word craft


Holding beauty

Lindisfarne Gospels, pg 700, British Museum in LondonMy next book, Catch You Lat­er, Trai­tor is well into pro­duc­tion. To be pub­lished in the win­ter of 2015, my com­put­er gen­er­at­ed text is grad­u­al­ly being trans­formed into a book, a book that will be pub­lished with x num­ber of copies—I have no idea how many, much less how it will be received. Nonethe­less, as this evo­lu­tion hap­pens, the book grad­u­al­ly becomes an object.

It is, I think, impor­tant to real­ize that the con­tent of a book—that which an author has writ­ten (with the major sup­port of edi­tor, copy­ed­i­tor, and proofreaders)—is only a part of what makes a book a book. Grant­ed that the text is the key part of a book, there is also the design of the pages, the art of the cov­er, the design of the cov­er, the lay­out of the book, the kind of paper on which the book is print­ed, the bind­ing of the book, the way the pages are put togeth­er, the choice of font for the text, and so forth, all phys­i­cal attrib­ut­es that make a book a book.

In this day and age of dig­i­tal texts, I think we some­times for­get that a book is—or should be—in itself a work of art. The way a book feels in your hands, holds the eye, can be and should be in itself an aes­thet­ic expe­ri­ence. A well-craft­ed book adds immea­sur­ably to the plea­sures of read­ing. We intro­duce young peo­ple to books with pic­ture books, whose very premise is they are a delight to the eye. We revere The Book of Kells not mere­ly for its sacred text, but for its infi­nite beauty.

Obvi­ous­ly, few print­ed books reach such a lev­el as illu­mi­nat­ed man­u­scripts, or even the best of pic­ture books. I sus­pect, how­ev­er, if print pub­lish­ers wish to com­pete with dig­i­tal books they can­not do so with con­tent alone, but with books that are tru­ly won­der­ful to hold and to see.

4 thoughts on “Holding beauty”

  1. I hope pub­lish­ers read this. What you have writ­ten is true and impor­tant to the love of read­ing. I think the phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence of the book is crit­i­cal, not super­flu­ous, to a read­ing culture.

  2. I agree. I love the smell of a book, the actu­al hold­ing a book in my hands and turn­ing the pages. I have a Nook,which I enjoy (I need the back­light and larg­er text now 

  3. I read a book once titled The Fal­con­er’s Knot. It was a mys­tery that took place in a Fran­cis­can fri­ary where the fri­ars hand paint­ed and let­tered all the books they were copy­ing. I loved all the detail described in mak­ing these old, beau­ti­ful books. In our house, we have a few Kin­dles, but noth­ing beats all those good-smelling books over­tak­ing our home. Plus, a book just feels bet­ter in my hands than a Kindle.


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