Books, artifactually and anecdotally speaking ...

Lorcan 3 min read
Books, artifactually and anecdotally speaking  ...


Anecdotally speaking ……. it seems to me that the artifactual and design elements of print books are coming more to the fore, albeit in different ways. As the use of ebooks grows this is not really surprising, as this change creates niche opportunities for experiences focused specifically on the possibilities of the print medium. Some related trends are interesting. First, we are seeing physical books repurposed, recycled, or ‘upcycled’ to perform other functions. Second, we are seeing a focus on the aesthetics of print books, and on book arts in general. And third, we are seeing – I think? – more interest in artists’ books, in books as art, …


Here are are some examples …

We attended the Columbus ‘eco-chic craftacular’ a couple of weeks ago, pleasantly located only a couple of minutes walk from our house. I was interested to see ‘upcycled’ books on at least two stands, where physical books were being repurposed as notebooks and cases. I remember being in the bookstore in the Newberry Library last year, and being interested to see some similar examples. At the time of writing, a search on returns over 3.5K resuls for ‘upcycled books’ and nearly 7K for ‘recycled books (of course, not all of these are in fact recycled books, but a lot are).

The marvellous Caustic Cover Critic has an entry about a new publisher, Notting Hill Editions. He praises the appearance and design of the books and notes …

Several of the many, MANY, MANY future-of-the-book-in-the-face-of-ebooks pieces that have been cropping up in newspapers and online recently have mentioned that the way for physical books to survive in the future may be for them to be beautifully made objects. Notting Hill Editions are doing this just right–the look and feel of their books remind me of the precepts set out by master printer/typographer Daniel Berkeley Updike in his lovely The Well-Made Book. // Notting Hill Editions

Peter Hirtle alerted me to the Caustic Cover Critic in a comment on a blog entry of mine which discussed book covers and other artifactual properties of books, in line with the comment in the piece quoted above.

Although, as I noted recently, I hope that we don’t see an either/or approach to publishing, where ‘beautiful’ books feel they don’t need an electronic parallel.

[Here are the reissued Virago classics which I discussed in the earlier blog entry. Of course, the original Viragos had those iconic green covers. Note the remarks about the current position of Virago in the entry.]


Finally, and anecdotally, what about artists’ books? Again, it seems to me that I see more on this topic, most recently, for example, The Art of the Book in California: Five Contemporary Presses, an exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford.

We lived in Bristol for many years, near the University of the West of England’s Bower Ashton campus, home of the Department of Art and Design. The Department has a Centre for Fine Print Research, with a specialisation in Artists’ Books. I mention it here as it provides an entry point into a range of other materials. See for example, Sarah Bodman‘s very recent presentation Artists and librarians: making art in and out of books [PDF].

Picture: The feature image is a screen shot from the pages of the Centre for Fine Print Research, showing That Little Jackdaw, by Mel Brown.

Note: Amended cosmetically on 31 March 2021 to include feature image, headings and to fix spacing.

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The social, cultural and technological contexts of libraries, services and networks

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