Midterm self-evaluation

▪   What is the concept for my book? In what ways is that concept creative and original?

My overall concept is a 1940 industrial nostalgia. (I promise that exists.)

The concept for my book begins with Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Library of Babel,” published in 1941.  It’s a dense short story that explores the containment of the universe in a library, or better yet, in the words that can be made by a few letters. 

My goal has been to use the pamphlet form to combine content and form into something challenging and original.  My hope and work has been to take the short story’s title literally (brick and mortar library), and use materials that suggest so:  parchment paper for wood, leather for binding, red paper for the brick, metal rivets for (pre-plastic, pre-digital) industrial construction, red and white tape to suggest an old, re-circulated volume, and rubber stamps such as those used to record a book’s due/return date.  Thus, the form speaks to the content and vice versa.  My goal was for the person handling the book to be as lost in the meaning of the book as one is meant to be lost in Borges’ short story about the interminable library/language/universe.  On the back cover, the book has been checked out of the Library of Babel, but has yet to be returned.  Thus, the form makes the person holding the book complicit in its intent – it’s as if he/she has not and cannot return the book to the library nor leave the brick and mortar building, nor the house of language.

I originally wanted to do something bulky, like a book made of wood.  I made a huge three page wooden book for the Creativity class, but with wise guidance, I scrapped that for this midterm assignment.  I opted for more pliable materials, once that are more easily replicable.

My first draft began with a three day battle with booklet printing and some gold ribbon.  Thank goodness for second and third drafts.

I wanted to keep the concept of something dense and bulky, so I decided to mimic the materials I’d ideally like to use (wood, brick, thick leather).  I opted for parchment card stock for the cover to replicate the wood.  I used brick red colored paper for the text as it feels heavy, like a brick in one’s hand.  I added metal rivets.  The binding is a thin, light brown leather string.  I originally tried a thicker red leather lace, but the width of it aggravated the holes.  I purposefully stitched opposite of the pamphlet stitch as to keep the outside looking clean along the spine.  The type face on the cover is Lucinda typewriter in the effort to capture nostalgia.  Finally, I created a stamp as if the book were checked out of The Library of Babel, and then stamped some dates on the back cover. 

▪   In what ways does my concept challenge me creatively and structurally?

This concept demanded the combination of rigid, structured lines with meaty materials.  Mastering InDesign booklet printing was the most challenging part of this journey.  After that, I wanted to keep the lines of the pamphlet clean, but use materials to suggest an olden, industrial feel.  Combining the two pieces/parts of this concept has been challenging and rewarding.  

▪   What is the level of craftsmanship that I have brought to the book? What successes and failures did I have in constructing the book?

Again, I don’t know if discerning InDesign qualifies as craftsmanship, but I did spend over 7 hours trying to print the text and cover.  Other than that, I have three mock-ups that led me to the final product.  My craftsmanship evolved, and became tidier and reflective of the concept I have been trying to achieve. 

I purposefully wove the leather binding in the opposite stitching direction of what was shown on the handout.  I tried doing it where the tie-off would be outside on the spine (that’s what I originally wanted, in red leather lace), but it made the book look sloppy.  So I stitched with a thinner, lighter colored leather string and tied it off in the center of the signature. 

I also added small, metal rivets.  I tried larger rivets that have to be nailed, but they were too bulky for the card stock.  The smaller ones worked better with the material and the look I wanted.

The red and white packaging tape gives the inside covers a visual anchor, but hopefully also suggests construction and/or book re-circulation.  I think some kitchen tables were also finished in this design in formica in the 1940’s.

I also purchased a “create your own stamp” kit so that I could use a fictitious library address on the back cover of the book.  I then stamped “loaned” dates and “returned” dates.  I left the last return date spot blank as if the book were forever on loan or lost.

▪   In what ways have I fully explored and even stretched the book form I used?

The pamphlet looks like a pamphlet, not like a lamp or a tiger; however, I have stretched and explored the form by using realistic materials to achieve an industrial look.  I think it would have been much less of a stretch for me to cut and past text onto construction paper or printer paper; however, creating the template with InDesign was a stretch for me if not for the form.  I think the simple, clean adornments stretch the book form from an ordinary item into a relic-looking piece of book art.  I could have achieved something rough-looking, but combining the format of InDesign with the mimicking materials allowed me to explore the form far beyond where I would have gone with a simple printing and an ex-acto knife.  Finally, I think I’ve fully explored and stretched the pamphlet style as I blend form (leather, metal – brick and mortar) with content (letters, library, universe).

▪   How is the form of the book linked to the content of the book?

I set out to create this book around the content.  Because it was too cumbersome to use wood and thick, leather binding, I opted for replicas:  parchment paper stock, thin leather string, and metal rivets as well as rubber stamps.  I wanted the book to look and feel like a 1940’s library book:  clean lines with original materials.  My hope is the rubber stamps (the name of the library and the dates) on the back cover make the final link between form and content. 

▪   What graphic and typographic choices did I make for this book and why? How do these elements impact the book and my concept?

I chose Lucinda typewriter for the cover because, again, I wanted to capture the nostalgic feel of a 1940’s book.  The text has pulled quotes (they are not from the actual text, but rather quotes by the author).  The title is right-justified with no more than three letters per line.  I wanted the title to resemble library stacks:  books on top of books on top of books, or, the stack of language. 

I wanted to break up the monotony of the printed text with quotations and with columns.  The text is printed in Candara 14 point:  my hope is that it is 1) easy to read and 2) clean, typewriter-y looking.  These elements contribute to the library-book feel of the 1940’s that I am trying to capture. 

▪   What is the name/title of my book, and why was that name/title selected?

The title is “The Library of Babel.”  My understanding was that it should reflect the title of the original work we chose.  I also like the title as it relates to the materials I used.  The word library has a brick and mortar feel, while the whole title, “The Library of Babel,” has a panicky, never-ending feel.  Again, I right-justified the title on the cover in order to relate form and content:  the library of words, the library of books, the library of brick and mortar that you imagine and that you have in your hands when you hold this edition.

  • If I were to make this book over again, what things would I change (in process, concept, and construction), and why?

Hm, I might go to tutoring for InDesign so as to have spent less time on formatting and more time on production.  Nevertheless, I am pleased with the final product:  it’s a far cry from the mock-up I presented in class just a day ago.  I value the process of gathering and pricing materials, creating a production schedule, and making a mock-up…or three.  I might use something even heavier for the cover other than card stock, but I’m content with what I’ve got.

This has been a rewarding process.   It’s cool to hold the end result (X10) in my hand and know what it’s taken to get from there to here.  And it’s been fun.  🙂


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