WORKSHOP: Books, books, books

At ECLA, we are surrounded by books all of the time: by Plato, Homer and Sophocles. But the book as an object is not really something to which we usually pay much attention. It is just a means to an end, an object necessary to convey the ideas and thoughts that interest us. What does the book look like? It doesn’t matter. Usually.

During ECLA week, some of us may have changed our attitudes towards books. Some may have discovered that their importance does not only lie in their content, but that books can also be beautiful. And how nice it can be to worry about the colours of the cover and not whether you will manage to read the 60 pages due for next day.

Had people not invented books, we wouldn’t know anything about “Western European Culture”.  In an opening presentation, Dinu Bodiciu, the Romanian artist leading the book binding workshop, showed us what books looked like a long, long time ago (if you could call them “books”).  Just to give a few examples, at the very beginning, people used to record their ideas on stones and clay tablets, later on papyrus and parchment. Book covers were made  from wood and leather. A book was something very precious and available only to few privileged people.

Books, just like people, have their own anatomy, a spine for instance. Most of all, books can be art. Dinu showed us all sorts of extravagant examples; I especially liked the pillow-book. The idea of “learning overnight” via a direct transfer from pillow into memory is quite tempting.

Theory aside, we couldn’t wait to make our own diaries, notebooks, photo albums etc. Pages and covers needed to be cut, pierced and finally sewn together. The party room of Kuckhoffstrasse 24 soon filled with a happy, busy and creative crowd fighting over glue, paper, awls, chattering and laughing during work. Dinu was a great help to everyone.

Some of us developed unexpected ambitions to “outbind” our mates. Many of us were incredibly persistent. The new élan libraire kept us busy in the party room until long after midnight. With almost childish pride we presented the results of our hard work in the cafeteria: “Look what I have done!!!”

To sum up, it has been a great workshop and maybe, maybe, maybe from now on the “book itself” will command the respect it actually deserves. Books are nice objects after all, and I hope we will think twice before tossing away “The Republic” at the end of the term.

By Judith Schmid (AY 2007, Germany)

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