Early notebooks in Australia: William Dawes notebooks

I am reading about William Dawes who was with the First Fleet (of colonists to New South Wales, Australia in 1788) – a Royal Marine who was also an astronomer, surveyor, and linguist, recorded the local Aboriginal language in 3 notebnooks, now digitised. A Masters thesis by jeremy Steele describes the notebooks [2005], with the epigram:
“ngaya banga-ba-wu BOOK ngyini-wå-gulang (b:15:5)”
which is translated by Dawes in book B, page 15, line 5 as
“I will make a book for you”.
(This does not count as the earliest bookbinding in Australia: the notebooks have the look of being previously bound and bought as blank stationery for note taking. The digitised version at shows the original notebooks bound into two maroon cloth covers. The notebooks have covers of plain blue paper and a nice marbled paper. The images of the pages show the sewing at page 23 of Notebook A and B; it appears that these 46 page notebooks were sewn as a single section.) Notebook C has been digitised omitting unwritten pages, which are unfortunately at just the places I would expect to find the centre of sections showing their sewing.)
My interest is triggered by the Bangarra Dance Theatre performance of Patyegarang seen in Canberra 19 July 2014, which is based on the story of the indigenous woman Patyegarang who was William Dawes main informant. A very powerful show, great dance and story telling.


Bookbinding in the mainstream press

The Inside Out exhibition of bookbinding from Designer Bookbinders UK has been given a detailed notice in the Economist this week, in their Propsero blog May 26 2014

It’s great to see fine bookbinding getting publicity and thoughtful attention in this serious weekly.

A Book of Scents

I want to make a book of scents. The technology is not based on chemistry and special inks, not scratch and sniff. The technology is conventional: words and reflective pauses.
Pages need to be turned slowly. This is an example supporting the case for the SlowBook.
It is a book because the smells are designed to be read over in a sequence, over time. There is significance in experiencing a sequence of smells.
Baby skin; baby poo; nappy bucket bleach; wet laundry; grass in the sunshine; clean cloth in the sunshine.
Slow cooking ingredients to table: spices and meats; earthy vegetables; kitchen cooking oils and wines, spices, frying, boiling, roasting, reducing, deglazing; to table, course by course, entree, meat and sauce, wine, dessert, cheese.
The scent sequence is a form of slow poem, bound in a SlowBook.

Are the simple words enough? for the reflective reader who has the experience already.

Can the naming of a scent evoke the scent and evoke the associated memories, of things past?

The SlowBook

A SlowBook will be a book whose structure affords and allows only slow turning of pages, so that each opening spread is savoured and reflected on.
An engagement of the senses in the book: not only the “flutter of wind” from the page, but the engagement of senses in the hand and arm that dwells on turning the page.
So for a bookbinder, the question is, what’s the mechanism? how stiff are the pages, how constrained is the movement? Heath Robinson, steampunk?

Displaying Both Content and Container

Many book bindings are displayed in exhibition with the covers closed, or at best with only the endpapers held open. This hides the relationship between the container designed by the binder and the book’s content that it is responding to. In an exhibition viewers are Not Allowed to touch a book, often in a closed case, so they can’t open it and see the text, illustration or layout that the binding may relate to. Book interior designs and the accompanying illustrations vary so much that for the viewer to only know the book title and author and perhaps its printing date isn’t enough, even if the book’s content is familiar (think of all those editions you have seen of some play by Shakespeare, Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland – or even Agatha Christie. The title/author/date are really only an identifying provenance for a catalogue, not a stepping off point for an artistic reading of the related designed binding.
Designer Bookbinders (UK) have a solution: display the insides alongside the bindings. When the binding is from a set of sheets this is easy – keep one set unbound for display. When it’s from a normal printed (cheap) edition perhaps a spare copy of the publisher’s bound version could be kept open for display, or if it’s cheap, a copy physically exploded (unbound) into a display.
The Designer Bookbinders Facebook page says (30 April 2014)


Inside OUT celebrates the art and craft of contemporary bookbinding and printing. It is an exhibition of sixty-five contemporary bookbindings from thirty-four UK-based and twenty-five North American binders. Four British and five North American private presses have supplied a total of twenty-eight different texts. Selected sheets from these texts will be on display so the viewer can sample and enjoy the words and illustrations hidden between the covers. Imagination and beauty abounds, confirming that the art of bookbinding and hand press printing is thriving on both sides of the Atlantic.

What’s in your bind?

The essence of perceiving quality in bookbinding comes from experiencing the container, while keeping its contents very much in mind – bookbinding is a mindful craft. A fine artistic binding for a book is created in response and informing the content and its context (the text, the type, the visual design, the illustrations, the paper, the printing… and maybe the bookmarks, the book’s previous provenance, its hand-written marginalia, the wear of usage and physical damage, its place in the author’s body of work, its influence on other books). The bound book is a physical and an intellectual and an emotional artefact, more resonant with other meanings than most other forms of handcrafted objects. It has a form that enables its use and its interaction with people, down to even “that minuscule wind, the tiniest flutter created by the turned or flicked page – the ever-so-slight disturbance of the air is as significant or even more significant, than the encounter with the word on the page… For the page read would not occur without this little disturbance.” (Quoted from To Love, To Live: Cart and Barrow, by Lisa McDonald and Vicki Crowley, in Cultural Studies Review vol 19 no. 2 September 2013).

Two Soft Books

I came across two soft books today.

One is a chair in the shape of a book, with page turning – applied to a very different purpose.

It’s a chair with a stack of soft thick fabric pages piled up as the seat, bound by posts – which are the back of the chair. Turning pages from the seat onto the chair’s back enables the user (sitter) to choose how thick and high the seat, how thick and supporting the back.

Yanko’s Chair of Fairytales

The pages are colours, related only by the overall design. Turning the pages does not tell a story or have any significane in the sequence nor in the page left open.
What text should be on these pages? we could make rude comments about the sitter’s chosen amount of padding related to their weight, the boneyness of their own seat, or the length of their legs. Or stay in the realm of ideas, with Emily Dickinson poems – or limericks. Or a short short story that invotes the sitter to keep on reading, putting them into conflict with their desire to sit down – realising the tension between the functions of the chair and the book.

The second book is soft fabric, decorated by embroidery and calligraphy. Again the pages are thick but they have words that are significant content, decorated with subtlety. The edges of the pages are embroidered, in rich colours suited to the purpose of a wedding presentation book.

Sarah’s Klimty Completeness