Books Made for the Bridwell Library’s DeGolyer Bookbinding Competition

  1. James Joyce. Ulysses. Santa Cruz, California: Peter & Donna Thomas, 2000.
    34 x 20 cm (13 ¼” x 7 ¾”).

“This is an altered book with a new case-binding. The pages were cut, vertically at the spine, from a Modern Library edition of James Joyce's Ulysses. They were then glued end to end to make a scroll. The scroll is wound over brass rods at both ends. The rods pass through holes drilled in a black painted wood framework that is attached to the inside spine of the binding. Wooden knobs with ratcheting devices underneath are threaded onto the ends of the brass rod. These assist in turning the scroll, keeping it under tension as it turns. The scroll is bound in a full leather case with the Modern Library covers attached to the front and back covers as decorative panels. Having been turned into a scroll, the text mimics Joyce's thematic structure: the June day in Dublin and Bloom's life are revealed and left behind, one moment at a time. There are mirrors attached to the front and back inside covers that reflect images of the scroll, reflecting the chaos of the text.”

  1. Mark Twain. Huckleberry Finn. Santa Cruz, California. Peter & Donna Thomas, 2003/2016.
    46 x 41 x 8 cm (18” x 16” x 3”).

“The binding is a river raft reminiscent of the one Huck and Jim floated on in the story. The deck made using flotsam wood collected from the banks of the Mississippi River. The deck is lashed to seven plywood cylinders playing the part of the raft’s logs. These cylinders hold the text: rolled up sections from a dis-bound copy of the Illustrated Junior Library edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. There is a wooden box on the deck that holds a miniature reproduction of the first edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and a companion miniature book, bound in blue cloth with text that Donna wrote out by hand, which acts as title page and colophon for the whole work. The binding was first made for the 2003 competition, but was re-designed and re-bound in 2016 for a show, ‘The River: Memory and Metaphor on the Mississippi,’ held at the Minnesota Center for the Book Arts. The following is our artists’ statement from that show:

This is a book, but it is also not a book. The raft binding is a raft, but it is also not a raft. It is an artists’ book, a multi-layered rumination on adventure; part of a series of artists’ books we have made while exploring structural alternatives to the basic codex. In this work, we continue previous experiments with the possible intersections of the codex and scroll formats. The story of Huck and Jim rolling down the river informed our artistic imagination. It led us to envision a way sections of a story might be scrolled and stored in various compartments, eluding to the log structure of a raft.

Books are vehicles for stories. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has always been a favorite story. As we read the book to each other, our favorite passages have always been Twain’s descriptions of Huck and Jim’s conversations while rolling down the river. But we really read it for the adventure, to vicariously live Huck and Jim’s experiences on the river. Stories are vehicles for adventure.

Objects are instigators of storytelling. Take any object and you can tell some sort of story about it: what it is, where it has been, and who made it. This artists’ book tells stories several different ways. It tells them through the printed versions of Twain’s text: one is the original 1876 printing, the other a 1950s ‘young readers’ retelling of the story. The raft structure inspires stories of play: like making paper boats to float down the gutter in the rain it acts as a toy, allowing the reader to imagine their own stories of a river adventure.

Our raft/book literally takes the reader on an adventure. The pages must be pulled out of tubes to be read, the steering oar must be moved to open the trunk to find the miniature book inside, and that miniature book must be removed to find this essay. And each reader, like each rafter, will travel at his or her own pace.”

  1. Jorge Luis Borges. Ficciones. Santa Cruz, California: Peter Thomas, 2006.
    30 x 30 x 30 cm (12” x 12” x 12”)

“The binding features pages taken from a paperback edition of the original Groves Press 1962 edition of Jorge Luis Borges’ book Ficciones, suspended inside a hexagon shaped wooden binding. In a chapter of this book titled The Library of Babel, Borges wrote, ‘The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps an infinite, number of hexagonal galleries with enormous ventilation shafts in the middle...’ I used this quote as inspiration for binding. The pages of the paperback were removed from the original binding, then gathered as sections, and sewn over wooden dowels. These dowels then held the pages in the same manner newspapers were held suspended in racks during Borges’ lifetime. These dowels with pages were suspended between two wooden hexagons, which function as covers (and represent the ends of the universe). Nuts and washers over a threaded hollow steel rod (which represents the ventilation shaft) hold the two hexagons together. This page structure is housed in a wooden hexagonal slipcase, each of the hexagons’ panels has a copy of the original book’s cover attached to it. The slipcase (which represents the library/universe) drops over the page structure like the lid of a cake plate.”

  1. Thomas à Kempis. The Imitation of Christ. Santa Cruz, California: Peter Thomas, 2012.
    22 x 15 x 5 cm (9” x 6” x 2”).

“A paperback edition of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis was altered, cut, and folded to the shape of a cross. This altered book is housed in a mahogany plywood chemise with wooden crosses made of koa wood tacked together with brass nails attached to the front and back covers. The chemise is hinged at the spine and has a jewel-decorated hasp as a closure.

When submitting this entry to the competition I wrote: ‘Were I awarded the opportunity to rebind the Bridwell's copy of Libri quatuor De imitatione Christi, I would treat the book as if it were a holy relic belonging to the Brethren of the Common Life and alter it in the following manner: The pages would be folded to form a cross. To honor the religious morality of the brethren - poverty, chastity, and obedience, that cross would be bound in unornamented sackcloth. I would gather the same woods used to make the true cross of Jesus: olive and cedar of Lebanon, and make a wooden chemise, decorated with ornate wooden crosses, to protect the sackcloth-bound cross-shaped book. Then I would stud the chemise with gold and silver and jewels, to make it seem like a real holy relic.’”

C. One-of-a-Kind Books Made by Peter Thomas
Books Made for the Bridwell Library’s DeGolyer Bookbinding Competition