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


It has just come to our notice that our Contact Us form has not been working properly. We have found several messages that never reached us here, dating back as far as July last year!

To those folks who wrote and never got a reply we are very sorry! The bug is now fixed and the Contact Us form is working fine now.

We have got quite a few awkward emails to write now....

Dreams and plans

The Library of Lost Books is a very small, big project. It's a very small project because it is run by one very part-time person with occasional help from a small band of volunteers. It is a big project because it holds an art collection of over 50 altered books made by artists around the UK. It has a wonderful collection of discarded old books still waiting to be made into art and it has dreams to exhibit the collection in various venues around the UK in the next two years.

What it doesn't have is a budget. Last year we were generously supported by our sponsors Sheaffer and exhibited the collection as part of the Library of Birmingham Discovery Season. We sold some copies of our book, Bringing Back the Book, which helped us to exhibit some of the books in Carmathen and Oxford.

This year, we have been invited to exhibit the books at two very exciting venues in London and York (we'll tell you more about each in another post) but to exhibit the books we need to do some fundraising.

And here is the big one....we want to buy a van. With a van we can go anywhere. We can take the collection into schools, libraries, festivals, art galleries, community spaces. With a van we can run workshops, we can rescue other books, we can get more people involved. With a van we can be a mobile, small big project!

So that's a bit of a challenge for sure. But this is The Library of Lost Books, we save books, we make art, we have big dreams...

Vessels of Tears

Clare Whistler, artist in residence at the Centre for the History of Emotions, presents an evening of film, poetry, performance and music. Titled 'Vessels of Tears' the event brings together artists, historians, musicians and filmmakers in an exploration of water, tears and emotions.
The evening's programme includes music from singer Kerry Andrew and a film of the Sephardic Jewish cemetery by David Wright, alongside a collaborative work by Nichola Bruce and Rebecca E. Marshall shot at The Library of Water in Iceland, and a project about the sources of streams in East Sussex made with Charlotte Still. The event will also feature a discussion of medieval women and water by Hetta Howes, ceramic and textile commissions by two Icelandic artists, and the Tear Treasury Library Installation. Dr. Thomas Dixon, historian and Director of the Centre for the History of Emotions, will speak on the subject of water, tears and emotions, and Natalie Steed will premier a series of specially commissioned podcasts made on the topic. 
The evening is free to attend and will close with a drinks reception. Booking is essential. 

Beyond the Book

Artists who use books as their medium
Saturday 5 April - Sunday 8 June
Devon Guild of Craftsmen

The artists in this exhibition examine the book as physical form as well as a container of ideas and concepts. A household object - the conventional book has only recently been rivalled by the computer screen and electronic text. This exhibition sets out to explore this transition, through a variety of formats, from photographs to sculptures, installations and jewellery. The special qualities of the book object are deconstructed and described by these artists who all share an interest in history and memory, language and narrative.


Ellen Bell, Su Blackwell, Jonathan Boyd, Yvette Hawkins, Samantha Y Huang, Jeremy May, Davy & Kristin McGuire,Richard Nash and Alexander Korzer-Robinson

Co-curator Su Blackwell is a leading UK based artist working predominantly with paper and books. 

More Information:

Alexander Korzer-Robinson, Boys Own 1907, cut out, collaged book; 

Samantha Y Huang, Spring, book sculpture (Beyond the Book)