. We explore the coming together of printing, layout and folding. (P. 94)
Given this opportunity, some treatment of imposition would have been useful, especially for the Franklin Fold and the Booklet Fold Variations. For the Booklet Fold Variations, one could lightly pencil into the book’s clear diagrams the usual markings and enumerations as below.
Again, a few selected photographs of examples of One-Sheet Books that achieve the coming together of content, design, printing, layout and folding would have been welcome.
The double-page spread above with which the Albums section begins exemplifies the book’s quality of photography (by Paul Warchol, Ulla’s husband). Like the “dust jacket”, the crisply photographed Panorama Book structure (upper right) and the pages that explain it will send readers on a quest to make their own or hunt for outstanding examples such as these by Cathryn Miller and Cor Aerssens, a long-time friend and correspondent with Kyle.
A cautionary, or perhaps encouraging, note though: the fact that some structures can enfold others will frustrate readers with strict classificatory minds and exhilarate the more freewheeling. The Phelps’ Blizzard Book highlighted above includes in its sections items exemplifying the Flag Book and Fishbone structures. Aerssens’ Memories is even more so an integrated variant of the Panorama Book structure, featuring as it does panels within panels, two 8-leaf booklets bound into front and back with paper hinges, and mylar folders holding pressed flora from Aerssen’s northern Dutch environs.
The Enclosures section presents fascinating structures, not all of which are suited “to fit many of the projects in the previous chapters”. For example, the second-most fascinating form — the Telescoping Ziggurat, shown in the lower left corner of the recto page above — looks incapable of enclosing any of the other 35 structures. The authors acknowledge it is “less of a book and more of a toy — a stimulating and curious object whose inherent mathematical quality mesmerizes as it spirals inward and outward”. The most fascinating form, however, is as much a book as stimulating and curious object: the Sling Fold structure.
This structure looks suited to enclosing scrolls or narrow, collapsed accordion books of diminishing height, and its mechanics invite playful integration with content and variations of color, typography or calligraphy, printing method and materials.
It would not do to conclude a review of this book without touching on the Flag Book structure, for which Kyle is so well-known. It is found in The Accordion section. The outstanding works implementing this structure are legion. Here it is below in all its glory, which is exceeded only by the Two-Sided Flag book in the pages following it.
The Art of the Fold should become an instant classic. If readers are tempted to “grangerize” their copies with photos and clippings of favorite examples and variants, they would do well instead to create one of the authors’ album structures in which to keep them. There could be many editions of this classic to come.
In his Books and Vines essays, Chris T. Adamson provides fresh, personal and insightful comments on fine book productions and their content such as Henry James’ “The Beast in the Jungle” from the Lewis and Dorothy Allen Press in 1963, pictured above. An oenophile, as the title of his series suggests, Adamson also occasionally offers tips on the best wines with which to decant and read these works.
James is a favorite author at Books On Books as is Herman Melville. Indulge the punning coincidence of Adamson’s introducing us to Wilber Schilling’s Indulgence Press and his edition of Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street“. Schilling’s edition of “Bartleby” – with Suzanne Moore’s original hand lettering of Bartleby’s classic statement “I would prefer not to” first appearing fully legible then becoming larger until it literally falls off the bottom of the final page – was an early career statement of an interest in more than fine press work but in book art as well.
Consider Schilling’s Half-Life/Full-Life and its binding a variation on the accordion/flag structure of Hedi Kyle and Claire Van Vliet. The complexity of the form marries well with that of the intertwining, interleaving text and photos along the timelines of the Doomsday Clock and global warming.
Schilling’s photography in Half Life/Full Life speaks to the importance of that craft in his overall portfolio. His photos of aging, decayed and unbound books are haunting and remind me of the found art of M.L Van Nice.
Schilling has collaborated with Thomas Rose (visual artist and professor at the University of Minnesota), Michael Dennis Browne (poet and librettist), Rick Moody (author of The Ice Storm) and Patricia Hampl (MacArthur Fellow poet and novelist). He has collaborated with Daniel E. Kelm (book artist, founder of the Garage Annex School for Book Arts and a collaborator with Suzanne Moore).
Given the influence of Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Cornell on works such as Arthur & Barbara (Arthur Danto and Barbara Westman) or Surplus Value Books: Catalog Number 13, you might say that Schilling has attempted to collaborate with them as well. The danger in that, of course, is highly derivative artwork. That early-career whiff of genius in commissioning the now famous calligrapher Suzanne Moore to hand letter “I would prefer not to” and spreading it in ever larger size across the pages might be what takes Schilling’s work beyond the derivative. His work is worth examining with that anticipation.