|A 19th century xylotheque, or library of wood. In this case a double-blook, |
as the wood samples are book-shaped as well as the container.
This blog is devoted to the subject of BLOOKS, objects made in the emulation of books, either by hand or commercial manufacture. All over the world, for hundreds of years, people have been making, collecting and presenting book-objects that reflect their devotion and respect for books and for each other. There are countless examples; they include bars, cameras, radios, banks, toys, memorials, food tins, desk accessories, book safes, musical instruments, magic tricks, furniture and jewelry. Blooks embody the same characteristics as books and many take the form of specific titles and book formats. They signify knowledge, education, taste, power, wealth and more. They have been treasured and passed down through the generations, and many thousands reside in private homes, public and private businesses and in museums and libraries around the world. Blooks have been used to celebrate and memorialize important occasions and personal losses and successes. They serve as reminders of memorable visits to important places, as receptacles to hold valuable and practical objects and are the source of great amusement.
The transformation of the book is an inescapable theme of contemporary life. As a result of the advancement of computer technology, the book as we have known it is experiencing a major cultural shift and many question the future of the physical book. Simultaneously, we know that there are many kinds of books for which there is no substitute and more than ever, artists, designers, collectors, and librarians are attracted to books for their physical beauty, historical significance, structural properties and emotional currency. Interest in rare books, the book arts, the use of the book in works of art, and book re-purposing is flourishing. Blook-objects have a prominent place in this reinvention of the role of the book, as you will see as this blog develops. If you ave an interest in blooks and enjoy writing, guest blog posts are welcome.
Why I Collect:
Many book lovers collect book-objects, either intentionally, or pick them up here and there. Book-objects are always amusing and often a bit kitschy. They are also perfect gifts for bookish people. For years I collected casually, until one day I found a book carved out of coal that was a memorial to a young person who died at the age of 21 in 1897. It is small and fits in the palm of the hand. It was an extremely powerful object; to me it seemed like a prayer book and a memorial book together, a relic of a life lost too soon. The book's maker used coal, a material that must have been essential to his life and through the making of it, imbued it with all of the love and sorrow they felt over the loss of their loved one. The little book retains those emotions today.
We know that reading books can be life transforming and the physical book plays a large part in our ability to absorb and be moved or inspired by information, but until I held the coal book object, I hadn’t experienced how an object made in a book’s image can be as transformational and as moving as a true book. I saw that book-objects lived in a parallel universe to real books and that they are also very close in purpose to contemporary artists’ books. I began to look closer at the subject and to research its scope and history.
There are other reasons why I collect book-objects. One is that an understanding of book-objects helps me to be more self-aware, at least professionally. Most bookbinders will tell you that the love of bookbinding is like getting shot with Cupid’s arrow. I was shot when I was 22, when I took my first class. My passion for making and living with books has never waned. It’s a wonderful way of life, but it’s hard to say why. For me, eliminating the text and studying objects that are made to look like books, tells me about what books mean to people. Book-objects are very fun to study and I also very much enjoy the real bookish attributes that the makers design in, leave out or interpret in unusual ways.
The Author of About Blooks:
Mindell Dubansky is head of the Sherman Fairchild Center for Book Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has worked as a conservator and Preservation Librarian for over 30 years. She writes on the book arts, particularly in the areas of 19th century publisher’s bindings, hand papermaking and bookbinding.