the future of publishing

Jason Epstein, in the March 11 edition of The New York Review of Books, predicts how the digital revolution is going to change the publishing industry in  “Publishing: The Revolutionary Future.”

It sounds like the challenge will become, not getting work published, but getting it noticed.  The good news is this may end the stranglehold on the market of huge conglomerate publishing houses, more interested in the next blockbuster celebrity book than a well-written tale from a “nobody.”

“I’m nobody … are you nobody too?”  to paraphrase Emily Dickinson.

Rice University Press has implemented an innovative print-on-demand publishing business for their academic press. It makes a lot of sense.  A VCU professor, Nicholas Frankel, is one of the two editors for their Literature by Design series.


Literature by Design: British and American Books 1880-1930 consists of literary works …  that foreground the vehicle of the book and the visible nature of language itself. Literature by Design titles incorporate facsimile reproductions of the original editions—all of which are noteworthy for the role design and typography played in shaping readers’ responses—along with new critical material by leading contemporary scholars.


This one was printed on wallpaper originally.  That swirl was in the wallpaper design.  A book like this would only have been seen in a rare book collection, until now.

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finding cool pics for a slide show on bookmaking


Books as repositories of knowledge and magic – people still travel thousands of miles to Ireland to see the Book of Kells. I suspect there is no way a picture of a page from this book can do its materiality justice. Even here it’s incredibly beautiful.

I’m working on a slide show for a bookmaking workshop at the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts. Teaching a unit is a requirement for my bookmaking seminar, but I’m also having fun putting it together.

Meanwhile, Google is going to make thousands of books available on any web browser. NY Times article: Google Sparks E Reader Fight with Kindle

Are the days of physical books as numbered as the days of a wet darkroom for photography? I think that’s when the artists move in … art books and art photography made by artists and photographers using non-digital technology, because quickly anything non-digital is becoming arcane.

on illustration and incredible books


This is one of my favorite prints from Jack Sheppard – an 1839 crime novel by W. Harrison Ainsworth, illustrations by George Cruikshank. VCU Special Collections has the 1839 edition – so I got to see the original prints as I might have seen them in 1839. It’s amazing how rich they look – how much detail and texture gets lost through reproduction.

Taking the comics class has me taking a closer look at imagery as it interacts with text. Amazing, really, how it flows together in my imagination. Medieval illustrated manuscripts, comics from the early 20th century, and illustrated serial novels from the 19th century … mix that together with a class on making books … and all sorts of ideas start to swirl.

The first I’m working on is a personal Book of Hours.

Meanwhile, a friend has curated this Book Arts exhibit in Richmond, Virginia. I couldn’t make the opening (not with my grumpy 8-year-old) but what I want to see is the work – sometimes it’s hard to see art at an opening. To paraphrase the Bard, “the art’s the thing.”

journal and web resource for bookmaking


While researching where to find supplies to complete my Book of Hours, I came across a reference to The Bonefolder, an ejournal on bookmaking.

Here’s what they say about themselves:
The Bonefolder publishes significant articles by established and emerging authorities on a variety of book arts topics. These include hand bookbinding, teaching, business practice, the history of the book, the book as art, general tips & tricks, exhibitions, how-to technical articles, and reviews.

“The namesake of The Bonefolder is Das Falzbein, a bookbinding journal which existed under various other names from 1927 to 1966 in Germany, providing generations of bookbinders with an important source of learning. While the trade and craft of bookbinding have changed greatly since then, it is hoped that our publication will inform and stimulate all levels of practitioners and lovers of the book as an artform and structure.”

Book Arts Web: a good overall resource for the art and craft of bookmaking and home to The Bonefolder.

been bookmaking, not blogging

Took a week off blogging and farm life interviews to take an intensive bookmaking course at VCU. And I finally made it to the National Gallery of Art to see the illuminated manuscripts. The pigments, especially the blues and the gold leaf, really need to be seen to appreciate their vivid materiality. Reproductions, in this case, don’t capture the beauty, the aura of the object. Sometime in the next few months I’m going to try a hand at my own Book of Hours.

This is a Jenny Saville piece from a fantastic special exhibition at the Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle … Paint Made Flesh. It’s worth a special trip to DC. It’ll be up through September 13.

illuminated manuscripts at the national gallery


The National Gallery has an exhibit of illuminated manuscripts through August 2. This should delight anyone who loves the art of the book – the possibilities for its material form – people like me. Good timing, too – just in time for a bookmaking course this summer!

Heaven on Earth: Manuscript Illuminations

I’m also interested in the embedded on-line exhibit from the J. Paul Getty Museum. It’s an example of the way the National Gallery uses the web to extend and expand its physical gallery space into the web universe, also how it’s connecting to other museums.

There are many exhibits I won’t be able to travel to see, but I can experience aspects of these exhibits through the computer screen. How does that change the experience? I’m definitely making a trip to D.C. to see the manuscripts in person – I’ll be interested to see how the visuals translate.

Meanwhile, in California at the J. Paul Getty Museum, German and Central European Manuscript Illumination. Slightly different approach to its on-line gallery presence. Couldn’t, however, find a link back to the National Gallery of Art – nor is there a direct link to the J. Paul Getty from the NGA website. Wonder why not?