Book by Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart
Illuminated texts are primarily associated with religious writing. Whatever your ancient sacred work, before the printing press, copies were made by hand. Eventually, someone wanted to make their work look nice. Nice pretty quickly became an opportunity to draw attention to the importance of the text and perhaps the skill of the copyist.
We spend time admiring the beauty of the adornments that those artists added. We tend not to think about other aspects of bookmaking that seem more mundane. But really, who was it that started bouncing around ideas about what to do with information that you wanted to transcribe, but it overflowed your current papyrus? Do you roll them up together into a ball? You could fold them in quarters and they might not separate?
The scroll is a pretty cool innovation, when it really gets down to it. Book binding, as an improvement over a mere box, certainly entered the picture somewhere along the way. One can only imagine how artistic eyes lit up when they were told that the cover was all theirs to decorate as they saw fit. Of course, they had to leave room for the title… and the author… and maybe a dedication… perhaps also some copyright information.
If postmodern thinking is about taking something new and utilizing it in a different,
artistic way in order to comment about the object’s original purpose, then the first person to alter standard book formation may well have been a genius. Nowadays, artists create books from scratch that fold and “read” in all sorts of new and unique fashions. Our local art museum had a show of such constructs a few years ago. Like all such attempts, the trick seemed to be determining how far you could go before you lost all point of reference to the original object.
But before any of us are exposed to any of the marvels cited above, we discover the remarkable paper engineering of the pop-up book. They started simply enough years ago and I remember finding one or two in the local library. They were sad examples, long before damaged by other children. Nor did they foretell the flights of fancy that modern paper artists would bring to pop-up works. They are truly engineering feats, sometimes representing larger scale examples by Frank Lloyd Wright. I have a certain fondness for those books that leap from the zenith of a flight of fancy and portray dragons and dinosaurs and bats and more.
Finally, I feel as though these various works remind me that life is play, in the best possible sense. We are all mammals that learn and only begin to die when we surrender to stagnation. Play is one of our most fundamental components of learning. Many of us find books difficult. Yet these works all remind me that even the most challenging categories of life should be filled with a certain flair for surprise and delight.
The bookcase beside my desk does not contain literature or history. It contains some language reference, artist portfolios, and pop-up books.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 9 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.
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