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Thinking About Scrolls

Thinking About Scrolls

So, next month there will be a solo show of my books at UCLA called "Toying
With Books: Playing With Conventions".  I'm working on the catalog for it and
I'm very excited about how it is developing.  When you open the cover so it
lies flat, then start pushing it towards the center, the pages start advancing
one at a time.  It's really nifty.  And, since is has covers and the dozen
individual pages are attached to one side, I guess it fits most people's
definition of a book.
     I got the idea from a 1954 manual by Victor Strauss called "Point of
Purchase Cardboard Displays".  I figured I was taking a 1950's idea and
updating it to the 1990's.  But I was surprised when I recently showed the
model to a group of colleagues.  One of them, Nancy Tomasko, immediately
recognized a connection between my structure and an ancient Chinese scroll.
Whoa! I thought to myself, a Chinese scroll?  I don't think so.
      The next time the group got together, Nancy presented me with a file of
documentation on a particular type of Chinese scroll called a "whirlwind
binding".  For this type of binding, anywhere from eight to 24 additional
leaves are attached to the surface of the scroll.  Each sheet is indented from
the previous one for easy access.  What a great idea: a scroll with pages!
When it was used around the 9th century, it was a very acceptable type of
book.    I had never seen this structure before, yet there was a definite
connection between it and the 20th century book I was producing.
     The point I'm trying to make is that all of us who love books are
operating on an historical continuum. The structure that we call a book has
changed drastically from what it was in the past, and it will change
drastically in the future.
     Other subscribers have pointed out that our word "book" pre-dates the
codex, our word "library" predates the introduction of papyrus, and Richard
Miller cleverly alluded to "volume" being derived from "roll", as in a scroll.
     Rather than being locked in time, I've found it productive to be aware of
historical models and to embrace them in my development as a book artist.
It's not an either/or situation.  There's room on my library shelves for all
kinds of books.  I feel that my life and my library have both been enriched by
a broad definition of what constitutes a book.
     Thanks to Nancy Tomasko, I am posting a selection from "The Story of
Chinese Books".  It traces the development of the book in China from a scroll
to a sutra binding (what today we call a concertina binding) to what we now
call a codex. Notice that the author identifies a modified sutra binding as a
"whirlwind binding".  We're not the only ones who have had trouble agreeing on
     For those who are interested in a further discussion of scrolls, I invite
you to visit my web page.  Under the heading "What is a Book?" there is an
essay I originally posted to the Book Arts List on October 5, 1996 called "Is
the Scroll a Book?".  It a further elaboration of my continuing fascination
with this ancient book structure.

Ed (Hutchins)
<A HREF="http://members.aol.com/queerbooks/home.htm/hello.htm";>Editions Home

For the record, here are the sources Nancy found for the whirlwind binding:
"Thoughts on the Scroll, The Art of Chinese Book Bindings" by Wu Han Ying
"Concise History of the Artistry of Book Bindings" by Qiu Ling
The Restoration and Construction of Antiquarian Books" by Pan Meidi

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