The Book as a Lost Art Form

Originally posted: July 20, 2011

In today’s digital age, print media has become something of a dying art form. Across the world, newspapers have lost distribution, book sales are down, and it’s harder than ever before to get published. This summer, Emerson grant recipient Catherine Boyd ’12 will seek to get back in touch with the origins of the book as art as she works with Professor of English and Creative Writing Naomi Guttman to write, design and print her own book.

Boyd says the inspiration from this project comes from the falling popularity of the book in the wake of the Kindle and other forms of electronic media. She and Guttman will be learning traditional bookbinding and printmaking techniques, with the goal of reimagining the book as a physical artifact. Both are taking time to design a book whose binding will supplement the content. Guttman’s book, for example, will resemble a cookbook because one of the characters in her story has a passion for cooking.

Boyd sees this kind of artistic bookbinding as a non sequitur in the modern trend towards digitized information, and the content of her book will reflect an opposition to the ideals of the information age. According to Boyd, the dilemma that she is trying to get at with her fiction is “whether we are disconnected because we are so hyperconnected.”

Boyd is a double major in creative writing and studio art, and she says that her favorite part about this project is that it is a very literal combination of her two passions, writing and art. She is also excited for the opportunity to be involved in every stage of the production process, from writing to printing to binding. The idea of the handmade is important to her because these days, even with artwork, people are spending less and less time working with their hands.

Above all, Boyd wants to maintain the relevance of the book to the modern age, despite its waning popularity. She is uncertain what she wants to do after she graduates, but concedes that her dual major may lead her into the world of publishing. Depending on how the rest of her research goes during the summer, she may utilize what she learned about printmaking and binding for a senior project next year.

Later on in the summer, Boyd will be attending two seminars in order to hone her skills in bookbinding and printmaking. The first is the Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale, N.Y., where she will learn about text imaging and letter pressing. The second will take place at the Fine Arts Works Center in Provincetown, Mass.

On campus, Boyd is involved with WHCL and plays intramural ice hockey. She is a regular at Trivia Night, and next year will serve as editor-in-chief of Hamilton’s literary magazine, Red Weather.

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