As we enter the final week of the Bodleian’s Alphabet’s Alive! exhibition we wanted to share a taster of what’s to come in our next BOOKNESS podcast.
In the summer Alice and Jo were very lucky to speak to artist and founder of Circle Press, Ron King, who has multiple alphabet inspired works in the exhibition.
You have until 21st January to visit the exhibition which is spread cross the Bodleian’s Weston Library exhibition space and the Proscholium display (located in the entrance of the Old Library), and you can find Ron’s work in both parts of the exhibition.
So if you are in Oxford this week make sure you pop by and see the pieces for yourselves, and listen out for the next episode of BOOKNESS, featuring our conversation with Ron, which is on its way soon…
Find out more about Ron’s work and Circle Press here
And explore the Bodleian’s online catalogue SOLO here to discover the pieces of Ron’s work in the collection
For the latest episode of BOOKNESS, the Bodleian team speaks to graphic designer, book artist and paper engineer Kevin Steele about his work The Movable Book of Letterforms, which is currently on display in the Bodleian’s Alphabets Alive! exhibition.
I’m always fascinated by the performance of movable books, especially when that actual movement is communicating something, so it’s not just about the final display when everything is open, but it has something to do with the movement
As somebody that likes things precise… it is sometimes hard to see things change over time… but I guess that is just inevitable that things change like that beyond your control… And it would make me very happy if looking in the future I saw the book was very well used and worn and read
Watch The Movable Book of Letterforms in action below:
If you take a conventional book… the pages don’t change… but when you come to pop-up engineering… it’s rather like being in a theatre… there are all these different changing viewpoints with the book which is quite unique
A book is designed to be held… if we think of a book as being conceptually a form of art… I can’t think of any other art form that only really functions when you hold it directly in your hands and your fingers interact with the object
And some conservation in action! Paul visited us back in May 2023 to work with our conservation team on some of his other books we have in the Bodleian’s collection, to assess their condition and carry out a few minor repairs.
My books have thousands of individual little parts, and the risk is that one or two of them are going to fall off in transit… and this is always a problem, little pieces coming loose… when we first talked about bits probably falling off, I probably said to you stick it back on anywhere you like!
Useful links and glossary checks in this episode:
Listen to the episode on the University of Oxford Podcasts website here (also available via Spotify and Apple Podcasts)
The Bodleian Library in Oxford has books. Lots of books. But also books that don’t look like books. Books that self-destruct. Books that decay.
Join librarian Jo Maddocks and conservator Alice Evans for a second series of our podcast BOOKNESS where we continue to explore the wonderful world of the Bodleian’s artists’ books and discover what makes a book a book.
In this series Jo and Alice will talking to book artists, print makers and paper engineers who currently have works on display in the Bodleian’s Gifts & Books and Alphabets Alive! exhibitions, focussing on their books that have pop-up and moveable elements…
This podcast is for book lovers, book nerds and book makers.
It’s a nesting doll about ageing and decay, and the publisher, the artist, and the writer really worked together … to express all these ideas throughout the materiality of every component of the artists’ book
The release of this episode of BOOKNESS on 9th December 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the publishing of this work. Happy birthday Agrippa!
Useful links for this episode:
Watch William Gibson’s poem Agrippa: A Book of the Dead
running in emulation on a 1992-era Mac computer here
In the third podcast in the series, BOOKNESS talks to poet and artist Stephen Emmerson about his work Translation of Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge, a paperback novel ‘translated’ into mushrooms.
It’s a book as much as it is an art object … as a book, read it, interact with it, touch its pages, infuse its pages with your warmth … from the art experience, I guess it’s more about the audiences way of how they want to interact with it …
I’ve always been interested in interactive books since I was little, I am neurodiverse myself so it’s easier for me … to engage with books that … use different senses because they would capture my entire focus.
It is an artwork that is supposed to be touched and it’s supposed to wear and tear … as you start to expose and touch … as you’re reading the content, it becomes more familiar with you …
This is already basically a book … these things look like pages, they’re kind of packed together, there’s an order, all I really did was bind those together and give them the cover. I thought it was interesting how it just becomes a book through that process
This image of the Bodleian’s “pristine” copy of 20 Slices was taken by the Conservation team in May 2021 as part of the documentation of the object to record its condition.
I think of it as a book. But I also have a very broad definition of a book
BOOKNESS is a podcast series that wanders into the Bodleian Library’s collection of artists’ books, pokes around a bit and asks ‘what’s all this then?’
In the series we will be talking to artists, makers, researchers and curators and pondering matters such as what makes a book a book, anyway? What happens if a book is made of something that decays? Are there any limits to what a library can collect? And, of course, what does this book smell like?
BOOKNESS is hosted by conservator Alice Evans and librarian Jo Maddocks, and the release of this series coincides with the final month of the Bodleian Library’s Sensational Books exhibition, which is showing at the Weston Library until the 4th December 2022. It’s brought to you by the Bodleian Library’s Centre for the Study of the Book and has been supported by a generous donation to the Bodleian Bibliographical Press.
In this introductory episode, BOOKNESS is joined by Chris Fletcher, Keeper of Special Collections, and Professors Emma Smith and Adam Smyth, to set the scene of the Bodleian’s artists’ books collection and some of the ways these objects can be used and thought about.
… artists’ books reflect on ‘bookness’ … they are metabooks, they are books about books … they are about the book form …
The following artists’ books from the Bodleian collection are mentioned in this episode…
Useful links and glossary checks in this episode:
You can read the full definition of ‘artists’ books’ from the Library of Congress here (.pdf)
The Bodleian oath is taken by all new staff and readers. The current version, in use since 1970, reads: “I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.” If you want that on a Tea Towel we can make it happen.
The next edition of Inscription on ‘Folds’ is out later this month.
The Bodleian’s Conservation and Collection Care team, in collaboration with the Centre for the Study of the Book, is embarking on a year of discovery in the field of Textiles in Libraries. The scope of this project is wide, from embroidered bindings to endbands, including textiles found between the pages, covering or wrapped around the binding, as well as the more unexpected places they can be found in library collections from tapestries to t-shirts.
As part of this project, the Library will be hosting a series of free online talks running from November 2021 to February 2022, bringing together conservators, curators and book artists to explore this topic further. Our speakers will highlight the many ways textiles are found in books and library collections, share case studies of collaborative conservation projects, examine what textile bindings can tell us about historic craft practices, and share examples of textiles used in contemporary book arts.
These talks will coincide with an exhibition held in Blackwell Hall of the Weston Library from November 2021, ‘The Needles Art’, which will show-case a selection of embroidered bindings from the Bodleian’s collections.
View the full programme and book tickets to the live talks here.
All talks will be recorded and publicly available to watch after the event.