Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal

Since reading the Winterson text I have been thinking of the Library of Ashurbanipal; so when Ronnie and Amanda posted about the Library of Alexandria the other week it reminded me and I thought I had better post something about it as I think it is going to highly influence my book. Ok, so quick history lesson for those who don'y know about the library:

The library itself was set up in Nineveh by King Ashurbanipal of the Assyrian Empire. It was where the Flood Tablet upon which the Epic of Gilgamesh was discovered. It was a library of thousands of clay tablets with cuneiform writing. The guys who discovered it however were definitely not librarians and not particularly professional archaeologists either as they managed to jumble all the tablet fragments up together and didn't make any record of where exactly they were found. This has made the efforts of archaeologists and scholars much harder now, and some of the fragments may now never be reunited with their other halves.

Cuneiform is a really interesting written language and consists of scribes pressing into wet clay to produce indentations and thus creating letters and words. The clay would then have been baked in the sun to dry. Creating some pretty hefty books! It is thought that this mixture of heat, sun and sandy climate is what helped preserve such old writing.

Nineveh is where modern Iraq now stands. I have been recently asked to be involved in another book arts project that relates to a certain street in Iraq; Al-Mutanabbi Street. You can find out more about the project here. I am telling you all this as ideas for both BookArtObject and Al-Mutanabbi Street are becoming intertwined. I think I will be making different books for each but the ideas will be linked of course.

I have a few days off next week so hopefully I will knock out a few ideas in my studio and will progress a bit in both projects. Until then!



One of the complete joys of our new house is that I have a quiet sitting area with no television but lots of books. The TV is down the other end of the house so in the evenings this is mostly my space, where I can sit and read/knit/tat/plot/do whatever I want without a flicker in the corner of my eye from the idiot box (although I should say that I do watch TV now and again...).

I didn't buy "The History of Farting", in case you're wondering... it was given to us by our lovely friends Elsbeth and Linda and I'd forgotten it was on the shelf until I uploaded this photo! Never mind.

So what's this got to do with our book project? Nothing, really! It is a completely opportunistic post inspired by the photos of other people's libraries on the MyFrenchKitchen blog that Dinahmow referred to in the previous post! Very inspiring and totally unlike anything I shall ever achieve... I am, however, beginning to consider the form of my Winterson book and I keep coming back to the scroll. It's very obvious, given the subject matter, but it also gives me the chance to tunnel through the words. I'm still thinking, while getting used to working in my new studio space, but at least I can sit here in the evenings knowing that my subconscious is getting on with things.


While I am not in the Winterson group for our project, I do love books and I am grateful for libraries, especially when I am new in town and my own "treasures" are god-knows-where" in storage.

I culled quite a few before moving to our present house. Some, of course, are like limbs and I can't, simply CAN'T part with them!

So when a blog friend posted this today, I thought of the BAO group.

You'll have to read the recipe before you get to the booky bit, but hey! food is fun, too, right?

It's lunchtime Chez Dinahmow and Ronelle has made me hungry...

Sunday, October 24, 2010



Just thought I'd let you all know that I'm back in the saddle again, working on the Claire Beynon poem. Here's the first layer of my idea. One down, five to go. Once I've finished this, I'm going to tackle the Winterson piece, since it was my idea :)

I'm not quite sure of final edition numbers (how many do I have to make for the participants of this particular batch?) but I'm printing lots to make sure I get things right, so I should be ok. Woops, I just read the last post -- see, always check before you open your mouth. Sigh. Good, I will have *plenty*.


Trespec, man. I'm having so much fun. It's great having a semester away from my normal job.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Decision time

Greetings from Coffs Harbour! Great to see how many people are following this blog - my "following" stuff doesn't always work (not sure why and too bored to chase it up - probably some weird technical glitch to do with Blogger's software not being compatible with my state of the art laptop, ha, ha!) but I glimpsed the figure of 55 followers just now. Wow! Lovely to have you all aboard.

Anyway, it's time for an update as to who is doing what and how many etc. Now that we have permission from both authors to use their texts it is time to decide which one you'd like to do. I think I've got the lists right so far, but I haven't heard from Louise and Ellen yet, who were waiting to see if we got permission to use the Winterson text, I think.

At the moment it looks like this:

Jeanette Winterson (8 artists, so edition size needs to be at least 10: one each for participants plus one for the author and one for exhibition)

Sara (doing both)
Caren (doing both)

Claire Beynon (also 8 artists so far, so same rules apply)

Sara (doing both)
Caren (doing both)

Obviously adding Ellen and Louise's names to one or other list will increase the edition size. As I mentioned before, I'm planning to do an edition of 15, which would leave me with spares!

Please correct me if I'm wrong: probably best to send me an email, just in case your choices get hidden among the comments. Many thanks, Sara x

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

library of alexandria (part two?)

hi-dee-ho booky folk

I hinted in comments to Amanda's previous post on the Library of Alexandria that my MFA reserach has taken me right past some juicy bits about the library this year - and right now I'm writing a chapter on biblioclasm as part of my MFA exegesis - I thought I'd share with you what I've written about the Library as the Winterson booky crew (and you others!) might find it interesting/useful...... by all means if you've stumbled over anything that is different to what I'm plonking - well I'm all ears (and typing fingers!)

anyhow - here's my exegesis snippet regards Alexandria.....

"The Library of Alexandria was established at Alexandria, Egypt under the reigns of Ptolemy I & II (C3rd BCE), and has subsequently entered legend as the greatest library of the ancient world. It reportedly held some 600 000 'books' – that is, papyrus scrolls. The exact figure and nature of the library's contents continues to be in dispute, but few doubt the existence or the actual and symbolic meaning of the Library of Alexandria. Tales of the destruction of the great Library date from only a few centuries after its demise.  Plutarch claims that the Library was destroyed by Casear in 48 B.C.E; Edward Gibbons claims the library was lost under the rule of christian patriarch of Alexandria, Theophilus,  when he established a church on the site of the temple of Serapis in 390AD; while other sources blame the conquest of the Moslim, Caliph Omar in 640 AD. It is strangely telling that the three main stories of the library's destruction encompasses one secular, and two differing religious culprits.

Modern historians have concluded that there appears not to have been a single fire that destroyed a single building acting as the great Library, but rather the Library consisted of a series of separate buildings that individually met with a sad fate - and that all tales of destruction may hold a modicum of 'truth', but that it is more likely the Library disintegrated over the centuries through neglect, political turmoil (as noted), and changes in social, cultural and economic conditions. The destruction of the great Library of Alexandria however remains a totem of both the power and fragility of books/knowledge, and of how religious/cultural/political intolerance may bring about the intentional suppression of knowledge......"

etc etc etc....... ( sorry but footnotes don't travel into blogger  - if you want I'll let you know some of the sources...)

now what isn't told above (as it doesn't directly relate to what I need to write about) is - in Plutarchs account ('its all jules' fault') - Ceasar accidentally/deliberately sent flaming ships to the shore and before you could say 'holy book burning batman' the library was burnt to the ground...... then with Gibbons (and it is noted by other historians/ critics that Gibbons was somewhat prejudiced against the Catholic Church - and thus keen to lay the blame at the vatican's feet) there is a whole lot of MA rated tales (virgins burned, and more! phworrrr it's gory and graphic)... and as for Omar Caliph (aka - that long name you prattled off Amanda) - wellllll many historians now seem to think that the Library was already pretty buggered by the time he got there - but there was one rippa quote credited to the Omar that goes:
"As for the books you mentioned here is my reply. If their content is in accordance with the book of Allah, we may do without them, for in that case the book of Allah more than sufficies. If on the other hand, they contain matter not in accordance with the book of Allah, there can be no need to preserve them. Proceed then and destroy them."
and that's still used as the basis for believing Omar (Umar) Caliph was the ultimate destroyer of the Library of Alexandria.

Ahhhhhh don't you just love a good mystery.....

welllllll I've procrastinated nicely for a few minutes.... time to get back into more tales of burning (and otherwise destroyed) books - exegesis chapter is due in 14 days time (gulp!)

ps blogger has image upload disabled atm ... so you'll get no illustrations of burning books and what-not right now.....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Great Library of Alexandria

Being the philistine that I am, with an almost purely science-based education until about 15 years ago, I hadn’t heard of this Lost Wonder of the Ancient World.

So now we have the go-ahead from Jeanette Winterson and her publishers, I thought it was time to do a little research.

After quickly scanning Wikipedia for a brief overview, my first question was whether this library had been depicted in any famous paintings. But the answer appears to be no, at least according to google.

However, I did discover an Oliver Stone movie entitled Alexander the Great, in which it was recreated. Below is a shot of the atrium from the movie. I’m sure it’s absolutely historically accurate!!


Google images did reveal a few more representations of the library, and the one below seems somewhat in keeping with Winterson’s vision, at least in terms of the ladders, if not the small boys like chimney sweeps.


great library 

I found it pretty interesting that the controversy of how the library was destroyed (was it down to Julius Caesar, Emperor Aurelian, Pope Theophilus or the Muslim army of Amr ibn al ‘Aas?) still provokes heated debate, especially amongst a certain style of blogger. If you’re interested, there’s one here and here, but be warned: conservative political views are rife.

To finish off I couldn’t resist posting these pictures of the current library. I love this wall with 120 different scripts and the book sculptures (below).

Both these pictures by Danos

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Great news & colophon details

We can use Jeanette Winterson's text! I have just had an email - HOORAY! There is a line of text we must include in the colophon in every book and Jeanette would love to have one complete set of the books. Thanks so much for your patience, thank you Duck for suggesting a magnificent text, and thank you Ms Winterson for your permission and interest! Phew...

PS., YES, I believe we did mention making a complete set of the books inspired by each text for the author. I think it's a nice touch as well as being a good way to spread the word on what we're doing. I am planning to make editions of about 15 books: one for exhibition, one for the author, one for me, 8 or 9 (can't remember!) for the rest of the group and 3 for sale.

PPS., the line in the colophon MUST read as follows in every book in the Winterson group: "Extract by Jeanette Winterson from Art and Lies (© Jeanette Winterson, 1994) is reproduced by permission of PFD (". I have to fill out a licence application for a one-time only use (i.e. for this project only), but the publishers have very kindly waived the fee.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Inspiration reminders

I have spent a bit of time over the weekend, pondering the poem, the book and my response.  My forays have all been very tentative so far, a little drawing here; some jotted notes there; a scanned image in the corner.

Some thoughts are gelling, but I am conscious there are so many things to consider - the words, how to respond, the layout, the format, the binding - that I sense it's going to be a case of just dive in, start something and then the rest may follow. If not, I might freeze and not take off at all!

Here's a shot of one corner of my studio (messy as ever) - with some key words from the poem stuck to one of the shelves to remind me and help me think about my response. I think I am hoping this approach might mean the words and response enter my mind subliminally.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Having some fun (piling up my plate!)

You know me, why get stuck into one or two projects when you can swell the numbers to three, four, five or heck, what about ten? I blame the internet: it's highly likely to get me into trouble. There I am, innocently browsing someone's blog when a sneaky link catches my eye, takes me off to somewhere unintended and WHAM! I've signed up for something, my credit card is in all probability shivering in a corner somewhere and my To Do list has suddenly grown. &^%#! *&^%! (the sound of me giving myself a mental head-slap)

Yep, well, it's happened again.

Some of you may already subscribe to the Book Arts Listserve; if you don't, you might find it very interesting. On the one hand you can find yourself inundated with information about everything from technical details of paper coatings to instructions about making particular book structures or rants about digitisation or e-book readers. I've set up my email so that Book Arts Listserve emails go into a separate folder and every now and again I go in, skim read twenty emails at a time, delete the ones I don't want and keep the useful ones.

Anyhoo, a couple of months ago a call for entries from The Philadelphia Center for the Book caught my eye, asking for artists' books to be interpreted in dance. I emailed the lovely Amanda and found out that yes, I could send off my Dobson book to them for consideration if I was willing to become their first overseas member. So I have, and I did, although I haven't yet heard whether my book made the cut.

To cut a long story short (yawn), as part of my membership I get to put a bit of blurb about me and BookArtObject up on the PCB website (it's not there yet but it will be there shortly), and that led to me surfing links for some other PCB members which took me to Pat Badt's blog which took me off to The Art House Co-op (I love co-operatives!), which in turn took me off to The Sketchbook Project and I was doomed. You see what happened? I started off with a perfectly respectable institution and ended up getting sucked in by the thought of another lovely Moleskine notebook and a deadline (apparently I also love deadlines), and now I've got another line on my To Do list. I should probably never be allowed near the Internet again.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Yes, I could have sent emails or posted this on my blog, but it seems so very BAO related...I decided to post here.

Coming, as I do, from a rural area, I know how vital library links were/are.

We had a small library in our town, but what we all looked forward to was the arrival of a huge truck, bearing "new" books! The Community Library Service!

If you can imagine how a junkie might look forward to his next fix...

Long, long before people talked of such a concept as "artist books" I remember the CLS delivering a sort of diorama of library books. Dozens of miniature "books" on a board, set out to look like library shelves, right down to a librarian's date stamp pen! (You have to be my age to understand that!)

And this display was ours to look at, to ponder until the truck returned, 3 months [I think] later, to collect the books.

With all the current hyperbole about the internet replacing books...I don't buy it. Do you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Experiments & Some Good News!

Just doing some more experiments with freezing stuff in ice. I've started off freezing a feather and thought it looked so nice at this stage I would do a few test photos. I will gradually add more water to completely freeze it, but may end up going back to this image. This is for a series I've been doing called Weapons of Hurt & Healing. I've had the ideas in my head for some time and done must of the 'hurt' images. As I came to do the 'healing' I could really only think of one image which was the feather, which represents, birds, nature and wildlife. Now I am a bit unsure about the title for the series, especially after my boyfriend asked "how can you have a weapon of healing?". In some ways I quite like the idea because the concept of a 'weapon' of healing sounds good. What do others think? Initially I was thinking I needed more 'healing' images for the series,  but then I realised that you don't need several weapons of healing. Sometimes all it takes is one thing to heal you.

Now to the good news. I went to see Maria White at the Tate Library on Monday and she has bought my book '7 Signs of Absence' for their collection of Artists Books. I told her all about the project and she seemed quite intrigued that the whole project came about through a blog.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Hello, book folk!

Sitting in here, dosed-up on anti-biotics, my foot propped on a box, I'm catching up on blogs and this , from Book on a Fold, set my heart racing. Within the article is a link to the artist's site (in Dutch, but can be translated) and well worth a look.

I must admit that, being brought up to respect books, I still sometimes wince when I see pages being mutilated, but when the results are this artistic, well, I quickly get over the cringe!

I wonder...will "Paper Wrestling" involve sharp implements...?