Report from CODEX

I went last month to the CODEX Book Fair and Symposium. CODEX is big, too big, perhaps, with nearly 180 tables. So many books, people, conversations, so much over-stimulation. The question between marathon sessions — at the Fair itself, on the bus, in the bar, at dinner, at coffee, was "What did you see?"


This little book, no more than five or six inches tall, was what I talked about first when asked. The wooden covers are chamfered, rounded, to make you want to pick them up. But watch out! The book nearly flies out of your hand, because that is cedar wood, so light, so unexpected.
The text pages are Japanese paper, also light and airy, and printed only on one side, while the edges are left as the paper maker made them, and are soft and feathery. I sat, holding the book and turning the pages while speaking to the artist, Leonard Seastone. A good person, fun to talk to, and a good and thoughtful printer. It is always worth while to talk to Leonard about the decisions he has made in his work, but this time I also was just looking for an excuse to continue to hold the book a little longer.
Leonard Seastone's hands holding his book.

The text is poetry, also ethereal, minimal. Leonard calls the illustrations ideograms. They look a bit like Chinese characters, but if you take more time and look closely, they are actually constructions of Roman letters, spelling a word from or inspired by the poem, in this case "black." They make me think of Xu Bing's Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy. They also remind me of Rudolph Koch's or Fritz Kredel's woodcuts of symbols and letters, and of early woodcut printers' marks, like Caxton's or Wynken de Worde's.

The text of The Delicate Work of Song is by Ronald Baatz; the ideograms by Guyang Chen. It was designed by Guyang Chen and Leonard Seastone.

Reader, I bought the book. You can see it, and hold it, for yourself, once it is delivered and appears in CLIO.



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