Handmade books

Recently, I came across an estimate of the number of ebooks that will be published next year. I think it was 3 million, but I don’t really remember, and I cannot recall if that was in the US or worldwide. Funny that such a huge number of books was such a non-event for my brain – or maybe it isn’t funny.  Maybe it’s very natural.  Add to that, say, 780,000, the number I remember for traditionally published books last year, and you get, 3,780,000 / 365 = 10,356.16 books per day in 2012.  Even if I am high by an order of magnitude, that’s still more books  being published in one day than I will read in ten years.

Of that total number, I’m guessing a dozen or so will matter to me.  The others will be non-events.  These reflections led me to recall when I was in art school, and there was a large revival of handmade paper as art and craft.  One thing people did with handmade paper was make books by hand.

Books!  Do you remember the sense of wonder books can evoke?  Remember how mysterious they were as when you were just learning to read?  The books you carried everywhere, as a kid and as an adult?  The books that opened new worlds to you or opened new ways of looking at this one?  Have you ever prowled used bookstores, remember stories of people just like you who discover hidden books on magic or other forgotten lore?

It must be this kind of love and fasciation that inspires the artists I picked at random while searching for “handmade books.”  There is nothing comprehensive about these choices .  There are far too many wonderful people making books these days for that.  Hopefully these few pictures will give an idea of what’s possible.  Check the links for further information.

Wooden Book by Barbara Yates

Barbara Yates is an environmental artist who recycles dead trees into art for parks and retreat centers

History of Western Europe by Brian Dettmer

Brian Dettmer’s work reminds me of a dream I’ve had on several occasions, where I am reading a book but cannot decipher the key passages.  Here is the link for his work and Barbara Yates’s:  http://mywiki.ws/The_Most_Unusual_Books_of_the_World


Handmade book by Geraldine Newfry

Check out the section on handmade books on Geraldine Newfry’s blog, The Creative Life Unfolds: http://newfry.typepad.com/newfry/handmade_books/


Handmade book by Lauren Evatt Finley

There are a number of step-by-step photos of the binding process in the handmade book archive section of Ms Finley’s blog, The Disarranged Studio:   http://laurenfinley.wordpress.com/category/handmade-books/


A tintype journal

Website for this tintype journal: http://www.thisnext.com/tag/handmade-books/


Handmade book by Carol Roemer

Carol Roemer is an artist whose primary medium for the last ten years has been handmade books. This is her website:  http://www.carolroemer.com/handmadebooks.html


This is the cover of a scrapbook “Garbonzobeenz1” made for Christmas photos of her first Christmas in a new house, with her first grandchild.

The website where I found this illustration, twopeasinabucket.com, is an extensive site devoted to scrapbooking, using traditional and digital tools. It should be of interest to anyone who won wants to explore this craft. http://www.twopeasinabucket.com/gallery/member/18824-garbonzobeenz1/1253837-christmas-magic-handmade-book/


And finally, here is an electronic pop-up book made by Jie Qi, a grad student in the MIT lab’s Hi-Low Tech group:


It’s interesting that many people who recognize the magical and iconic nature of books are visual artists and craftspeople.  It wouldn’t be the first time “outsiders” bring a fresh perspective to a discipline.  I’m not suggesting a fuzzy nostalgia for the old days:  I no more want to trade WordPress for a Gutenberg press than I want to exchange my mac air for an eniac.

What I am suggesting is that the work of these artists leads me to a deeper appreciation of the wonder of what we book creators are doing.

11 thoughts on “Handmade books

    • I didn’t make books, but I did do some collages with bits of found paper and old illustrations. I know there are one or two in the garage, and I looked but could not find them for this post. Topic for a future contribution.


  1. Thanks for including my book in this line-up. I am in great company, you’ve chosen some wonderful books! I look forward to going through your blog!


    • I remember seeing several very interesting exhibitions of handmade paper, when that was a trend, which included handmade books.

      One of other things those books evoke for me is the genre of fantasy stories where someone finds a lost book of magical lore in a used book shop. I recall such items playing a part in several of Charles de Lint’s urban fantasies. That seems so 20th century now in the ebook world of vanishing brick and mortar stores.

      All the more reason to appreciate he physical quality of books as objects, even beyond their content.


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