Furniture

Here is another photograph from my book Type Town. Pictured is one of two W MacFarlane Furniture buildings. This one, the larger of the two, is in Westbourne Street, Petersham. The second is across the street on the corner of Charles Street. Both display similar signage, complete with thistles on matching curved pediments.

Paper string

There’s a lot going on in my studio. I am working away at my book—my book to be published, that is, not my artists’ book (it gets confusing!)—and at the same time I’m preparing for three exhibitions. Today I’m focussing on the first of those exhibitions: a show called Re:Play, featuring new work from my book group, Sydney Book Art Group. This is a detail from a piece I have just finished. I used a discarded cover from a book called What Would Google Do? and made paper string from Encyclopedia Britannica pages. The string is woven and then sewn onto the cover. It’s fiddly and challenging making all that paper string, but I’ll be making more of it today for my next piece!

The Beautiful is Vanished

Wow, Taylor Caldwell was prolific! She wrote as Taylor Caldwell, Marcus Holland, Max Reiner and J Miriam Reback! She published more than 60 historical and religious-themed novels. Her first novel, The Romance of Atlantis, was written when she was 12, and was published about 60 years later. Her stories have been praised for being intricate and suspenseful, and there is even a Taylor Caldwell Appreciation Society. But it seems that not everyone approved of her career choice. Her father sent her to work in a bindery as a more suitable activity; in the 1930s there was a public stir when it became known that ‘Taylor Caldwell’ was not a man, as was presumed; and in the 1940s Time magazine reported that her husband burned 140 of her unpublished manuscripts. Seems nothing could stop her writing, though, and good for her! Despite all this it’s the book jacket I like. This one dates from 1951—dramatic illustration, hand-crafted typography.

Book

Often the best things turn up when you are not looking for them, like this scrap of street poster. I have long been in the habit of looking for type everywhere I go — and even more so these days as I have a new project in the pipeline — but this fragment appeared when my focus was elsewhere. I like it on so many levels: the bold, no-nonsense sans serif type, the colour, the very scrappiness of the torn edges and glue residue. My upcoming project involves type and a book, so this piece of urban detritus is remarkably prescient.

Volume

This is the run-up week to Volume 2017 Another Art Book Fair, the biennial event at Artspace that features more than seventy local and international exhibitors, me included. It’s a diverse mix of book people. At the first fair, in 2015, some exhibitor tables were crammed with towers of books, other tables featured just one or two, and they ranged from printed books, much as you might find in any bookshop, to one-off handmade artists’ books. This year I have a taste of everything from my book arts practice, plus a few handmade notebooks and cards and several new small editions. So if you are in Woolloomooloo on the weekend, stop by and say hello to Alphabet City Press.

230 megabytes

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Hard to believe, I know. What good would a 230 megabyte drive be these days! This is the hard drive from my first computer, a Centris 660AV, known affectionately (and descriptively) as the pizza box. Even harder to get your head around is that it had a whopping 8 MB of RAM! The tiny capacity is laughable now, but at the time it was a big deal, and who had even heard of terabytes. I designed books on this computer, set up my first email account, and even tried to program the futuristic voice commands—it was the first mac to integrate audiovisual features into the basic design—although it never seemed to understand a word I said. This is the computer that taught me how important it was to back up files, because one day I got a sad mac face and a black screen, complete with na-na-na-na-na spoken message, which took me quite by surprise.

Earth

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This week I went to see Earth Platinum at the State Library. Earth Platinum is the largest atlas in the world: 128 pages, 150 kilos and measuring 1.8 x 1.4 metres closed. The Earth books are the brainchild of Millennium House publisher Gordon Cheers. Through my association with Millennium House as a designer on many of their books, I followed the trials and tribulations of Earth during its production, but seeing it in the flesh was something else. It was open at Europe, and I desperately wanted to turn the page and look at more. I have a copy of Earth Concise, which is a mighty book in itself. At 576 pages and measuring 410 x 315 mm it is only concise in relative terms, but at least I can lift it and it does fit (albeit sideways) on my bookshelf!

Encyclopaedia Britannica

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Encyclopaedia Britannica was founded in 1768 and the first edition was published as three volumes. The last printed edition was published in 2010, and it had grown to 32 volumes, 32 640 pages, with almost 4500 contributors (including Nobel prize winners and American presidents) and about 100 editors. When I was quite young my family procured a set of encyclopedias, bought second-hand from I don’t know where, an already well-used 14th edition 24-volume set published in 1962. I used it often and with great enjoyment (they were books after all!) but once I finished school those stuffy pages held little interest for me. Until recently, that is, when my family wanted to get rid of it, and I thought it would make excellent fodder for book art re-purposing. To my surprise I am finding that it holds almost more interest now than it did then. The publisher was William Benton—a Minnesota-born (on 1 April 1900, how wonderful!), Yale-educated, Connecticut senator—and Harry S Ashmore, the editor-in-chief, was a Pulitzer prize winner. The departmental editors and advisors is a staggeringly impressive list of highly educated people, and as I flick through the pages of Volume 1 (A to Annoy) I find information about Absolute Pitch, Aero Engines, Alaska, Amarillo, Andromeda and Anhydride—with a sense of discovery and surprise that doesn’t come from looking stuff up on Wikipedia. No doubt these volumes will end up reconfigured, cut up, folded, papier mached, rebound and restructured, but perhaps I will enjoy them for a while longer as the books they are. And perhaps I will keep this dedication page.

Leading

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In typography, leading (also referred to as line spacing) is the vertical distance between lines of type. The term ‘leading’ comes from the days when type was set by hand and strips of lead were inserted between the lines of type to determine the vertical space. This week I have been reminded how important the appropriate use of leading is in blocks of text. I am currently reading two books whose approach to leading is extreme. One is a re-issued re-packaged fiction book, where the leading is set so tight it is uncomfortable to read, despite the fact that it’s a great book by an author I admire. The other is a nonfiction book where the leading is so airy that, while the content of the book is really quite informative, as I read the text I can’t help thinking that it lacks substance and has been overly line-spaced to meet the criteria of a certain number of pages to justify the price.

Pop-ups

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There are many types of pop-up books, but however simple or complex, what they have in common is a three-dimensional aspect when they are opened. This book, which I made for the Sydney BAG exhibition to complement my Alphabet 1 print, is the simplest type of concertina pop-up. Each page has just two horizontal cuts in the paper, allowing part of the paper to fold one way, part of the paper to fold the other way—resulting in the formation of a moveable parallelogram. This book opens to more than 2.5 metres long, and folds up to less than 50 mm deep.