Bill of Fare
composed by Sir Drew of Rob
The concept for my final book arts project is an imitation menu for upper crust royalty called Bill of Fare. It was inspired by a trip to Colonial Williamsburg and a delicious meal with good friends. I incorporated the tone and typography of historical “Bill of Fare” documents into the construction of the book. Within the descriptions of the food options, I wrote some short poems. The result was a mixture of a formal structure like a fancy menu with quirky blurbs that won’t necessarily make you hungry.
Bill of Fare was a material-based project, in the sense that I began with the materials. The writing came later. I began by researching the conventions of menu design and the typical ways in which menus are produced. When I had an idea about the size/composition of the stab-bound book I would need, I made a list of materials. My first challenge was acquiring the materials I wanted. The book size I wanted required lots of binder board, chipboard and artist paper. Luckily, I found exactly the type of paper I had imagined at Plaza Art. It’s a dark red faux-leather paper that’s thick, which makes it easy to work with.
My first mockup only had a little bit of text in it, but using the materials gave me a good idea of what content I wanted to write. The second mockup was a tremendous success, and not much changed in the final product. The craftsmanship of the book can be seen by how much it resembles a fancy menu (I think). There is a cutout window on the front cover for the title. There are translucent pieces of paper (tracing) before and after the text block, with the half-title printed on the front one overlapping the full title. I used a thicker style of sketch paper for the inside pages to add authenticity to the “age” of the writing. I also used red ink for all of the glyphs so that they stand apart from the black text.
I had mostly successes in constructing the book. My paper choices all came together nicely. The one difficulty I had was with the head/tail turn-ins. I needed to add small strips of the artist paper down before placing the endpaper to hide all of the cover board. Assembly was a cinch with Meredith’s advice. I found the exact kind of fasteners I was looking for and I borrowed her punching tool to make the correct size holes. My main failure was during the first mockup and printing on the vellum I purchased. This did not work, but Saralyn’s tracing paper worked perfectly.
I thought I creatively explored the stab-bound form, compared to the simple one we did in class. I stretched the form by applying it to a form (menu) that we see in the real world. I rotated it to portrait, made it skinnier, added a cover insert, and lengthened its height. It originally had three holes, but I think the four-hole pattern we used in class looks professional, so I went with that. I also experimented with ways to get the few pages to stay still while I punched the holes, which is always difficult. Some techniques didn’t work, but overall the holes were fairly consistent.
The content of the book is linked directly to the form of the book. The reader recognizes the shape of a menu, the title page confirms that it is a menu, and the format looks familiar like one. However, the meaning of the content may be a surprise, even though it is presented in the typical fashion of meal item descriptions. I think the introduction on the title page gives the impression that this will be a humorous piece. The menu is called “Bill of Fare,” composed by Sir Drew of Rob. I chose this name because it fits the colonial-era vibe I was imitating throughout the book. I’ve calculated a unit price of $40 per menu.
If I were to make this book over again, I would like make it more authentic looking by possibly using worn paper and authentic leather/fasteners. These materials were just far too expensive and out of the scope of this project. As a future project, I’m interested in “reconstructing” historical books on the outside with contemporary writing on the inside. I wonder what the effect would be.