Book Arts

Book arts encompass not only the fine art of binding and designing the cover of the book, but other aspects of its creative development, such as letter press printing and paper making. The development of book arts paralleled the evolution of books, with the earliest tomes being hand-crafted works that may have been the masterpiece of a lifetime. For example, European monasteries in the Middle Ages are renowned for their dedication to the creation of original book art. Bible texts were painstakingly written by hand and then illuminated with images or decorative lettering. Thirteenth-century copies of the Koran contain careful lettering as well as dazzling symmetrical geographic designs.

Vintage book art can be easily found on the internet, but creating your own can increase your understanding and enjoyment of the various book arts. Journaling is a great way to record your ideas and artistic endeavors. Gwen Diehn takes the reader through a creative journey in the book arts in The Complete Decorated Journal: A Compendium of Journaling Techniques. Decorated papers get a thorough examination in P. J. M. Marks's An Anthology of Decorated Papers: A Sourcebook for Designers. David Hughes's First Steps in Letterpress offers a very brief overview of how to get started with this ancient craft. Delving into bookbinding? Alisa Golden's Making Handmade Books: 100+ Bindings, Structures & Forms can provide a foundation for further imaginative adventures.

Those interested in the history of the book arts can find many gems, such as Otto Pächt's Book Illumination in the Middle Ages (Studies in Medieval and Early Renaissance Art History), which examines the art of illuminating texts. Bibliophiles (or merely the curious) can buy book art directly from artists or create their own pieces. With the wealth of fascinating reads about paper making, lettering, illustration, design, and binding, a collector's shelves (and craft table) need never be empty.