In my mind Keith A. Smith is professor emeritus when it comes to thinking about books. He’s been making books for over 40 years and writing about them for at least 25. When I researched the links for this post, I was delighted to see that both of these books have been revised and expanded. These are fundamental reading for understanding the book as object and how its conceptual, editorial and graphic structure interacts with that object.
Although these books are both available through amazon.com, where I would get an associate commission if you bought there, I am linking you directly to Smith’s website and recommend you order from him as small thanks for the tremendous contribution he has made to book arts over his lifetime.
From his product page: “…This is a book on concepts, not how to bind. It is an approach that conceives the book as a visual object not by imposed decoration, but through understanding and applying structure. Group, series and sequence are elaborately discussed and diagrammed. Composing the book, as well as the pictures it contains, creates pacing in turning pages. Just as poetry and cinema are conceived in time, so is a book.”
From his product page: “Structure of the Visual Book introduces strategies for organizing pictures in the book format. Text in the Book Format extends these ideas for the writer and artist working with words and pages. This book is not about binding, computers, design, typography or the history of books, but the possibilities of conceiving text which utilizes the format not to distract, but assist the written word. Text in the Book Format examines the possibilities of conceiving text which utilizes the format to assist the written word. By considering the physicality of the book and the turning pages, text becomes a book experience, rather than a running manuscript.”
I think this is a really important book for personal historians who work in print, as they are often more comfortable working with words rather than images. And while most of Smith’s handmade books start with images, unlike those of personal historians, this book will open your mind to the importance of the visual elements of a book as well as the idea of book as object, not merely the carrier of text.