Friday, March 22, 2013

Altered Book

Three Little Kittens, altered book, 7.5 x 9.5" tooled leather cover with gold leaf, © William Evertson

In preparing a piece to exhibit in the Gordon-Nash Library exhibition of "The Book Remade" I had to make a detour from my usual bookmaking habits.  The exhibition concerns the "altered book" as a core principle; re-worked, reorganized, painted, cut, ornamented or embellished.   
I re-imagined my usual start from the beginning, handmade approach.  I began to think of the history of books, their transformative power, their methods of construction and their means of distribution.

The desire to record and transmit our thoughts to others is a major evolutionary accomplishment and the concept of book fundamental to that continuing process.  In an equally fundamental way, the means of distribution of knowledge and opinion via the written word has aspects of power that define access and control. The secrets of paper-making where once closely guarded, limiting accessibility, while  Guttenberg's movable type increased accessibility.

My thoughts turned to the most current revolution in the production and transmission of books - the e-reader.  

My piece, titled, Three Little Kittens Rekindled, began as a download from the multinational corporation Amazon.  I purchased the Paul Galdone illustrated version of Three Little Kittens for $4.99.      Although Galdone illustrated many children's books I remember from my childhood, Three Little Kittens actually belongs to no one. It began with oral roots in the British folk tradition.  The rhyme was first published in Britain in 1833 as an anonymous addition to a volume of Eliza Lee Cabot Follen's verse.   Eventually it was absorbed into the Mother Goose collection of nursery rhymes.  

Illustration from Ballantyne's 1858 version

My alteration is a meditation on ownership and transmission.  I have re-appropriate the Kindle electronic version and have returned it to the roots of bookmaking in the form of a handmade book. 

Paul Galdone illustrated version as viewed on kindle. 

Scanned images printed on Arches Text Wove

Starting with images scanned directly from the kindle, they were pigment printed on Arches Text paper, a fine art paper used in bookmaking.

The pages are collated and are sewn into two signatures. 

Spreading paste on the book leather cover.


A cover illustration from a 1952 Golden Book version of Three Little Kittens was used a basis for my pixelated version.  This was printed on glossy stock and pasted into to the screen area of the book leather cover.

The cover was embossed, tooled and gold leafed to bring out kindle keypad details.

Three Little Kittens Rekindled - an altered book © William Evertson 2013

An endless dance of a common tale that has become common property and used by authors and illustrators alike to make a living.  Once a rhyme that you could say aloud for free now exists on Amazon in an endlessly repeatable electronic format which renders it essentially free but now can be purchased for $4.99. 

Facebook event page for The Book Remade.  Gordon-Nash Library, New Hampton, NH. Running through April with a closing reception on April 24th.
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