Tuesday, February 19, 2013


In my experience, making a book is a slow and oddly tense undertaking. For my current project based on the first chapter of Margaret Fuller's Summer on the Lakes in 1843, the initial challenge was accurately transcribing the original text, including checking on antique spellings such as visiters and choak. Because I am not using imposition software to organize the folios of words and image, I have to depend upon myself to make sure everything is in the right order and right-side-up. As any proofreader knows, this is a challenge when you are really, really familiar with the text. 

When the twenty-two folios of this book, five folded pages each, were assembled, I was ready to sew them together. You might imagine this to be peaceful, meditative process, but hanging on to the ever-tall stack of pages while wielding the needle and waxed thread, not tying myself in knots, is no easy task.

Gluing up the sewn book block brings stability and a growing sense of bookiness to the whole thing. As of this morning, the body is secure, the end bands tight and straight, and Ms. Fuller's heady description of Niagara Falls is ready for a spine.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Heightened Sensibility

 For a few years I have been circling gingerly around a book project suggested by Priscilla Juvelis, the astute owner of  Priscilla Juvelis Rare Books in Kennebunkport. She thought that the writings of Margaret Fuller -- author, editor, journalist, literary critic, educator, Transcendentalist, and women’s rights advocate -- would resonate with me and with the themes I bring to my book object work. Priscilla was right, and I am intrigued by this Margaret Fuller -- trail-blazing, intellectual, and highly, deeply sensitive.

Her book Summer on the Lakes in 1843 is packed with observations about the journey she made from the cultured atmosphere of Cambridge and Concord to the wilds of Buffalo, Chicago, and Milwaukee. It is, however, her nearly fevered experience of Niagara Falls that asked to be transcribed, translated, and re-imagined in my studio.

I have had my own love affair with Niagara Falls, and Margaret Fuller's response is entirely understandable to me. The phenomenon of the place nearly undoes her sensibilities:

"My nerves, too much braced up by such an atmosphere, do not well bear the continual stress of sight and sound. For here there is no escape from the weight of a perpetual creation; all other forms and motions come and go, the tide rises and recedes, the wind, at its mightiest,moves in gales and gusts, but here is really an incessant, an indefatigable motion. Awake or asleep, there is no escape, still this rushing round you and through you. It is in this way I have most felt the grandeur---somewhat eternal, if not infinite."

So now I have gathered my own easily excited nerves and have embarked on a book of only one chapter -- Niagara, June 10, 1843. Her words are illustrated and, I hope, illuminated by my digital composites of rocks and water. The book will be dense with paper, thread, transparency, and rhythm. The structure that will house it is still in my mind --- sparkling, fluid, heavy, blue, and vivid.