Down the Rabbit Hole
Text by Lewis Carroll
Designed by Tara Bryan
(new edition 2016)
Tunnel book – 12 leaves, 154 x 154 x 26 mm
Pamphlet – 16 pages, 155 x 154 mm
Clamshell Box, 175 x 167 x 48 mm
The text is set in Monotype Bembo cast by Michael and Winifred Bixler at their foundry in Skaneateles, New York. The tunnel is made from laser-cut 4-ply grey Museum Board, letterpress printed on a treadle-powered 8×12 C&P press. The boards are connected with Matsuo Kozo hinges, wrapped in a Yasu Natural paper printed on a Vandercook SP-15 press. A willow handle is attached with green linen thread, and the book is closed with a red acetate cord. Green paper labels are attached to the handle and cord with the directions ‘lift me’ and ‘pull me’ respectively.
The clamshell box is covered in Cialux Book cloth in Olive Green and Taupe, lined with Yasu Natural, with a label attached to the spine.
Edition of 60. CAD$800 plus shipping and taxes where applicable.
Down the Rabbit Hole – the evolution of three versions
In 1998 in response to a call for artist books celebrating the works of Lewis Carroll, I created my first attempt of Down the Rabbit Hole. That first attempt was a small, unique book with the inkjet-printed text collaged onto the hand-cut boards – it was exhibited in the Oregon Book Arts Guild Biennial. Dissatisfied that the structure didn’t fulfill the promise of the text, I decided to develop it further and find a way to make the viewer’s experience more evocative. I wanted to recreate Alice’s surprise at finding herself falling in the form of the book.
The next version, an edition of 40, was completed in 2005 after a couple of years of trying things and working with materials I could find locally. Although it was well-received and won a Craft Council award for Innovation and Design, I felt it still had room for improvement. For the sesquicentennial of the first publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2014) I began work on a new edition made with fine materials and printed with new type cast by Michael and Winifred Bixler.
The tunnel book panels are laser-cut museum board connected with folded pieces of handmade Matsuo Kozo paper. These thin tissue sheets were laminated to a second piece with wheat paste, to add strength and allow the accordion structure to fall back in place when closed. For the wrapper I needed a smoother sized paper that would print and fold well and not wear easily as the book is handled, so I chose Yasu Natural, a very durable Kozo paper with visible fibers.
In my search for willow grown in Canada for basket making for the handle, I found a kind merchant who was willing to sell me the small amount I needed for the edition. The willow pieces were cut to size and soaked for 2 days, then wrapped in plastic to mellow. I shaved both ends of each piece to fold in, and gently bent them and inserted the ends in a sheet of pegboard to make the handles arch to fit the book. Because this edition is boxed, the handles had to be shorter and much more consistent in size to fit. Linen thread was used to whip the ends of the handle to secure them.
Although I was happy with the cord I had used to close the earlier edition, it was no longer available. I looked at fabric stores with no success. Finally I called a ribbon shop in Toronto with no online catalogue. A clerk offered to scan sample cards of cord and email the scans, and I from those I chose a red that compliments the Kozo. The ink to print the cover and labels was mixed to match.
It was important to me to include the complete text of the ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ chapter to give context to the snippets of text around the tunnel. The text was hand-set in 12 point Bembo, printed on Arches Text Wove paper and stitched into St. Armand Handmade covers. This pamphlet book sits in the bottom of the clamshell box, with the tunnel book on top. This final edition satisfies my initial concept of what I was trying to achieve.