Saturday, May 8, 2010

Shelves and Ladders

There is one page left in my current journal. I keep putting off writing in it now, as if I am waiting for some revelatory thing to happen. There has to be some kind of grand finale…so to set the scene, for the new journal. And again, the dilemma – I have to wait for another revelatory thing in order to begin the new one.

So to bide the time, I bind.

Maybe all the revelatory things are flying by my window as I am intricately working.

Sometimes I look up from my work to admire the books on my shelves. I have many, beautiful bindings that I have collected through the years, from flea markets, online auctions, thrift stores & 2nd hand book stores.
They breathe. With their breath, they inspire me. Each an art piece, a meaning, a presentation of substance.

These books I’ll be sharing with you throughout the next few weeks, months… or however long it takes, to select my favourites and the stories they contain.

I’ll begin with one particular binding, ‘Toning Bromides’. In 2002, half way through my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Photography, I was wandering around in Sydney, Australia on the way to the city. I passed Elizabeth’s 2nd Hand Bookstore and as per usual thought I’d ‘just spend a few minutes’ browsing…

I remember the smell…the wooden shelving…the little hubs with hiding spines that I couldn’t read. At that time I was but a snail with my camera-house on my back – I used to take my film camera around with me, a couple of lenses and lots of water. It was a sturdy pack if I saw one but I loved it, lots of shelving inside and an excellent photographer’s bag. I wouldn’t take it off for much, since it was full of prized possessions – used and unused film and expensive cameras (and definitely a journal).

After finding the photography section down the back, I stood below it wondering why it was only two measly shelves way up high, totally out of reach. Peering up, I raised my eyes as far as I could to see the spines, tilting my head on a right angle to try and decipher them. It was after I discovered the olde wooden ladder with wheels that this bookshop visit really took flight.

With pack on, I clambered up the steps with care, recalling my father climbing up his ladder to get on to the roof of our house when I was a child. It never seemed secure to me and I wasn’t that fond of ladders. I saw my cat run up and down it a few times, he thought he was human.

This particular ladder took me to where I wanted to be. I saw the worn, brown spine and made my selection: ‘Toning Bromides & Lantern Slides' by C. Winthrope Somerville.

…opening it revealed heavyweight, thick pages maybe over 150 gsm or so, browned with age.

It was flawless - no tears or signs of dilapidation. I carefully turned the pages to find it was a 1904 publication, at the time making it 98 years old - now making it 106.

I loved the Author's note...

Throughout its printed scientific explanations the previous owner had made notes in pencil – that was it! I wanted to buy it.  So when I saw the price, on the inside cover, I merely had to swallow, as quiet as a mouse, as this particular bookshop possibly didn’t know its true worth: $4.00!

To this day it’s one of my favorite bindings. I recently made a photographer’s book necklace with one of the advertisements from the back pages. I sold it to an American shutterbug, so that was fitting. I wonder if she will write notes in it…

Well, I’m back to my time biding binding.

1 comment:

  1. I love this story!! A journey and a discovery. I can smell the bookstore.


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