The past couple of weeks have been extraordinarily busy as the 2013-14 season of Destination Imagination begins, the organization for which I volunteer as a member of Iowa’s state Board. In concrete terms, that means I’ve been updating our Web site, writing blog posts, updating documents such as Frequently Asked Questions and Official Participation Costs, planning a conference presentation with another Board member, and the list goes on. At the same time, I’ve been continuing to work on a thick stack of handmade books, a process that crawls along at a snail’s pace but is thoroughly enjoyable.
Making books by hand is a laborious, time-intensive process, in general, but it is certainly faster today than it was during the Middle Ages. At that time, pages were made from animal skins that were soaked in a lime solution to remove the fur, and then scraped and stretched to form parchment. While most people don’t have to go to this extent to create books, some of the steps in book assembly today are not too different from the steps followed centuries ago. Yesterday’s “gatherings” are similar to today’s signatures, for example.
For me the pleasure of bookmaking lies in the details, and I appreciate what others accomplish just as much as I do my own results. The books below have covers that are made out of wood, or a combination of wood and leather. Some are engraved using a laser engraver, others are carved, some are painted, but all of them are interesting and unique—and probably took more than a few days to complete. Feel free to click on each photo to zoom in on the details.
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If you’re interested, you can read further about the process of bookmaking during the Middle Ages by clicking on the links below:
- The Making of a Medieval Book (Getty Exhibitions)
- The Art of the Book in the Middle Ages (Metropolitan Museum of Art)
- Medieval Manuscript Manual (Central European University-Budapest, Department of Medieval Studies
- From Manuscript to Print: The Evolution of the Medieval Book (Cornell University-New York)
© 2013 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.