P and T: Following a visit to Windham, we took the opportunity to determine our next project. A face to face meeting enabled us to exchange books and view first hand commonalities. We questioned if there were any? and if we wanted to alter, combine or produce by-products of these volumes. A leading issue was the discovery that ‘Twenty Years A’Growing’ is considered a seminal work documenting the Irish language which presents some challenges in making responses which haven’t previously been considered. This, together with some initial reservations around the author of ‘Venture to the Interior’, resulted in the decision not to focus on the main characters in the book but to search out something new.
We started to talk about cataloguing, and how we had both really enjoyed the inventory aspect of the Windham instructions. We were reminded of the Vera project, and spent some time talking through how we had catalogued the seemingly random collection of broken jewellery and the subsequent value this had given to 5 miscellaneous pieces. This seemed to give us a way forward. We questioned – why we can’t catalogue these books in the same way that we catalogued Vera? This could be a new way of looking at the books – a visual examination of the whole rather than the narrative or the leading character. From this point, we began to generate a list of categories to catalogue. These became: colour, transport, animals, clothing, food, drink, occupation, climate, building, equipment (domestic or otherwise).
We agreed on a system and will plan a FaceTime conversation on 15 March to review emerging ideas.
P and T: A pre-arranged face to face meeting enabled the opportunity to visit Windham in the Bucks County Museum, as part of an exhibition called Ex Libris: Altered Books (http://www.buckscountymuseum.org/museum/events/498/ex-libris-altered-books/).
As our first venture into the genre of altered books, it was interesting to note the similarities and differences within the rationales and books presented. Windham Volume 1 and 2 was shown alongside 2 other books that utilised similar approaches to either the production or research methodology. A large proportion of the books appeared to place greater value on decorative elements, whilst on reflection we concluded that the process we had put in place to re-work Windham had greater importance to the development of our practice and it is this that will inform our next collaborative Blue Book project.
T. A pre-arranged FaceTime conversation provided the opportunity to share and exchange initial observations made individually in response to first readings of our new blue books. Selected independently, it was interesting to note a number of actual and potential similarities as we talked through our findings.
In consideration of this new project, we both agreed that we remain interested in continuing to question our established collaborative practice, and that whilst we had enjoyed our first altered book project, we do not want to repeat Windham, but use what we learnt in the process to move our practice forward. With this in mind, P introduced the notion of the production of a series of by-products at a continuum of the process of altering our new blue books. These may provide the opportunity to further explore scale, text and image in alternative formats.
Beginning to exchange the stories and characters contained within our books, we noted the emergence of content similarities. Both books contain maps and document journeys and both tell stories with male leads and references to other languages. Time and place may be significant alongside characters met along the journey. As a starting point we both agreed to begin to list the characters and geography contained within our books in preparation for our next planned face to face meeting in two weeks time.
P. Considering the random selection of two ‘blue books’, it is interesting how many perceived similarities there are between the two editions, are these coincidences a matter of chance? or could we have found similarities within whatever books we had chosen?
As well as reading the novel, I did some primary research into the author Laurens van der Post – sadly he does not have the same charm as Windham; a friend of Prince Charles, and godfather to Prince William, the story of his seduction of a 14 year old girl entrusted to his care during a sea journey, which resulted in her becoming pregnant, does little to endear him to me; however I should not let this colour my opinion of the book or the potential development of the project.
The Small Publishers Fair in November 2017 concluded the Windham Papers, and enabled us to view both books together for the first time, before delivering them to the exhibition. We also had the opportunity to talk face to face and reflect together on the project; we concluded that whilst we had initially resisted the idea of an altered book project, writing and responding to the instructions through research and making had given us an opportunity to expand individual practice within the confines of a set brief, and the end result was something that we would not have produced within our established practice. Having noted this change, it was decided to further explore this process through the undertaking of a second project based on an existing book.
Using the reasoning behind the Tom Phillips book project The Humament as inspiration, two decisions were made immediately, the first was that the book should be blue (as a gesture to the Windham Papers) and secondly that the purchase would be made from an Oxfam shop (a previous project had resulted in coincidental purchases from Oxfam), so it seemed pertinent. Following these decisions, a series of text messages attempted to formulate the book theme and book price, however before we had the opportunity to complete these tasks, a chance conversation revealed that we had both already purchased an autobiography, so the decision was made to use these books as the starting point.
P: At this stage I had purchased two books – the autobiography for £1.99 – a purchase based purely on the title and name of the author – Venture to the Interior by Laurens van der Post. The other book The Comanche Scalp by William Colt MacDonald costing 99p was a novel and a nicer blue, however it was the title and book jacket design that were driving force behind the purchase. I suspect that if I had the choice I would opt to use the The Comanche Scalp as my chosen book – however, as with the Windham Papers, I like the fact that the decision has been made through theoretical reasoning rather than through personal selection. It is also intriguing that with this project the book size, structure and content is unlikely to align in the same way that the Windham Papers did, therefore there is an even greater sense of the unknown!
T: Around the same time, I purchased two blue books – the autobiography also for £1.99 – contains a map on the end papers, reference to being rendered ‘from the original Irish’ and an intriguing title: Twenty Years A-Growing. The other book – A Constable guide to the birds of the coast costing £3.99 contains photographs, diagrams, maps and factual data. With no idea about the subject matter of the books P was purchasing, I enjoyed the limitation of searching out a blue book – I could have bought loads!
Although our initial aim for the Windham Papers was to achieve a total of 10 instructions, the exhibition deadline arrived sooner than anticipated, and the final books feature responses to 8 instructions.
Meeting with T at the Small Publishers Fair in London in November was the first opportunity for the books to be reunited since the project began – and the subsequent photographs* show how the altered state of each edition contrasts and complements its opposite number. There are some similarities between our working practices, which is perhaps to be expected considering the range of projects that we have undertaken on a collaborative basis; but it could also be that the nature of the altered book and working within the confines of a large volume – this meant that we both drew upon similar processes and media, such as stickers, rubber stamps and collage to develop the project.
The books will form part of the Ex Libris exhibition at Bucks County Museum from 9 December until 24 February 2018
*book photography by Donald MacLellan
Initial research around the notion of oratory brilliance, in response to instruction 8, led to articles claiming that the content of successful speeches informs, entertains and offers immediate audience engagement often employing chronological or alphabetical organisation. I read about the value of charts and tables to convey data and the use of visual imagery to make the speech more powerful. Alongside this reading, I reviewed the book itself and began to consider how I could respond to this instruction and affect the whole page at the beginning of each section. I observed that volume 1 covered the first 45years of Windham’s life and that within key content outlined at the beginning of each section there were multiple references to the colour blue. From shades of blue representing Windham’s education (Eaton Blue, University of Glasgow blue, Oxford Blue) to the blue of Windham’s political beliefs. I noted all links to the colour blue within the introductory text for each section and used the copy machine to re-print this in the single colour blue. By increasing the scale, I have attempted to add further importance and value to these links. I constructed a table of the numbers 1 – 45 to fit on a single page of the book and reprinted these using the copier machine to achieve 7 shades of blue to convey a significant happening within each section – these became: Eaton Blue, Dublin Blue, Sky Blue (to represent Windham’s assent in a hot air balloon), French Revolution Blue, Pastel Blue (to represent the clothes favoured by Marie Antoinette), Tory Blue and Navy Blue (to represent the Royal Navy). Beginning with a black and white and reversed negative image I produced each of the shades I blue I had selected by altering the density, choice of single colour, depth of saturation and altering the colour balance functions on the copier machine within the colour/image quality options provided. By removing specific years which each table I have identified the relevant years written about within each section, and attempted to draw upon some of the issues identified as strengths within successful speech writing.
Text from TM to PW 18.31 – 15 October 2017
Drawing upon the oratory brilliance of Windham himself, convey the contents of each section of the Windham papers with image or anecdote.
At this stage in the project, with seven out of ten instructions already completed, it is easy to reflect on what has been successful, and what has been less so. With a relatively open instruction like this, I am reminded of Instruction 4 – the decoration of recipient illustrations – I consider this my weakest response; on reflection, a system should have been used to offer a sense of unity and cohesion, therefore this will be the main aim and focus for this task. I continue to be impressed by T’s level of research, so I will also endeavor to engage with more in-depth research and testing of ideas rather than my usual reactionary approach.
The first task is to analyse the meaning of the instruction by referring to key words – convey/section/anecdote. I start by trying to define the difference between a section and a chapter, however it would seem that the Windham Papers are an exception to the usual rule which is that a section is a topic area within a chapter, this is not the case with our editions where chapters are part of sections. However within the section content pages of Windham, short sentences are used to précis the chapters; when I explore the meaning of anecdote, one definition a short, obscure historical or biographical account resonated with that of the contents pages and seemed an appropriate starting point. I looked at the work of the RSC – Reduced Shakespeare Company who deliver condensed versions of the historical plays in a humorous way, whilst making the plot easier to understand. I have to confess that I find the political content of WP difficult to navigate, and with the definition of convey being to express a thought, feeling, or idea so that it is understood by other people, it seemed a similar approach to RSC could be used to translate and convey meaning in a simplistic way; this became the basis of the idea.
The first task was to translate the chapter descriptors into something that defined and summarized Windham, this became a list of bullet points which I then categorized using five headings – political position, political action, personal life, factual info and location. I became influenced by the work of Morag Myerscough and through the development of ideas and defining the space to be used within the book, I produced a system that uses colour and pattern to express Windham, supported by typed labels of the bullet points, which act as a key.
With no margin marks at all within Volume 1 of the Windham papers, I was initially unclear about how to respond to Instruction 7. Reading around the notion of markings in books led to articles in celebration of marginalia, claiming that this process enables a heightened form of engagement in which the reader can collaborate with the text and mingle with the author on some primary textural plane (O’Connell, M; The Marginal Obsession with Marginalia 2012). Whilst previous readers had not engaged with the process of making marks, I had observed occasional thin strips of additional paper within the inner page margins dotted throughout the book. These presented a contrast to the printed page of text and I began to consider that these could be the margin marks which I identify in some way. I think that these strips are connected to the insertion of illustrations within the book which seemed to link to standpoint O’Connell presents in which margin marks retain something of the former owner’s presence, in this case the former owner may have made the book! In order to identify these strips of paper, I inserted sequential numbers in the top left and right page corners to highlight the quantity and positioning throughout the book and then marked up each strip in black. I contrasted these with blank white self-adhesive labels in the corners of all of the pages which contain no additional papers. Interestingly the addition of so many labels has increased the thickness of the book and produced a slight tonal change to the colouring of the page edges.
The examination of dictionary definitions and their accompanying synonyms once again framed my visual response to instruction 6. Processes of working emerged through this initial research around how to select, organise and present text decoratively to include both the voice of the author of the introduction and provide clues to the life and times of William Windham.
Some research into endpapers provided information about their placement and early methods claiming that endpapers were originally made within anything to hand including manuscript off cuts. This seemed to suggest making use of sections of the introduction in some way.
Returning to a system of colour coding established within Instruction 2 to catalogue Windham’s personal and professional life, I introduced a new colour to include the voice of the Earl of Rosebery, the introduction author and golden boy of the early 20th century. Reading through the introduction I searched for the essence of the texts – clues to the successes and failures within Windham’s life and the standpoints made by Rosebery. The process of highlighting these added decoration to the introduction and provided a starting point to build upon. These selections were copied and over-printed with scale increased through the use of the copier machine in an attempt to visualise the charm of conversation which is what Rosebery claims to be the ‘real reputation of Windham’. Decorative and non-functional text sections emerged and I considered drawing attention to punctuation markings and key phrases. A selection of words which‘survived’ the numerous copier machine overprinting are still functional, in that they can be read. These have been embellished with text removed from the introduction to add additional decorative elements exploring scale and placement.
Positioning the end papers within the book, I made use of the markings already in place so that the words wrap around the book plate, Christ Church library bar code, and date of entry to the original library collection.
Text from PW to TM 12.07 – 6 September 2017
Identify and/or highlight any margin marks within the WP.
The first action was to identify each page within my edition that had a note or mark in the margin. With the exception of one page, all marginalia takes the form of a vertical pencil line to select a specific passage of text. I started to develop ideas based around the idea of book-marking and finally settled on the simple idea of folding the corner of each designated page. Each fold conforms to a system, its depth is dependent on where the marked line appears on the page. To further highlight the pencil marks I wanted to show the number of lines per page that the reader had selected. I developed a scale system based on the number of lines in relation to type size of the overprinted numeral.
This is the first time that an instruction and my subsequent response has started to affect previous workings and adaptations of the book; I was initially quite concerned about this but quickly realized that this is the notion of the project – I could have re-worked my idea to avoid affecting the work already carried out, but this seemed too controlling, so instead I applied the idea and accepted that it would have a cause and effect on the book.