altered book

The Blue Book 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!

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Instruction 7: Pencil lines and ratios

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.

Instruction 5: Methodical Mapping

Written note from PW to TM posted 10.15am – 12 July 2017
Develop a system to catalogue the known addresses from where Windham wrote his letters. 

Having identified each page where an address was in evidence – 89 in total with 14 different locations, my first task was to work out the percentage of letters sent from each particular place. I researched into each location and in many instances was able to pinpoint the actual number of the street where Windham lived, however this information was incomplete as sometimes he listed just a place name not a full address, so this was sadly not a route I could develop further. Instead I considered how each place could be categorized; whilst colour-coding seemed an obvious starting point, I quickly realized that this may be confused with the system adopted in instruction 2. Next I started to explore the potential of using actual maps, and by reflecting on the methodology adopted in instruction 4 – which had been relatively successful – began to examine how I could use a similar system to depict the hierarchical nature of the addresses.
Using a modern road atlas I highlighted each place name within approximately a 2.5cm square section; the number of times that the location appeared within the book determined the percentage by which the square section was then enlarged. The colour copies of the map were then wrapped around the edge of each relevant page using a system of alignment. What is perhaps less successful than the way this process worked in the previous instruction, is the fact that incrementally the difference between each place name is at times limited, therefore it doesn’t allow a real sense of scale to be established.
Having used the covers of the book for a previous instruction, I wanted to use the spine as a vehicle for cataloguing each place, the numeric value of each location is represented by a small roundel punched from the same map section used within the book pages.

 

Intersect divided

Despite the various ups and downs of the intersect project, we now seem to be back on track. With my sections of the book typed and sent to T – using recorded delivery (to ensure against further losses!); I have been able to move on to the covers, whilst T begins the typing of her sections, whenever she gets some spare time… thanks to the portable typewriter!
We are using the covers from my book but the (new) title has been taken from the title page of T’s book. The initial idea for the front cover was to translate the title using code, however the symbols +*=:/ are not all available as wood type, therefore it was decided to overprint the full title using black ink to reflect the typed code of the inner pages. The inscription from T’s original book was also letterpress printed, this time using red to reflect the second colour of the typing, it was placed in the same position as the original book – the inside front cover; these processes continue the concept of intersect.

Instruction 2: red blue orange green yellow white purple…

Text message from TM to PW 21.18, 8 May 2017
Catalogue William Windham’s correspondence by constructing/extracting an inventory of recipients. Deadline 22 May

When I first read the second instruction set by T, I wanted to gain a clear understanding of the meaning of inventory, rather than making assumptions, therefore I chose to work with the
interpretation of an inventory as a tally.

Colour coding the individual recipients seemed an obvious way forward, but I wanted the colours to have a resonance with each person; taking inspiration from T’s previous working methodology I started to research all 36 recipients. Whilst Wikipedia was a quick, invaluable resource – many of the recipients were impossible to find, so it became clear that finding a colour that was relevant was going to be a challenge. After studying the work of both Karel Martens and Irma Boom, I started to consider how it maybe possible to combine graphic shapes or pattern with colour; to develop this idea further I turned to the letters themselves for visual clues.

344_karel01

Reading the paper by Kathy Corcoran (subject cataloging workshop, ARLIS/NA, L.A., 31 March 2001) entitled: ‘Many intricate and difficult problems that torture the mind – words of wisdom for art cataloguers in the real world’ – I was mindful of her statement:
Besides knowledge and skill at interpreting and applying rules, we need to call on our judgement,
experience, and intuition, and even occasionally our sense of aesthetics and of what ‘looks right’
to us
.

Although written in relation to library cataloguing I chose to adapt the same approach – this gave me the necessary freedom and flexibility I needed to develop a colour coding system that was more abstract but still had some form of significance (however tenuous).

Whilst part of our research is to determine whether or not working independently will affect the outcome, by the second instruction I am conscious that because we know each so well, and talk regularly, it is difficult not to be aware of T’s various approaches and be influenced by her methods.

+*=:/

Following our Facetime discussion two weeks ago, we have both divided and sent our
respective half books to each other, giving us an opportunity to examine and reflect on
potential directions for Intersect. Having identified that both books used colour keys, tonight’s discussion centered around the idea of applying a similar process to that of the Windham
Papers
, through the development of a key-based system.

The challenge with the cross-stitch books is that they are both largely image based, so we came to the conclusion that by using the text matter, which is more limited, we could allocate a typewriter symbol to the five vowels. We did this by a process of discussion and elimination resulting in the following key: a + e* i= o: u/

The key will enable us to interpret the text through the development of a series of patterns typed on top of the existing book. Due to the sometimes dense nature of the pages, each pattern will be typed in red in response to whatever space is available; to enable a greater sense of hierarchy, headings will be letterpress printed in a different colour using the same key. We’ll each attempt a sample page before we meet in a week’s time. A decision regarding the schedule and book structure will made once we are satisfied that the idea is feasible.