Alembic Books retort  
Alembic Books

- about Thrown Texts -


Often, the 'objectness' of a book is understood to be a means to an end - the collection of printed pages is seen merely as a convenient vessel through which content is conveyed.

This view is challenged by the fact that the book has become a kind of cultural unit (rather like the 'album' in both photography and music) - that is to say that the physical qualities of the book - its colour, smell, size, shape etc. contribute, in quite complex ways, to the overall reading of the text it makes available.

The fact that we now have alternative means of providing text through digital media - illuminated screens rather than pages - throws into sharp relief the edges of the experience of book use, and opens up questions about which form should be ascendent. The loss of physicality that 'the digital' manifests is perhaps a legitimate source of some concern -the commercial impulse towards new forms of digital material may lead to a loss of, rather than increase in, richness of culture.

However, like the gramophone record (and perhaps even more so) Alembic Books believes that the printed book will coexist, to mutual advantage, with the new forms of digital writing we will enjoy.

In any event, let's be playful...

In 1991, when thinking about what next to add to the Alembic collection, I decided to make some books that foregrounded their physical (sculptural) qualities by being partly formed by an action or performance.
The first of these was 'A Book Thrown Into The Sea' which had all of the usual architecture of previous Alembic Books (cover, front page, ISBN allocation etc.) but was essentially a book of blank, numbered pages–until written on the by sea. This book then contains the history of its own making (the documentation of it being thrown) and physical traces of the ocean - it is not ABOUT the sea, it is OF the sea.

A Book Thrown Into The Sea

A Book Thrown Into The Sea (1991)
The domestic 'sequel' to this rather grand gesture: 'A Book Dunked Into Some Tea' was suggested one evening, when the wine was flowing, by my friend Katie Buckley. Thus co-opted into the role of co-author, Katie provided a large teapot and we proceeded to dunk copies of the 'tea book' in a ceremony appropriate to the title. A Book Dunked Into Some Tea

A Book Dunked Into Some Tea (1991)
A third book in this sequence 'A Book Dipped Into Two Lakes' was included by the Floating Library in their events on Silver Lake, Minnesota in July/August 2015. As the title suggests, this book was effectively made in two locations, from two bodies of water, witnessed by two (or more) groups of people. A Book Dipped Into Two Lakes

A Book Dipped Into Two Lakes (2015)
A fourth book 'tingFloa tingsWri' was developed for the Floating Library for their events on Lake Phelan, Minnesota in July/August 2016.

This work takes two forms: one to be read; one to be dissolved.

ting Floa tings Wri.

tingFloa tingsWri (2016)
These kinds of books are not composed by myself as an author in the conventional sense (I don't write them) but represent situations that have been set up, allowed to run their course and then presented in book form for reception by the reader.

They suggest possibilities for other forms of documentation.
Alembic Books intends to create and make available new editions and new titles of these 'thrown' texts over the next few years.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch
© Alembic Books 2024 - Paul Ramsay