Alembic Books retort  
Alembic Books

- credo -

Paul Ramsay at BABE, Arnolfini 2015
photo of Paul Ramsay at BABE, Arnolfini 2015 by David Dellafiora

Alembic Books
was begun in 1990, initially as a means of printing a book of scores I had written based on my experiences in the recording studio and as an improvising musician. Working with a MAC Classic and dot matrix printer in the computer room at, what was then, Brighton Polytechnic, I quickly became aware of the potential of this new phenomenon–desktop publishing–for the young, impoverished, Fluxus-inspired artist.

I took the work seriously: carefully selecting the paper, cover card and layouts to use, purchasing ISBN numbers and, after investing in a long arm stapler, began to trial assemble the first editions by hand.

The 1991 catalogue included:
52 scores
11 more scores
Poems and other insects
A Book Thrown into the Sea
A Book Dunked into some Tea (with Katie Buckley)
with the following planned but not released:
Khartoun (by Geoffrey Stocker) - now published (2014)
Collages (with Oona Campbell)
A Book of Salt Crystal Paintings

The books were a relative success, and they allowed me to continue my art practice at a time when I had no studio and few resources. Each was its own domain and offered various authorial possibilities; in particular working on Alembic led me to explore poetry and its disciplines and so opened up a new area for my work.
proposal Alembic Books catalogue 1991
from the 1991 Alembic Books catalogue

The form of the book also became an object of consideration and I used this to incorporate other aspects of my thinking about art–ideas about object, provenance, community and chance.
In addition to all of this, Alembic provided a useful calling-card for potential employers and through the enlighted support of Alex Morrison and Ben Rubenstein at Cogapp, I made my first interactive collection of poetry (using Hypercard), eventually progressing to authoring in Director and learning other skills along the way, such as image manipulation, website construction and digital sound processing.
Currently, the status of the printed book is in much debate–it is now easier than ever to self-publish, in printed form and for eBook readers, tablets etc. but there is speculation about whether the pre-eminence of digital technology is changing our very relationship with writing.
One answer perhaps, is to focus not on the physical media but the cultural forms—just as the music album persists as a creative unit, so too, the idea of the book provides a powerful organising principle through which to assemble creative material.

a book in light

a book is where you find it
Accordingly, it is my intention through the new Alembic Books, reinvented in 2013, to publish in a variety of formats and in a variety of frames of mind; some books having written content in the usual sense, some gaining content through being thrown etc. as objects; some in ink and paper, some in sound and light; some fixed, some fluid, some in-between. A Book is a Situation.
If you would like to know more, please get in touch
© Alembic Books 2024 - Paul Ramsay