The end of all things

So, the end of all things indeed. After three years the time has come to close down The Library of Lost Books. What a project it has been!

Image copyright Kayleigh Bestwick for The Library of Lost Books.

The project was the brainchild of Susan Kruse, an artist based in Birmingham who found a cache of discarded library books in the local library and couldn't bear to see them thrown away. She gathered together a group of artists who took those old, damaged and unwanted books and gave them a new lease of life, turning them into the most wonderful works of art.

Clare Whistler's book. Image by David Knight


The project started with no funding but with the help of her family and some very generous supporters via a crowd-funding programme, Susan managed to raise some cash. As word of the project spread other supporters offered help, including Wolverhampton University and Sheaffer.



Determined to show the books at Birmingham Library as part of it's opening festivities, Susan embarked on a long and sometimes difficult battle to bring an exhibition of the books to Birmingham. With some support from Birmingham Library staff and after a lot of negotiations the project was finally exhibited in Birmingham in 2013. Over 13,000 visitors saw the exhibition during it's three week run in the new Birmingham Library.

Exhibition in the Pavillion at Birmingham Library. Image copyright Susan Kruse


As well as exhibiting the books in Birmingham, smaller exhibitions of selected books have been shown in Wolverhampton, Oxford and Carmarthen.

Jane Hyslop's book. Image by David Knight

From the 8th of September the books will be exhibited at Bootham School in York where they will form part of a book arts project organised by artist in residence, Jade Blood. As well as inspiring the children to make their own work the books will be on display for the public for one night on the 11th of September in Bootham School's new Arts Complex. The artists being exhibited at York are: Melanie Alexandrou, Kyra Clegg, IanPyperRuth Shaw Williams, StephenLivingstone, Catherine Scriven, Clare Boothby, Helen Ward, Helen Harrop, Matthew Herring, Oliver Flude, Christine Finn, and Suzi Tibbetts.

Clare Boothby's book. Image by David Knight

Kyra Clegg's book. Image by David Knight

Oliver Flude's book. Image by David Knight


Catherine Scriven's book. Image by David Knight

Ruth Shaw-William's work. Image by David Knight


Once the exhibition leaves York the project will begin to be closed down. Susan asked the artists involved in the project what they wanted to happen to the books and the majority have asked that a new permanent home might be found for the collection, which is the task we are undertaking right now. 55 altered books anyone?

image copyright Kayleigh Bestwick




Library of Lost Books on the road - York

A selection of artworks from The Library of Lost Books will be exhibited at Bootham School in York from 9th September to the 3rd October. 

 As well as exhibiting our books, the school is working with artist Jade Blood to run a series of workshops and art events with their pupils on the subject of altered books.

Following its Quaker principles, Bootham School encourages its students to be creative thinkers, peacemakers and confident humanitarians. Established in 1823, the school's beautiful new Arts Centre opened in March this year. 

We will be having an Open Evening at Bootham School on the 11th of September from 7 to 9pm. Visitors will be able to see some of the artists' books from our collection, try their hand at some bookarts activities and buy copies of Bringing Back the Book.


9th Manchester Artists' Book Fair

We are going to be taking a stand at this year's book fair. It will be the last time The Library of Lost Books goes to Manchester so do come an say hello if you are around. We will be selling copies of our book and some artist made items.


Sheaffer pens giveaway

As you know the folks at Sheaffer pens have been fantastic supporters of The Library of Lost Books. Right now we have a special treat for you thanks to Sheaffer; buy two copies of Bringing Back the Book and get a gorgeous Sheaffer pen set for free! 
(Offer valid while stocks last)

An old book for now

Christine Finn
Re-made book for The Library of Lost Books project, Birmingham, 2013

Modern English Writers 1890 - 1914
By Harold Williams
Sidgwick and Jackson, London 1918
2013, Mixed media
Christine had this to say about making her book:

"Soil from Somme and other WW1 battlefields in France and Belgium; pine cone, wood fragment from Canadian and other military cemeteries in Northern France; brass button from a WW1 uniform, donated; square of French chocolate; moss, gathered from pool at source of the River Lugg in Wales (Lugg being pre-Christian deity for 'Light'; rust-red stained wool found caught on barbed wire on farmland near Wilfred Owen's family home on the Welsh Borders. (Owen, one of the foremost WW1 poets, killed during last days of war).
The red mending, or darning, wool symbolises the hand-knitted garments worn by soldiers (by chance the card on which it is wound reads 'Mending Wool' in English, French and German. The needle was made in India. The stitching is left unfinished as symbolic of the lives cut short, potential unrealised, and work unfinished as a result of the Great War.

The book travelled with me on an intensive field visit to the battlefields of WW1, a visit organised for journalists by the tourist organisations in Northern France and Belgium, but which enabled me think through the project. I carried the book while walking the battlefields and looking at artifacts in museums of the Somme, Passchendaele, Ypres, Peronne, Chemin des Dames, Mont Saint Eloi, Fort Seclin. It also came with me to military cemeteries at Poperinge, Notre Dame de Lorette, Beaumont-Hamel, and Fromelles. During this time I also discretely collected small samples of soil and found objects to make the work.

During the summer of 2012 I spent time on the Welsh Borders, thinking of Wilfred Owen, who grew up in the area, and about whose last hours I had made a programme for Radio 4 (Bleached Bone and Living Wood, broadcast November 2011). And I was already interested in the use of spagnum moss to help heal wounds on battlefields, from my research into the preservative qualities of bogland. I decided to incorporate something from this liminal vegetation into the work. I hiked out to the source of the River Lugg and gathered weed growing in the pool. The mossy material was left to dry in the sun over several days.

The book was written in 1914, but not published until 1918, and to me it carried inside it the stories of lost writers. Not only those who died in battle, but the many poets and authors who were prominent enough to be featured in 1914, but whose names are lost to us a century later.

On receiving the book, I instinctively felt that I did not want to take it apart, but to creative an object to highlight the redemptive and healing possibility of words. I was also struck by the khaki colour of the binding (it was rebound in the 1930s, again with war on the horizon).

I cut the cover away from the boards with my favourite kitchen knife, then opened them up to push soil, moss and the other materials inside the cover. This disruption was intended to symbolise the upheaval of physical and cultural landscape caused by war. These 'mounds', which by coincidence are the colour of both soil and khaki, are uneven to evoke the battlefields, and also the dolmens of ancient burial, particularly Bronze Age Ireland; a significant number of poets and authors in Modern English Writers are Irish. (My own doctoral thesis at Oxford was a study of how Ireland's archaeology inspired WB Yeats and Seamus Heaney, Past Poetic, Duckworth, 2004).

I completed and sent the work on 28th February, 2013, but it grows as a palimpsest, and how it is received will add to the layers, and pages. Any dust visible on pages and cover is Somme soil."

Nancy Campbell

Vantar/Missing by Nancy Campbell - image copyright Susan Kruse

Nancy Campbell is a writer and artist who is currently creating a wonderful body of work around a residency she undertook at Upernavik Museum in Greenland in 2010.

How To Say I Love You In Greenlandic - image copyright Nancy Campbell
We first met when Nancy was showing some of her books at the Manchester Artists' Book Fair. I fell in love with her books, How To Say I Love You In Greenlandic and The Night Hunter. After rhapsodising about Nancy's work she offered to send me a copy of the poem from The Night Hunter and I sent Nancy a copy of an Icelandic Dictionary which was one of the treasures rescued for The Library of Lost Books.
The Night Hunter - image copyright Nancy Campbell
This week I got a package in the post, a copy of Nancy's book Vantar/Missing which has the following text inside it:

Vanta (ad). v. to want, lack, impers. with acc. of the person and thing
(e-n vantar e-t).
A Concise Dictionary of Old Icelandic by Geir T. Zoega, Oxford: Clarenon Press 1910

It's lovely to see yet another old, unwanted book getting used and loved rather than pulped and destroyed. So The Library of Lost Books lives on...

Susan Kruse

Beyond the Book

A symposium to accompany an exhibition of artists who use books as their medium

Symposium: Thursday 15 May 2014 
10am – 5.30pm (registration & coffee from 9.30am) 
Margaret Rooms 1,2 &3, Queens Building, Queen’s Drive, University of Exeter, 
Devon, EX4 4QH, UK 
£21 (£16, Guild Members & Friends) Book: 01626 832223 

Exhibition: Beyond the Book 
5 April – 8 June 2014 at Devon Guild of Craftsmen, 
Bovey Tracey, TQ13 9AF 

Organised by Devon Guild of Craftsmen, with support from the University of Exeter
Arts and Culture, this day-long event will discuss and expand on the premise of
artists using books, both as a cultural and symbolic object, and as containers of
history, narrative and memory.

The accompanying exhibition Beyond the Book (Devon Guild) seeks to examine the
question: What happens when artists consider the matter of books? It showcases a
broad spectrum of work by British-based talent, demonstrating the diversity of the UK
Book Art movement as well as illustrating the notions behind the making process.
Selected artists and designers deconstruct and explore aspects of the book, both
aesthetic and conceptual, using a range of materials from photography and jewellery
to paper and mixed-media. All share an interest in memory, language and narrative
and use the book form as a way of filtering their ideas.

Symposium Chair: Dr. Nicola Thomas (University of Exeter).
Keynote speakers:
Barrie Tullett (Independent Publisher, The Caseroom Press) - the form of the book

Ellen Bell (Beyond the Book exhibitor) - form and poetics

Su Blackwell (co-curator Beyond the Book) - poetics, memory, narrative

Susan Kruse (visual artist) - ‘The Library of Lost Books’, reuse and recycling

Dr. Misha Myers (Performance Researcher/practitioner, Falmouth University) - ‘Stories from the Walking Library’, the future of books

Tom Bevan (book artist) - ‘Considering the Position of the Traditional Form of the Book in the Digital Age’,the future of books


Tom Sowden (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Fine Print Research, University of the West of England) - ‘Click, Swipe, Download Share‘, the future of books