Wednesday 29 April 2015

the thing the book the codex


You know that feeling - when you have a really really good idea and then it turns out that somebody is either doing it already or - even worse - they had had it long before you. You do, don't you? Good. It is not what this blogpost is about. This blogpost is about a curious and fascinating coincidence that is both wonderful and strange - as agent Cooper would say. You know that old saying, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once. This post is about two books.

I recently came across The Thing The Book, published in September 2014 by Chronicle Books in San Francisco. The book was developed by Jonn Herschend and Will Rogan, who are behind The Thing Quaterly - a remarkable assemblage of stuff in a box, conceived by a different artist each time - an enterprise influenced by Aspen's boxes of 1970s.

The Thing The Book is about book as a physical object. It contains contributions from 30 artists - sometimes visual, sometimes verbal - that address different aspects of book. For example, Ed Ruscha did the bookplate, Laurence Weiner did the thumb tab, John Baldessari wrote the epigraph. Then there are articles and visual essays and some beautiful writing, some calligraphy, a flip book, some photography, endnotes, colophon, etc. Some things I enjoyed very much (such as Lucy Pulen's Society of Things, Andrew Hultkrans The fire Time: Razing the Book,  Sarah VanDerBeek Roman Women), while others left me blank (such as Ryan Gander's (Detail from)).

The book is subtitled "Monument to the Book as Object". The authors also say, that the book is "intended to be a physical (and sometimes textual) argument" for book as thing - as their whimsical video suggests: a window support, a chopping board, a coaster. This casual everyday thinginess idea is represented in the promo video, but it is not that explicit in the pages of the book. As for the monumental part - the book is very well executed as an object: every trimming, every part, book detail had been considered visually and conceptually.

However, the most curious thing about the book is, of course, how closely it resembles our Codex: Between This and That. It not just the subject or the structure of the book, it is the content and the look and the general feel of it.* It was conceived at about the same time as ours, except that it was published a year later. You know that old saying, you wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once. This is what this is. 

This wonderful and strange coincidence laid in front of us (CI) last Friday. They have verbal essays and the visual essays! The footnotes! They have the thumb tab too! And the band! And even the yellow!

Oh, I do like The Thing The Book! I believe there is a number of things that are clever and I wish we had used them for our Codex - such as turning elements of book structure into statements/works of art (especially a book mark and a bookplate!); or having Lawrence Weiner to contribute; or printing the book in China, so to achieve this fabulous fabulous quality at a lower cost. On the other had, I have a wicked feeling that I like our Codex better. It is less cluttered, it is clear about the subject and - as a result - it is more consistent as a book. I like the range of our contributors, which covers a broader span of professionals working with books - at various levels of involvement.

However, if I did our Codex again - I would wish to add a bookplate, "printed in China" and a Weiner into it. 

You know that saying, you wait ages for a book to get published and then two come along at once. I do now. This is what this is. 

 * The similarity between then content is not that surprising, I suppose, considering that both books deal with the same subject.


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