Redesigning the Medieval Book

I am delighted that my submission to this Bodleian Library competition has been shortlisted, and will be included in a digital display to accompany the exhibition Designing English in December 2017.

Redesigning the Medieval Book – A modern book artist’s take on the books in this exhibition.

‘Experimental shapes : Things here and gone : Words and pictures : Laid out for use’

When these earliest and precious English books were demonstrated to us, it was a reminder that books come to life when the pages are turned. When displayed, only one double page can be seen at a time, like pinned out butterfly wings.

These books are the epitome of all the reasons why a library can never be digitalised – for reasons of access perhaps, but the physicality of the book can be as important as the content.

Our modern responses are to go into the glass-fronted display cabinet on the wall of the exhibition atrium. The folded medieval books inspired me to make a modern book where several of the pages could be seen at once, maintaining a simple codex format when closed but displaying the content when open on a shelf.

My book opens into four half-cube room-like areas. I used a medieval tile pattern for the ‘floor’ of the book, visually unifying the whole when open, and applying a medieval grounding.

The content then takes inspiration from The Canterbury Tales and Geoffrey Chaucer’s imaginary travellers, and my own journey to the Bodleian and the medieval world. It is a folded pocket timetable to and from the past, keeping information to hand for travel.

The journeying companions echo this, captured in petrified passport photographs with paired seventeen word descriptions.

Linda Parr, August 2017


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