U of T news
  • Follow U of T News

What is a book?

Understanding and transforming the content and structure of books

Art from an Altered Book" by carving the pages into a series of three-dimensional illustrations (all photos by Kathleen O'Brien)

Faculty of Information instructor Greta Golick wanted her students to think about what form books take, how the content is presented, and create something new, using text and/or an image to remake the book.

The result is a stunning collection of book-inspired art created by 45 Faculty of Information (iSchool) students, in the display cases in the north atrium of Robarts Library (130 St. George Street, second floor, adjacent to the iSchool entrance).

Students played with the book’s writing surface, applied hand- and machine-printing techniques, painted or constructed images, and incorporated new themes, all adding further dimensionality and functionality to their books – with no or minimal experience or equipment.

(At right, Master of Information student Wendy Banks playfully explores how two people can occupy different mental worlds with a pop-up game of chess, in which she intertwined pages from a love story and murder mystery, in “Chess: A Love Story/ Chess: A Murder Mystery.”)

“No prior bookbinding experience was necessary. I wanted students to take books in a new direction, to tap into their own creativity, and to make something with their hands,” Golick says.

The workshop’s purpose, she says, is to engage readers and viewers to question their own experiences with the form and the function of books in their lives. “It gives them a chance to play with new concepts and to explore what a book is and can be.”

Golick curated the exhibit, entitled “Book Works 2014,” as a collection of the students’ final project for the six-week workshop course, “De/Constructing the Book,” taught during the winter 2014 term.

To begin, students examined small press books and artists’ books in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library collection, which challenged their traditional views of the book as object.

In the workshop they constructed accordion books, meander books, and pamphlets in three styles: saddle stitch, stab stitch, and dos-à-dos.

Second-year Master of Information student Catherine Lamoureaux was inspired by the Fisher Antiphonary [MSS 09700], a 15th century illuminated manuscript. (Above, right, Lamoreaux imposes pop singer George Michael’s song, “Careless Whisper,” into the ecclesiastical manuscript form and features calligraphy and initial letters illuminated with acrylic paint and nail polish for her project, "Never Gonna Dance Again".)

The exhibition, installed by John Toyonaga and Christy Thomasson, will be on display until September 2014.

Kathleen O'Brien is a writer with the Faculty of Information or iSchool at the University of Toronto.