“It was nice being able to get lost in someone’s work and to look at books in a way that I never have before. Being able to actually hold and handle the books teaches us many things. ”
Early in the cold, wet month of February, students from Utah State University made the perilous journey from Logan to the Marriott Library to visit Rare Books. Professor Denisse Gackstetter brought her Introduction to Book Arts class for a tour of the Book Arts Program Studio, after which the students spent two hours looking at forty of our books.
Prof. Gackstetter asked her student’s to respond to their visit. Here is some of what they saw and what they had to say about it.
THE BOOK OF THE ANONYMOUS
John Yau (b. 1950) and Max Gimblett (b. 1935)
New York: Granary Books, 2012
PS3575 A9 B66 2012
John Yau wrote this poem in 2009 in response to several translations of the “Tao Te Ching” given to him by Max Gimblett. In response to Yau’s manuscript, Gimblett created a series of more than one hundred drawings and collages incorporating rare and unusual handmade papers from around the world. This publication contains the twenty-four part poem and twelve of the illustrations. An original ink drawing by Gimblett in black ink on silver is on the cover of each copy. Produced by Diane Bertolo, Steve Clay [founder and owner of Granary Press] and Susan Mills. Typography is by Steve Clay, the binding by Susan Mills. Philip Galo letterpress printed the text and images on double leaves at the Hermetic Press. The collages incorporate gold-leaf, photography, photocopy and drawing. The collages were made at Max Gimblett’s studio with assistance from Matt Jones, Giovanni Forlino and Kristen Reyes. The papers used include Kincami black, Cal Ling autumn, Tamashiki orange, Kingin Furi tan, Sunomi silver, Sunomi kraft, Yuzen cream, Kyoto M25 white, Tairei #1 white, Philippine Banana Bark alabaster and Gampi Smooth 43. Bound in black board covers, open spine with exposed stitching, a non-adhesive binding. Folded and coupled, the pages are gathered together and sewn to cloth-backed boards. Housed in handmade silver cloth-covered clamshell box with spine label. Edition of thirty-three copies, signed by the poet and the artist.
“The Book of the Anonymous by John Yau made the greatest impression upon me. I remember specifically pondering how the images or lack thereof contributed to the concept. I was intrigued by the questions Yau asked the reader, and I was inspired to read more into them by the beautiful pages and illustrations. The form made me want to understand the content.”
“The paper has lots of fiber and shimmer in it. One of the pages has string in the paper. The contrast in texture is very dramatic.”
“I can’t remember the imagery or the poem in that book because the handmade papers are so beautiful I could not stop looking at them. The pages were assembled in an interesting way where the two sheets of paper would sort of pocket-fold into each other. This gave the pages a very thick and substantial feel when turning them.”
BINDING ANALYSIS: DOUBLE BIND
London: Heather Weston, 2000
N7433.4 W467 B56 2000
Author and artist Heather Weston holds a degree in Book Arts and works in the mental health profession. She uses the book form to explore both emotional experience and psychological structure. In this context she explores the inextricable link between form and content. Here, book structure says something about the experience of schizophrenia that text alone could not. The book is double spiral bound at right and left edges with the pages splitting down the center. Four separate narratives – one pictorial, two textual, and one structural – unravel concurrently. A calico wrapper, with a padded but rigid back panel gives the floppy book the firm containment of a strait jacket.
“I thoroughly enjoyed Binding Analysis: Double Bind by Heather Weston. Weston uses French doors to present an analysis of a schizophrenia patient through the recordings of a medical care provider. I only became aware of the patient’s recorded words, on the backside of the structure, midway through the book. The form informed me about the concept.”
High Falls, NY: M. Cummins, 2003
N7433.4 C853 G46 2003
From the colophon: “…[B]ased on a handwritten letter discovered by the artist in the archive of Weir Farm in Wilton, Connecticut, during a residency in the spring of 2001. The letter was written in 1807 by a former Revolutionary War officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathon Rhea, to his children on the anniversary of his wife’s death. The  images that accompany the text are original vintage glass negatives that date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” Glass panels hinged in accordion format. Issued in collapsible black box with a tie string. Edition of twenty-five copies. University of Utah copy is lettered and signed by the artist.
“It uses a simple accordion structure, but utilizes it in an inventive way. The panels are see-through which coincides with its subject matter. A wonderful example of form and content informing each other.”
LOCAL CONDITIONS: ONE HUNDRED VIEWS OF MT.…
Tacoma, WA: Anagram Press, 2012?
From the colophon: “Illustrated, designed, printed and bound by Chandler O’Leary, through freak snowstorms, record heat, and a thousand gentle rains in Tacoma, Washington. Each of the book’s 120 image flats is illustrated and compiled from sketches, photographs and data collected in person, on location, from September 2008 to October 2010. All text and images were letterpress printed in Hokusai’s indigo ink, down the street at Springtide Press. Images and topographic map patterns are hand-drawn and water-colored. For making it possible to turn this crazy idea into an even crazier reality, many heartfelt thanks to [the Tailor*], Jessica Spring, [Zooey*], Sarah Christianson, the Tacoma Arts Commission, the University of Puget Sound Collins Memorial Library, and the Book Arts Guild. Thanks also to the weather, for always, despite a notorious reputation, seeming to hold just long enough for me to grab the camera and jump in the car. Produced with the support of a Tacoma Artists Initiative Program grant from the City of Tacoma Arts Commission…Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1759-1849) is perhaps best known for his seminal works, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji and One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. The two series of woodblock prints, published from 1829 to circa 1847, depict the sacred peak within the context of landscapes and scenes of daily life. At the heart of the series is Hokusai’s own obsession with immortality, and his fascination with Fuji’s eternal presence. Therein lies the rub: Fuji is anything but eternal. Beyond the usual, abstract geologic transience of eroding rock and drifting continents, Fuji is an active stratovolcano. Its days – and those of the lives and lands at its base – are numbered. Here in Washington state, just forty miles southeast of my home, lies Fuji’s taller, more volatile, American twin. Variously named Tacobet, Tahoma, and Ti’Swaq’, amont others, by the region’s indigenous peoples, or simply “The Mountain” by contemporary locals – its most arbitrary…”
“What left the greatest impression on me was the box with different scenic areas layered upon one another. It made me want to go home and create one of my own. The intricate images mixed with the soft pastels are gorgeous. I think it is interesting that the viewer is able to arrange the book how they please. The book is really their own story to tell.”
“This book intrigued me. It is so different from a normal book, and so unconventional, it inspired me to think more outside the box.”
“I like the three-dimensional aspect.”
“This book has three drawers to pull out and a ton of different different pieces of scenery. I love how I could mix and match the different scenes. There were so many possibilities to create. I liked the facts that I learned about Mt. Rainier, as well. I could have read and played with this book for hours.”
Berkeley, CA: Flying Fish Press, 2012
N7433.4 C44 M46 2012
From the colophon: “The text that appears on the woven token in triptych was taken from the preambles to the constitutions of the United States and Iraq. The image that surrounds the token is of a bookseller’s stall on Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad prior to the bombing in 2007, and is used by permission of the Al-Mutanabbi Street coalition.” Letterpress printed. Designed by Julie Chen. Copper locket fabricated by Christina Kemp, based on a design by Julie Chen. Edition of fifty copies. University of Utah copy is no. 43, signed by the artist.
“Blew my mind.”
NEW RULE: A POEM BY RUMI
Sibyl Rubottom and Jim Machacek
San Diego, CA: Bay Park Press, 2000
N7433.4 R73 N49 2000
A flecked, navy wrapper is folded in three, housing the primary sheet which is, in turn, folded into three, unequal sections. Letterpress from Bodoni and Times Roman on Fabriano Rosaspina Bianco and Fox River Confetti wrapper. Images created using polymer plates, monotypes, linocut, and screen printing. Edition of forty-five copies. University of Utah copy is no. 19.
“Looking at New Rule helped my own making for my next project. It is a good example of a poem in a book, without lots of pages, but with a creative structure. I like how it hides the colophon inside the back cover by folding inward.”
CONVERSION: (A CONVERSATION TOLD IN SYMBOLS)
Portland, OR: In Cahoots Press, 2013
N7433.4 C414 C66 2013
A sequential, narrative story with abstract imagery and no text, a conversation using only symbols. From the artist’s website: “…a two-person conversation using a vocabulary of stencils and hand-drawn symbols shown in a key. What is said and what is thought, works spoken in a jumble without stopping, a rational response and an activated imagination are all carefully plotted and diagrammed. Two different communication styles clash, merge, and ultimately influence each other as one person finally speaks her mind.” Mulberry paper, Micron pens, book cloth, pochoir. Edition of five copies.
“This book was assembled very simply, hand drawn on a single sheet of mulberry paper and folded into a book with a thin book cloth cover. What really pulled me into this one was the concept behind it. The artist took the words out of a conversation and replaced them with symbols to show the structure of a conversation. It made me see that as an artist we don’t have to ‘write the story’ our viewers see, we can create a scaffolding of an idea that gets filled in with what the viewer has already experienced. It was very powerful. The book is a great vessel for this concept because it is such a personal experience turning the pages, touching the conversation with my own fingers. I learned a lot from that small book and from this whole experience.”
Photographs of books by Scott Beadles.
Photographs of readers by Dennise Gackstetter. Thanks, Dennise!