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A thing to hold: The visual language of the book form

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This article considers the book form itself as an ornamental object. The binding, paper and ink appeal to the senses and all add to experience of the reader. The future is a place of e-books, online publications and Instagram posts, and yet this arguably makes the carefully considered design of the book form even more important in the physical books that we do chose to view. The study examines a series of examples, drawing from artists' books, pop-up books and mainstream publishing. The work draws strongly on the collection of pop-up books at the National Library of Scotland and the artists' book collection at Edinburgh College of Art, looking at both historical and contemporary works. Initially exploring how the form of the book itself can visually communicate a narrative, the study goes on reflect on the emotion associated with opening a pop-up book, as if in the presence of a theatrical production, made more extreme by the embellishments employed. The place of the book form within a digital world is considered and, finally, the emergence of decorative books in the form of colouring books related to mindfulness.
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Keywords: book art; book binding; creative publishing; digital; illustration; pop-up books; visual communication

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2019

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  • Illustration is a rapidly evolving field with an excitingly broad scope. Despite its cultural significance and rich history, illustration has rarely been subject to deep academic scrutiny. The Journal of Illustration provides an international forum for scholarly research and investigation of a range of cultural, political, philosophical, historical, and contemporary issues, in relation to illustration. The journal encourages new critical writing on illustration, associated visual communication, and the role of the illustrator as visualizer, thinker, and facilitator, within a wide variety of disciplines and professional contexts.

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