Reflections from the Jaffe Center: Wednesdays with Arthur #6

February 20, 2019

What kind of kid were you?  Would you, as a college student, have ventured up to the glass door of a room with a notice announcing a tour at 3 pm even though you had no idea of what was inside?  Maybe the sign “Jaffe Center for Book Arts” would give you a clue, but probably not – it’s pretty arcane language, and there’s not a lot of evidence on view.

I was certainly not that kind of kid, and Eric Bush assured me that he would have gone only “if someone made me.”  

That makes me even more impressed with the curiosity and perseverance (and courage?) of Nicole, a biology student at FAU, who stopped in today at 2:55 and asked if indeed there would be a tour.  Of course!

After the short intro video, Eric showed her some of the iconic early works in the artists book canon, and then left her to Helen Edmunds, the talented student assistant who takes the pictures associated with this blog and makes videos about the collection.  I hung around at Helen’s request, and we showed Nicole some of our favorites.

Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy by: Matthew Reinhart

Among others, we each chose one work that relies on a lot of manipulation.   Helen showed Matthew Reinhart’s Star Wars: A Pop-Up Guide to the Galaxy created in 2007 as a tribute to the 30th year anniversary of the series.  According to Wikipedia, “Some pop-up books receive attention as literary works for the degree of artistry or sophistication which they entail.” This one “received literary attention for its elaborate pop-ups, and the skill of its imagery, with The New York Times saying that “calling this sophisticated piece of engineering a ‘pop-up book’ is like calling the Great Wall of China a partition.”

It has so many flaps to open, so many tags to pull, such monumental pop-ups of famous characters, and so much information that both Star War aficionados, Nicole and Helen, commented on its scope.

Year of the Rat by: Barbara Brandt

I finally got a chance to get my hands on and show Year of the Rat by Barbara Brandt that I mentioned in a previous blog, when I had seen it in a case in the Jaffe lobby.  What an incredible treat. It presents as a four-sided pyramid, each face covered in a different hand-made paper adorned with tiles and other symbolic Chinese objects.  The pyramid is held together at the top with a little dowel-and-nut closing.  When you release the peg, the four sides open, each showing different aspects of the varying years of the Rat – tags  with the names of famous people born in rat-years, attributes of the overall brand, etc. In the center is fabric-covered box with tea-bag replicas, each inscribed with a different kind of rat-year attribute.

Different though they are, both the mass-produced Star Wars book (available at Amazon for under $25.00!) and the hand-made Chinese zodiac artists book, which is one of a kind, require the reader/handler to engage not just intellectually but indeed physically with the material.  Pop-up books may be especially attractive to children, but searching for what is hidden in a book is a treasure hunt for anyone. Count me and Arthur as fans.

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