All posts by siberiana

Warm memories from Montefiascone

Now when the autumn is getting into it’s dark zenith, at least here in the North, it’s good to remember the summer and an enriching workshop of historical bindings and document conservation that took place in Seminary of Barbarigo in Montefiascone town, in sunny Italy during 7-11th of August. It was a third week of Study programme 2017 organised by The Montefiascone Conservation Project. I was able to participate there thank’s to the educational grant provided by Lithuanian Council for Culture.

 

 

The workshop The Secret Ledger and Memorial Book of Pepo degli Albizzi: An Early 14th Century Italian Ledger Binding was guided by an experienced document conservator from New York, Library of Academy of Medicine, Scott W. Devine. During the course we had a good oportunity to observe the meticulous study not only of the structure of original book that Scott made before the workshop, but also a deep knowledge of the content and the history of this particular sample of ledger book.

The manuscript was written in 14th century by Florence merchant Pepo degli Albizzi, a representative of Albizzi family who’s influence in Florence at that time is comparable with their later competitors Medici. Pepo degli Albizzi received a blank notebook bound in bright pink leather as a present for his wedding. This let us presume how the book itself was considered as an expensive object during those days. The interesting thing is that he used this book not only for his business notes (lists of debts), but also as a personal diary where he put the list of important family events.

 

Pepo d’Antonio di Lando Degli Albizzi, Secret Ledger and Memorial Book, 1339-1358. Case MS 27, The Newberry Library (Source).

 

 

As long as the book includes dyed alum tawed leather, we also had a very nice introduction made by Cheryl Porter, a document conservator and a soul of the whole Montefiasconce Conservation Project, about history of alum tawed leather manufacture and it’s use. She also introduced us red pigments historically used as leather dyes.

The main part of the course was dedicated to the reconstruction of Albizzi’s manuscript and making a cutaway model of the original book. According to the detailed instructions of Scott, we started by dyeing the leather with the mix of two types of dyes made of brazilwood and lac.

 

 

Often we are mislead by the shady and washed-out colours of antique objects. So at the beginning it was quite shocking to recognise the the old manuscript was so brightly pink.

 

When it was dry, another alum tawed leather was pasted on top with a sheet of handmade paper between them. According to Scott, the presence of the paper in Albizzi’s manuscript together with the structure of the book (the limp binding) once again shows a big Arabic world influence in the Mediterranean region.

 

 

The book block consisting of six sections was sewn on three dyed leather tongs and put into vellum wrapper. Particularly this structure of the book shows how well protected this type of books was: Albizzi’s manuscript seems to survive until our days without any later intervention.

 

 

Pasted and trimmed leather was decorated by two-color stitch.

 

Moreover, the presence of the overband tackets also made the binding extremely firm and resistible. Dyed leather strips of overband tackets are fixed with undyed alum tawed leather laces that also works as a decoration, that is also so typical for ledger books, also known as archival bindings.

 

 

Even the headbands also have their own tackets, fixing them to the book cover and giving the right shape of the block.

 

 

Finally, overband tackets’ stripes were fixed by a typical “albizzi” tacket:

 

 

At the end of the workshop we were allowed to see some samples of ledger books found in the archive of Seminary of Barbarigo. We could see repeating main structural elements of the ledger books, that where common from 10th until 19th centuries.

 

 

The same messy way to fix the knots of the overband tackets

 

 

The same way to wave the alum-tawed lace on the overband takcets

 

 

And the same way to fix the headband with it’s own tackets

 

 

To sum up, I think that the information provided in this workshop was not only useful for those who do research on ledger or Italian bindings, but also as a very good example of a detailed investigation what is used to be called as an “archeology of bindings”, where the the shape and the structure of the book complements the content of the book and vice versa.

Coming back home to Vilnius, after the workshop, a glass of wonderful Est! Est!! Est!!! helped me to digest a bunch of impressions and information received during the workshop.

 

 

 

 

 

Heroic works. A catalogue of contemporary bookbindery

Happy to announce that one of the works of Siberiana Books appears in beautifully published catalogue of the International Competition Designer Bookbinders 2017.

This year the main topic of the Competition was a hero and mythology. Ieva Rusteikaitė, a bookbinder of Siberiana Books, has created a fine binding for “Des dieux et des hommes. Études de mythologie lithuanienne” (PUF, Paris, 1985), a study of Lithuanian mythology written by the great semiotician a Algirdas Julien Greimas. You can find more details about the binding here.

It is an honour to appear on the side of a group of beautiful and well made contemporary creative bindings. It is also good to see that the art and the craft of bookbindery is kept alive in so many countries.

All about women

In the autumn of 2017 a binding of a special edition of Sylvia Plath’s Ariel made by Siberiana will be exposed in the exhibition “All About Women”, an event organized in Brussels by ARA Belgica and Bibliotheca Wittockiana.

 

Source: http://arabelgica.be

 

According to the organisers, the exhibition attempts to embrace “women, whether they are headstrong women, artists, writers, muses or icons or many other outstanding ladies”. On this occasion Siberiana presented a binding of the one of the most important feminine figures of contemporary poetry.

 

 

It will be an honour to appear in a exhibition hall of Bibliotheca Wittockiana, a one of few museums dedicated to book arts and bookbindery.

Find more information about the selected binding here.

Things born in the notebooks

Cover Tumba comun We are happy to present a long-awaited work of Cristóbal Polo, a book of poems Tumba común (Sp. “Common Grave”), recently published by Editorial Gravitaciones in February of 2017. In fact, it is not only a book of poems, but whole universe that includes slow-made selection of pictures made by pinhole camera during the last few year and a short movie called Alrededor de la tumba común (Sp. “Around the Common Grave”) filmed by a old good Super 8 camera.

You may ask what it has to do with Siberiana Books? The point is that whole this imaginary universe was born in our handmade notebooks, that were all named and carefully classified. These notebooks were used not only as a support for a mosaico of fragmented poems, but also as a basis for experimental notes on required exposition time for a pinhole camera as well as for sketches of Alrededor de la tumba común. 

cuadernistica

Moreover, the whole project is illustrates Cristóbal Polo’s ideas about his pathaphysical theory of quadernistics, which is exposed in a kind of constantly updated manifesto, that currently consists of 28 clauses.

You are very welcome to visit a website of Tumba común, where you will find a detailed description of the whole project.

 

pinhole

 

 

 

 

Manifesto of quadernistics

Finally we have are happy to present a manifesto of quadernistics. For the moment it is published only in Spanish, but hopefully very soon it will appear in English and other languages. Enjoy the manifesto and join the wide circles of quadernists from all over the world.

cuadernistica

Anotaciones para una teoría cuadernística

§ 0

Desde el punto de vista de la comunicaciónliteraria, artistica o científica–, la cuadernística es una disciplina de escritura difícilmente justificable. Ergo la primera regla del cuadernista es: No tratarás de justificarte. Fin del manifiesto.

§ 1

Escritura nacida en, para y a través del cuaderno; ese es el principio fundamental de la cuadernística.

El cuaderno como punto de partida, como medio y como fin de la escritura. El cuaderno como soporte para una obra siempre provisional, deficiente y abierta.

§ 2

La cuadernística no es un fetichismo del cuaderno, ni un solipsismo de la escritura, ni una retrofilia del papel, ni una alergia al texto acabado y público.

La escritura cuadernística puede coexisitir con la escritura teleológica, cuya meta es la obra acabada. Pero la cuadernística no tiene una meta más allá de sí misma: la simple proliferación de la escritura es su única finalidad. Pero esta finalidad sin fin de la cuadernística solo sirve como definición técnica.

§ 3

Hay cuadernistas puros y cuadernistas impuros. A todos los quiere la cuadernística por igual. Entre los cuadernistas puros, hay grafómanos sin rumbo, grafómanos redimidos, cuadernópatas sin remedio y cuadernófagos con hambre de abismo. También están los perros voladores de la escritura. Todos ellos deciden acampar de forma permanente en sus cuadernos. Los cuadernistas impuros pueden haber sido en otro tiempo cuadernistas puros de la misma manera en que podrían volver a serlo en el futuro. Entre ellos encontramos a escritores de toda clase que siguen volviendo a sus cuadernos, convertidos en cuarteles de invierno, para repensar su propia escritura.

§ 4

Paul Valéry se levantaba cada mañana entre las cinco y las seis, encendía un cigarrillo –no sabemos si también se preparaba un café– y se entregaba a la escritura de sus cuadernos durante un par de horas sin interrupción. Así durante 45 años. “Estos cuadernos son mi vicio”, confesó alguna vez. En ese monumental diario intelectual que son sus Cahiers, Valéry registró los “hechos del pensamiento mismo”, las ideas como objetos observables y en constante mutación: “Estos cuadernos representan la naturaleza provisional, perpetuamente provisional, de todo lo que me viene a la mente”. Pero esos papeles, además de una disciplina mental, eran en también el último refugio, “una forma del deseo de estar conmigo, y hasta de ser yo”.

§ 5

La escritura teleológica, pública, se ha devaluado por superávit. De la misma manera que, en un mundo hiperpoblado, los antinatalistas asumen una responsabilidad compensatoria, los cuadernistas hacen lo propio en un mundo hiperpublicado. Su solución: el retiro voluntario a las salvajes praderas de la cuadernística.

§ 6

Un cuaderno y una mano. Al menos una mano o, en su defecto, un pie u otra extremidad. Preferentemente una mano. La cuadernística se hace a mano con un bolígrafo, lápiz o cualquier otro periférico de entrada u objeto capaz de impregnar la superficie blanca con cualquier clase de tinta o pintura de origen vegetal, animal, mineral o digital.

§ 7

La cuadernística se hace sobre un cuaderno. El cuaderno puede ser un conjunto de láminas de papel o pliegos encuadernados, una pantalla de cristal líquido, un rollo de papel higiénico, una lápida, una piedra, una tabla o cualquier otra superficie vacía y no efímera. Escribir en la orilla del mar con una rama seca o inscribir el cielo con estelas de condensación no serían actos cuadernísticos.

§ 8

Los poemas que Emily Dickinson publicó en vida se cuentan, literalmente, con los dedos de una mano. Toda su obra se gestó en la reclusión voluntaria: en márgenes de libros, trozos de periódico, sobres de cartas, hojas sueltas y tiras de papel. Pero no fue una obra secreta por capricho o demencia, sino por necesidad. El secreto fue la materia en la que Dickinson modeló su mundo y su lenguaje; una condición inicial irrenunciable. Lo demás, lo que vino después, ya no era asunto suyo.

§ 9

Un buen cuadernista es quien se queda dormido sobre su cuaderno. En argot cuadernístico, las manchas de tinta de la escritura dormida se conocen como “flores de sueño”.

§ 10

Algunos de los grandes cuadernistas de la historia fueron Sei Shonagon, Michel de Montaigne, Francisco de Goya, Isaac Newton, Franz Kafka, Paul Valéry, Leonardo Da Vinci, Sigitas Geda, Pe Cas Cor, Emily Dickinson, Ludwig Hohl, J.M.W. Turner, Rober Walser y Yoshida Kenko.

§ 11

La cuadernística es una actividad individual sobre un soporte personal, aunque no necesariamente privado. Practicar la cuadernística no es escribir un diario, aunque un diario puede tener una intención netamente cuadernística.

§ 12

Ludwig Hohl vivió voluntariamente encerrado en un sótano durante veinte años, dedicado a pulir y reordenar sus anotaciones. Sus papeles colgaban de una cuerda que atravesaba la habitación, como ropa tendida o como fotografías recién reveladas. Había descubierto el verdadero sentido del trabajo: corregirse, reescribirse, reordenar las frases y los fragmentos en busca de una combinación definitiva. A aquel sótano llegaban muy pocos lectores –sobre todo algún buen samaritano, como Dürrenmatt o Frisch–. El verdadero lector tardaría en llegar, pero terminaría llegando: «Que tendré lectores, y en el sentido más riguroso, está fuera de toda duda. Lo que no sé es simplemente cuántos y cuándo».

§ 13

La cuadernística se sustenta en lo fragmentario y en las conexiones aparentemente arbitrarias entre las partes. Pero no persigue otra cosa que crear un mundo. Para un cuadernista, cada uno de sus cuadernos es un mundo, pero todos sus cuadernos forman un solo mundo. Necesidad y contingencia son una sola cosa para la cuadernística.

§ 14

Pero también el secreto es un un punto de llegada. En 1987, Pedro Casariego Córdoba dio por finalizada su obra literaria. Desde entonces, toda su creatividad se vuelca en la pintura, la escritura privada y el cuidado del jardín familiar. Para Pe Cas Cor, el verdadero artista es el “artista interior”. Aquellos que exteriorizan su obra son los artistas débiles, los “poetas de segunda” que son incapaces de construir su obra solo dentro de sí mismos y para sí mismos.

§ 15

El cuadernista piensa: “Soy el único cuadernista sobre la tierra”. Y no le falta razón.

§ 16

Yoshida Kenko, un bonzo budista japonés del siglo XIV, utilizaba un método de escritura muy similar al de Ludwig Hohl. Pero, en lugar de cuerdas, utilizaba las paredes de de su covacha, donde iba pegando los papeles que llenaba ociosamente con su pincel y que posteriormente fueron recopilados por Imagawa Ryoshun. Al comienzo de sus Ocurrencias de un ocioso, escribe:

«En medio del ocio, en este océano de paz, paso los días inclinado sobre el tintero, tratando de recoger en el papel las descabelladas ocurrencias que cruzan por mi mente. Yo mismo me he quedado sorprendido de tantos desatinos».

§ 17

Un pequeño desvío (opcional) a modo de analogía:

Piénsese en la estonopografía (“estenopo”=“agujero”, “grafía”=“escritura”). Escritura a través de un agujero. Escritura espectral de las formas en disolución. La estenopografía es a la imagen fotográfica lo que la cuadernística a la palabra escrita.

El escritor estenopógrafo espera mientras su caja negra recoge los fantasmas. Mira fijamente la escena mientras el agujero absorbe la luz que el objeto devuelve desde un espacio muy diferente al que perciben sus ojos. La espera, la contemplación, invoca y remueve los fantasmas en el interior de la caja negra. Del otro lado del agujero, la presencia pura del objeto se convierte en espectro, en espacio anterior al espacio, en recuerdo puro.

§ 18

En los guateques literarios que se celebran en las azoteas acristaladas de los más altos edificios de las ciudades, se habla de los cuadernistas como escritores en retirada, sujetos aculturados en un mundo completamente nuevo en el que ya no cabe lo único que aprendieron –tal y como lo aprendieron–. Pero eso no es verdad. Los cuadernistas son higienistas, y su retirada no es otra cosa que una avanzadilla.

§ 19

La cuadernística no es una escritura en collage, sino en mosaico. El nombre de esta antigua técnica pictórica proviene del griego μουσειoς (“mouseios”), “relativo a las musas”. Para los romanos, ese arte exquisito y casi imposible solo podía ser inspirado por las musas. Cada fragmento de piedra era un diminuto accidente que encontraba su lugar necesario en el interior de una trama que dependía de la voluntad de las musas. En biología molecular, un mosaico es un organismo que presenta, por error o capricho de las musas, tejidos celulares genéticamente distintos. De la misma manera, en la escritura cuadernística cada fragmento es tan contingente como necesario.

§ 20

Un cuadernista con talento es cien veces un buen escritor.

§ 21

Todo lo que cabe en un cuaderno, por ridículo o peregrino que parezca, es sagrado.

§ 22

Uno de los pocos libro que Yoshida Kenko llevó consigo en su retiro ascético era, por supuesto, el Libro de la almohada, de Sei Shonagon, poeta y cortesana japonesa del siglo del siglo XII. Shonagon, precursora del zuihitsu, género ensayístico japonés cuya denominación podría traducirse como “el correr del pincel”, puede considerarse la fundadora de la cuadernística. Shonagon escribía para sí misma en su “cuaderno de cabecera”, ese que hay que tener siempre a mano cerca de la almohada. Observaciones pasajeras, apuntes de sociedad, sutiles agudezas, breves instantáneas, listados de cosas que atraen su atención, bocetos de poemas, pequeñas narraciones, pinceladas descriptivas como paisajes en miniatura; todo cabe en ese flujo en el que la mano se mueve con gracia y agilidad e incluso cierta indiferencia. El pincel salta de un motivo a otro sin detenerse más de lo necesario. Importa más el flujo, que las impresiones e ideas salten al cuaderno manteniendo toda su viveza, sin adornos innecesarios. En el penúltimo fragmento de su Libro de la Almohada, confiesa:

«Me propuse llenar los cuadernos con anotaciones sobre hechos raros, historias del pasado, y toda suerte de cosas, incluyendo a menudo la materia más trivial».

§ 23

Un cuaderno, para ser cuadernístico, debe tener un nombre. Porque cada cuaderno pertenece a un mundo y es un mundo. Y los mundos sin nombre son solo pantanos de tiempo. El cuadernista nombra sus cuadernos para que sus cuadernos regresen a él en el momento justo y le devuelvan un nombre y un mundo.

§ 24

Isaac Newton, hijo de analfabetos, consiguió su primer cuaderno a los doce años, con el dinero que su madre le había dado antes de enviarlo al colegio The King’s School, en Grantham. En la primera página de ese cuadernillo escolar con cubierta de vitela escribió: Isacus Newton hunc librum possidet («Isaac Newton posee este libro»).

§ 25

La cuadernística es sana.

§ 26

Todo cuadernista es un calígrafo, aunque su letra solo la entiendan un puñado de critógrafos en todo el mundo, como sucedió con los microgramas de Walser.

§ 27

La escritura de Robert Walser es un intento de desaparición. Para desaparecer, uno puede desintegrarse o hacerse infinitamente pequeño. Walser optó por lo segundo, sobre todo desde su ingreso en el sanatorio psiquiátrico de Herisau. Los 526 pliegos que integran “El método del lápiz” fueron compuestos con una microscópica caligrafía gótica en cuyo desciframiento los investigadores se han demorado cuatro décadas. Fue en los años 20 cuando Walser decidió pasarse al lápiz, en un intento –como confesó en alguna ocasión– de regresar a los orígenes de la escritura, a los tiempos del cuadernillo escolar. Con el lápiz, todo lo escrito es virtualmente efímero. Pero hay quizá otra razón, más técnica, que lo emparenta con Höhl: una necesidad de abolir la linealidad del acto de escribir. Eliminar esa linealidad equivale a abrir la escritura a todas sus posibilidades. Los estímulos pueden venir de cualquier lado, en cualquier dirección y en cualquier momento. Y cada momento es un nuevo comienzo. No en vano, para muchos críticos, Walser es un “escritor sin motivo”, y su obra, una deriva ociosa e indolente sobre la vanidad del mundo. Hacerse pequeño e ingrávido hasta desaparecer.

§ 28

Para el cuadernista, el cuaderno es el camino y es el pan.

 

A fine binding of Moby Dick

Ieva Rusteikaitė aka. Siberiana, a chief bookbinder of Siberiana Books, and as a member of ARA Belgica had participated in a exhibition, called “Reliures océanes / Ocean bindings” organized by ARA France and held in Paris on 17th of November-12th of December of 2016.

Moby Dick or the Whale
A fine binding of Melville’s Moby Dick. See more on the ARA Belgica website.

Siberiana presented a fine binding of Lithuanian edition of Melville’s “Moby Dick, the Whale”, which soon will be exposed in our website with more details. For the moment we are eager to see the catalogue of the exhibition which also represents a spectrum of contemporary fine bindings.

In the meantime, Siberiana keeps busy with her new work on the next exhibition, organized by ARA Belgica. 

Decorated papers in the covers of librettos of opera

In the beginning of July of 2016 I finished my study on techniques of decorated papers of the second half of 18th century, which was presented as a final work of the Master of Direction of Projects in Conservation-Restoration at University of Barcelona.

 

xviii-3226t copia
A sample of decorated paper in the cover of libretto. Nº XVIII-3226, Biblioteca de Reserva of University of Barcelona (source).

 

During the work,  I also made few experiments on making some samples of decorated paper by myself in order to define precisely the features of traditional paper decoration techniques. I also made a reconstruction of the binding structure of a sample of libretto of opera.

I hope to continue to work on this interesting topic in other cultural and historical contexts in the very near future. Here I submbit a summary of my work in English:

“Decorated paper in the collection of librettos of opera of the University of Barcelona”

Summary

The main objective of the present study consists of the investigation and description of a collection of librettos of opera preserved in the Library of University of Barcelona (Biblioteca de Reserva de la Universitat de Barcelona). The study also makes a special focus on the techniques of manufacturing of decorated papers used in the covers of the documents. Moreover this investigation reflects on current limits of the researches made on decorated paper. Unlike most of the studies which are based on a synthetic approach embracing the whole history of paper decoration techniques, the present study provides an analytical view, combined with a perspective from book an paper conservation, applied to a particular case of the collection of librettos. The study presents a detailed description of seventy-six specimens of the collection made during individual examination of every document and it’s conditions of conservation.  A map of quantitative and qualitative information showing the structures of binding, printing processes, a typology of paper decoration techniques and pathologies of their conservation status was created, according to the results of the examination of the collection. Finally, some proposals for the better preservation are made and the description of the collection is amplified by contextualizing the types of paper decoration found in the collection through comparison with similar examples, available in other European libraries, including the same editions of librettos preserved in the Library of Catalonia (Biblioteca de Catalunya).

 

Archeology of bindings

On 2nd – 4th of June I had an opportunity to participate in a course about the typology of the bindings of the 15th-16th centuries, organized by the conservators of the restoration studio of the Monastery of Sant Pere de les Puel·les (Barcelona) and conservator-restorer Arsenio Sánchez Hernampérez (National Library of Spain, Madrid).

 

curso_arsenio
Arsenio Sánchez Hernampérez during the course showing how to make a headband

 

The course was specially focused on the so called archeology of bindings, a discipline which aim is to give back the importance to the bindings of the books preserved in libraries and archives. Although sounds a little bit strange, until very recent times many of the binding structures were considered as a secondary part of the book. Considering binding only as a functional protective part of medium of a textual information, many of them were dismantled, removed or replaced by new ones. The only exception of deeper study of bindings was exceptionally related with  documentation of decorative elements based on esthetic perspective.

Archeology of bindings offers a different perspective and reveals not only a  history of evolution of the shapes of the book, whether it is “beautiful” or not from the perspective of history of art,  but also contributes to the  practical knowledge of the craft of bookbindery and it’s development. An “archeological” study of binding besides of showing the structural information in all it’s layers, also attempts to detect it’s relations with particular cultural and social contexts.

This particular course was focused on bindings of Iberian Peninsula of 15th and 16th centuries, including some samples of earlier periods. The first day was dedicated to the theoretical introduction to the archeology of bindings accompanied by a visit to the impressive ecclesiastical archives of the cathedral of Vic, a beautiful Catalonian town.

 

archivo_vic_patio

 

archivo_vic
Ecclesiastic Archive of Vic

 

The next days were dedicated for manufacturing of two models of samples of binding structures popular in Iberian Peninsula in 14th-16th centuries. One model represented a gothic style binding, often related with local mudéjar decorative style. The raised bounds on the spine are thickly covered by a thread and heavy wooden boards are partly covered by leather often decorated by small metal nails.

 

akdjf
Samples of gothic mudéjar of Cathedral of Toledo. (source of the picture)

 

A model of 15th-16th centuries half leather gothic binding
A model of 15th-16th centuries half leather gothic binding. See more in the detailed description.

 

The second model was a reconstruction of an Oriental type of alum leather binding with a flapping element on it’s right side. This particular type of binding represents the fusion of Oriental and Western traditions of binding, as a result of a specific cultural context of Iberian Peninsula where main bookbinders at that time were members of Jewish and Arab communities.

 

An example of binding with a flapping element on the side in the Cathedral Archive of Murcia (source of the picture)
A sample of binding with a flap on the right side in the Cathedral Archive of Murcia (source of the picture)

 

A model of oriental type of binding structure
A model of Oriental type of binding structure. See more details on the description.

To sum up, besides the archeological study of antique bindings which contributes to the knowledge of local traditions and development of the bookbindery, a special call for the attention to every type of binding, including the modern one, should be noticed. Modern bindings, starting from 18th century that form a great part of the archives of Western libraries, often still are not considered enough valuable for it’s special study. However these bindings, as well as those paperback editions, from the conservative point of view, should be considered in the same way as the antique ones, as they are the part of our bibliographical heritage that represents a particular historical period of the evolution of book. Manufacturing the models and reconstructions of particular bindings allows to understand better those structural decisions and gestures made by bookbinders in the past.

Some notes on decorated papers

 

xviii-3205_1_
A small book of libretto of opera covered by paste paper (source)

Lately I’m working on a study about decorated papers used for covers of XVIIIth century librettos of opera. This slow work is mainly dedicated to the description of decorating techniques with some intention to propose a sort of taxonomy of decorated papers, that actually reminds some kind of botanical or zoological classification of immense variety and families of “species” of the decoration.

It seems that the oldest european decorated paper is dated on the second half of XVth century. The monochrome red decoration was applied by simple brush to the back of the playing cards in Stuttgart city.

xviii-3225_1_
An example of a french type of “domino” paper decorated by woodcut print and painted by hand (source)

Another old technique is woodcut printing that was used not only for artwork or illustration, but as well for decoration of fabrics and playing cards.

Meanwhile likely most exotic technique, the marbling, was introduced step by step by travelers to and from the Middle East and it was only around XVIth century when europeans finally learned secrets about the peculiar ingredients and achieved required technical skills.

xviii-3216
Marbled paper (source)

However the true golden age of decorated papers in Europe was the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, when new techniques such as precious embossed and gilt paper was introduced in  to the market.

In any case, it seems that originally decorated papers were introduced into the european everyday’s life as a replacement of precious oriental fabrics and tissues. Very often the same old masters of old textile industry were involved into the decoration of paper. It was a much cheaper material of the lining of big and small boxes, inside of the wardrobes, drawers or chests,  it was used for endsheets of the bigger books or for covers of the smaller ones, even just for wrapping of goods and presents, and finally it became a material to decorate the walls.

xviii-3319
Gilt brocade paper (source)

Phenomenologically speaking, we have a material that had so much to do with interiority, even if you see these papers not only inside, but on top as well. As a decoration of enclosed, intimate and even occult spaces these papers presented the same qualities as a mother-of-pearl inside the shell.

In this way the flatness and superficiality that traditionally were attributed to the decoration get a sort of deeper layer of significance. What is more, with their repetitive tiny patterns these lining materials even extends these enclosed and bounded spaces into something much wider and more abstract.

 

Reiseapotheke GNM
Travel pharmacy box of XVIII century with lining of gilt brocade paper (source)

 

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XIX century poison cabinet with marbled edges and shaped as book (source)

 

The pleasant part of the study includes a contemplation of these irregular prints and color patterns, so often too naive for our contemporary eyes and taste. Probably the great majority of contemporary designers delighted by these smooth perfect and delicately shaded products couldn’t easily appreciate, for example, these paste paper patterns, too irregular, too baroque, too picturesque for our nowadays lineal (in Wölfflin’s sense) taste, which is still so rooted in the functionalist esthetics.

The study of decorated papers provokes a natural wish to understand how exactly these paper decorators and bookbinders worked on these designs and what kind of techniques they applied. This inspires to try to recreate or improvise with some patterns by myself. Just like these two old style notebooks.

 

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My own paste paper notebooks

 

For a label for the title I used this brilliant old idea of labels cut of paper that could be shaped in very sophisticated ways.

A book cover with Morvian paste paper of XVIIIth century and complicated shape of label of (source)
Paperlabel
A book with oval label (source)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart of these questions, the contemplation of these prints also makes me think about that sort of ephemeral craft, that was meant to be used not as the Art in the first place, but as an applied art and decoration. It is a strange transformation when the beautiful and banal surprisingly overcomes its own ephemerality and becomes a part of humankind history.

 

Strange proposal: a notebook for a poem

Two weeks ago Siberiana Books had a pleasure to receive the message of a passionate note-taker, Chris from UK. After visiting our site he made a proposal which represents the real spirit of cuadernística.

Chris wrote us:

I have forever been searching for ‘the’ notebook I had in my mind. I love Victorian notebooks and marbled paper. Then I saw my notebook- you made it! When I saw the picture I thought it was another antique one that someone photographed. Oh, it was meant to be.

His proposal consisted of ordering two marbled notebooks: one for it’s ordinary price and the second one for a Poem that has to encompass the spirit of Siberiana. Of course we agreed as it was impposible to reject this curious and quadernistic kind of proposal.

When Chris sent us a Poem to evaluate, we applied all our knowledge of bookbindery, handwriting, semiopoetics, botany and other pataphysical disciplines and announced our verdict:

the poem is good and perfectly exchangeable for one good notebook.

Here it is the Poem:

chrispoem

 

We appreciate this initiative of Chris that, in a way, made us appear in this beautiful poem and owe him a good marbled notebooks.

That’s how worldwide note-takers and quadernists get to know each other. ¡Viva la cuadernística!