Thursday, April 17, 2014

April Display: Archaeology of the Book

April's display features several beautiful handmade books created during Prof. Melissa Eddings' EXDS class, Archaeology of the Book. 

Prof. Eddings describes how the students create the books during her class:

"We began the semester with a brief survey of book history and how it evolved over time to the structure we are all familiar with today. Students were asked to think about what makes a book a book? What is the function of a book? Does the structure/binding define the book or vice versa? Students then made their own paper which which they folded into signatures for their text block. The historic model we were focusing on is a 14th century gothic-style Medieval book. After the paper was made, they began work on the wood (oak) covers. Sewing holes were drilled and the boards were shaped in the same manner as gothic-style Medieval books were shaped: rounded edges along the head, tail, and spine, and chamfered toward the fore edge of the book. Students then had the option of painting and distressing their covers to artificially "age" the books. Several layers of milk paint were applied and then burnished with steel wool. Once the desired effects were achieved, the covers were coated with wax (shoe polish) and buffed.

The sewing is a Coptic variation which involves attaching the boards to the text block as the spine is sewn. A link chain stitch was used which creates a beautiful braided chain across the spine. Historically, the spine would have been covered with leather, hiding the intricate sewing. I chose to leave the spine exposed to showcase the sewing pattern. Once both covers were attached, the end bands were sewn. Endbands are found at the head and tail of the spine of books. Many contemporary hardcover books have end bands, but these are applied as decoration and don't act as a structural component the way hand sewn endbands did centuries earlier."

The books and the materials used to make them will be on display in Heterick Library on the first floor through April 24, 2014. In addition, library books related to book art and bookbinding are also on display next to the exhibit and are available for checkout. 

All photographs by Ken Colwell

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