This week we got to create our own bookplates. Bookplates, which are also known as ex libris (Latin for “from the books of”, are usually small decorative label pasted into the front cover of a book to indicate its owner. Like provenance, bookplates can tell a lot about the owner of the book.

Bookplates usually consist of the name of the owner, as well as a crest, badge, motto, or other device that is significant or unique to the owner of the particular book.

The image above is the bookplate of George Bancroft, an American historian and statesman. The bookplate consists of an angel holding a tablet that has a Greek inscription on it. The inscription translated into English reads “towards the light.” Every component, as is with most bookplates, means something to the owner and refers to something unique to him or her.

Since I want to be an architect, I wanted to make my bookplate a little more abstract and busy. I didn’t want it to be simply. I wanted it to look like a rough draft of a project, the process of “getting there,” since most of my work will be about putting in the effort for months or years just to create an end result. Here is a sketch of something I would use as a bookplate.


I included different shapes (a triangle for the protractor, a loop in the rope, and a rectangular wooden/metal border and all sorts of lines throughout) because I feel like a variety in design is going to be something very important to my profession. Since my bookplate is kind of busy, I am not sure at all how I would go about making this a real bookplate. I would love to not have to change components to make it simpler. What do you guys think? What would be the best way to make my bookplate an actual creation?

Beautiful, beautiful (and tasty) creations

As I did research on different types of edible books, I did find some very interesting, not to mention what looked to be absolutely delicious different types of food that people have made in the name of art. However, most of the blogs were about food and not really about books. But it was still art! Food art is something that has always fascinated me. I found this absolutely amazing blog about different birthday cake ideas, and I have even tried a few of them.

One of my favorites was a cake inspired by a chess board. Although it doesn’t really have much to do with books, if anything at all, there is still a certain art required to make such an extravagant cake that we needed to put into action as we made our edible book.

This is the ultimate cake for a chess nerd's birthday.

An edible book requires time, patience, technique and creativity. If you’re able to put all of those to use effectively, then you should be able to come up with beautiful masterpieces. Although edible books can be made of almost any kind of food, I personally feel like working with desserts is the easiest way to build and design successfully. You’re also able to use so many colors!

I came across a pinata cake that, I must admit, I have fallen in love with. I have younger siblings, so I plan to make this for them very soon!

Win hearts and blow minds by hiding candy in an awesome secret piñata cake.

When you look at the time that people take to make such beautiful foods, it’s a really wonderful feeling. People are so creative, so there is always so much to learn from others. This pinata cake…who would have thought of that? Researching for the Edible Book Festival has taught me above all the beauty of creating an idea and executing the plan. Although things may not turn out the way you want them to at first, be flexible. Be willing to adapt to the circumstances. Nothing is ever a complete failure so long as you can take a negative and turn it into something beautiful…and if you try long and hard, it’s always possible 🙂

Edible Book Festival

Creating the edible book was much more challenging than I had originally thought it would be. What proved to be the most difficult for Erin and I was the fact that what we wanted to do required us to make it the night before, so we had a major time constraint.

At first we wanted to create the house from the Disney Pixar movie UP; however, to put it simply, it did not happen. The graham crackers became very soggy and began to fall apart, and the gumballs we wanted to use for the balloons were too heavy for the structure to support. This was the point we got to before it completely crumbled:

We decided to try something a little less complicated…a HOBBIT HOLE! I’ve always been a big fan of Lord of the Rings, so we decided to create a hobbit hole inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s trilogy.

We began with a pineapple Bundt cake, which would give the house its round shape.

Step 1:


We began with a pineapple Bundt cake, which would give the house its round shape.

Step 2:


Next, we added the “grass,” which we made with vanilla frosting, green food coloring, and shredded coconut. We covered the cake with the mixture, since many of the hobbit holes are covered completely in grass.

Step 3: 


The next step was to add the door, which we did using chocolate frosting and brown icing.

Step 4:


We added a cobblestone pathway using graham crackers and brown icing. We also created a walkway from the door to the street with the graham crackers.

Step 5:


Last but not least: detail! We added the yellow and pink flowers using icing to give the house a little more color. And voila! Our very first entry in an Edible Book contest!



noun\ ˈpräv-nən(t)s, ˈprä-və-ˌnän(t)s\

1: originsource

2: the history of ownership of a valued object or work of art or literature (Merriam Webster)

The word provenance comes from the French word provenir, which means “to come from.” Provenance refers to the chronology and history of the ownership of a particular valued object, such as a work of art or piece of literature. Researching, tracing and following the provenance of an object can give you insight to such much about that particular object, such as the context in which is was produced, the location in which it was create or the reason why the object is treasured.

Provenance in books, in my opinion, helps create a story to the story, because studying the provenance of books requires you to study of the ownership of individual books. When I was much younger, my teacher gave me one of her books, which had at one point belonged to her older sister. Her sister had written an inscription in the book, and underneath her note my teacher wrote a note to me. Unfortunately I no longer have the book (lost it when I moved to West Virginia), but whoever does have it has a story within a story, though it is up to them whether they see it that way. Provenance in books can be personal or generic, but if carefully analyzed, it can help give you information about the previous owner or owners or on the book itself.

However, inscriptions are not the only form of provenance. Provenance can internal or external. It can be almost anything written/pasted inside a book, such as marginalia, bookplates and book rhymes, but it can also be something such as a picture, a random piece of paper, or an ordinary receipt—something that will tell future readers something about the book or the previous owner(s). Ownership can also be traced through external sources, such as auction catalogues or bookstore records in small towns.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Books that POP

As a little girl, I was always fascinated by the books that were somehow different from the other picture books I would read. I loved books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle because of the little hole the caterpillar made through each page in the book and books like Marcus Pfister’s The Rainbow Fish that had shiny foil for the scales of the fish. By far my favorite books were pop-up books. Each page introduced me to a whole new world as the pictures rose far above the book itself. It amazed me how artists were able to make this work, but to be honest, I was always so engrossed by the detail of the pictures to pay too much attention to that. I didn’t know how it worked—I was just glad it did.

Now that I am older and know a little more about books and how they are made, I thought it would be interesting to do a little research on pop-up books.

A pop-up book is a type of movable book, a category that also includes transformation books, tunnel books, volvelles, pull-tab books and pull-down books. What came to be known as authentic pop-up books were a small series of books with movable illustrations, described as “living models”, that were conceived, designed and produced by British book publisher S. Louis Giraud in 1929. Each book in the series contained a minimum of five double-page spreads that popped up when the book was opened to the page. Giraud produced his books on coarse, absorbent paper, utilizing photolitho printing and color reproduction techniques. Due to this and the inexpensive covers in which he bound his books, his works were moderately priced, unlike the books of his German precursors.

As the Depressions worsened, fewer and fewer people were spending money on unnecessary items, such as books. As a result, American book publishers tried to find ways to make book buying “necessary.” Blue Ribbon Publishing of New York turned the stories of the beloved Walt Disney characters into pop-up books, which proved to be very successful. The publishing company was actually the first to use the term “pop-up” to describe the books.

Blue Ribbon Publishing - Pinocchio pop-up book

Blue Ribbon Publishing – Pinocchio pop-up book

Blue Ribbon Publishing - Cinderella pop-up book

Blue Ribbon Publishing – Cinderella pop-up book

The production of a pop-up book requires the skills of many individuals, including the publisher, paper engineers and those who actually assemble the books. Since these books must be put together by hand, it takes a lot of time and work and can require over 100 different handwork procedures. But the final result sure is worth it!

“Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books.” Concise History of Pop-up and Movable Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013.

One of the most beautiful things about books is that they become almost entirely different books depending on the way in which they are printed or bound, or the time period in which they are published. Although the text on the inside remains the same, giving a book a completely different look and feel can affect the way people perceive the book. For example, The Picture of Dorian Gray was first published in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890 and was first published as a novel by Ward, Lock, and Co. in 1891. Ever since then, however, edition after edition have come out, each one bringing something new to the table. has thousands of copies of The Picture of Dorian Gray listed, with very detailed descriptions for many of them, particularly the older, monetarily more valuable books. However, typos aside, the text within the covers remains the same. It is so interesting to me how each edition is considered a special edition; they are each unique in their own way. has one first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray listed for sale at $100,000. The description lists most of the information any bibliophile would need to know to determine its worth. Although the book is torn and stained, it is still very valuable. The book description says much of its worth comes from the fact that it comes with a dust jacket. It says, “it [the book] is certainly a rarity in dust jacket” ( We are so used to books have dust jackets today that we usually don’t think twice about them. It is amazing that a simple dust jacket from the Victorian Era could make a book so valuable.

Another book listed on the site is a softcover first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray published in 1891 by Ward, Lock, and Company. This is the edition I have been using for much of my research on the novel. According to the description on, it is a large paper issue and number 199 out of 250 copies published this same way. What makes it so expensive ($46064.65) is not the beautiful gilt titles and vignettes, though the beauty of it certainly doesn’t hurt, but the fact that it was signed by Oscar Wilde himself.

Ward, Lock, and Company published many of  editions of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, including a hardcover edition in 1891 that actually contained a mistake. The description explains that on page 208 of the edition, eight lines from the bottom, there was a small misprint. What was supposed to be the word “and” was typed as “nd” in the book. Since this edition contains the mistake, it is thought to be the very first printing of the very first edition, hence the high price. Learning about other editions and analyzing the details that make the books so special really helped me gain a better understanding of why certain editions are more expensive than others, though I do have to argue that each book is beautiful in its own way.

The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde, Oscar. Ward, Lock, and Company, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <;.

The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde, Oscar. Ward, Lock, and Company, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <;.

The Picture of Dorian Gray. Wilde, Oscar. Ward, Lock, and Company, n.d. Web. 07 Mar. 2013. <;.

The Picture of Dorian Gray, which Oscar Wilde rightfully claimed would “create a sensation,” was bound very simplistically given the era in which it was published. The first edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray was published in 1891 by Ward, Lock, and Company. It was bound using binding boards, which were then covered with rough gray paper with the back of parchment vellum. Mason referred to the color of the cover paper as “cigarette ash,” which I thought was interesting since it tends to give it a negative connotation. Wilde was known for his original and elaborate designs, and though the cover did contain some detailed gilt lettering and design by Charles Ricketts, his work was still criticized.

Wilde himself criticized the binding on some of his own novels. In a letter he wrote to John Lane, one of his publishers, he complained about the cover and binding of one of his other works, Salome.  He argued that the cover and binding were “dreadful,” too coarse and too common for his liking. He told Lane to “have simply a folded vellum wrapper with the design in scarlet—much cheaper, and much better.” Wilde was obsessed with the aesthetics of his masterpieces. He was so concerned that bad binding would “spoil the real beauty of the interior” and warned his publishers against inflicting it on his “works of art.” This shows how important every aspect of the works were to Wilde and how something that many people pay little attention to today, in the past had so much of an effect on the authors of the works.

Aside from The Ballad of Reading Gaol and The Picture of Dorian Gray, which were respectively bound in mustard yellow and ash gray, most of Wilde’s earlier books were bound in either green, violet or scarlet. The 1931 edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray, printed by the Book League of America, was bound in scarlet book cloth. The 2010 edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray seems to be done using case binding and unlike the 1891 and 1931 editions, it does not use book cloth and instead seems to use more of a leather binding material.

Hill, W. S., Edward M. Burns, and Peter L. Shillingsburg, eds. Text: An Interdisciplinary Annual of Textual Studies. Vol. 10. N.p.: University of Michigan,    1998. Print.

Mason, Stuart. Art and Morality: A Defence of The Picture of Dorian Gray. N.p.: Mundus, 2004. Print.

Something that I have really learned throughout this course is how different Oscar Wilde was from his contemporaries. Whether it was intentional or whether he was simply just being his unique self, he always seemed to go against the norms in terms of creating his works. His rejection of printing norms during this era was no different.

The Picture of Dorian Gray was first printed in the Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. In this version of his novel, Wilde had very little input into how the novel was formatted and how it was printed. Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, as many magazines and newspapers did during the time, made use of the most advanced technology available to them (Southward, 1897). Wilde, however, always the rebel, was still more fascinated by the old-fashioned methods of printing.

The first edition of his novel in book format was published in 1891 by Ward, Lock, and Company. Wilde rejected the use of the Linotype machine in printing his novel. His disdain for the new technology was something about which he was very verbal. He writes in his essay “Decorative Designing:” “Art depends on Life. We cannot get it from machines. And yet machines are bad only when they are our masters. The printing press is a machine that Art values because it obeys her. True art must have the vital energy of life itself, must take its colours from life’s good or evil, must follow angels of light or angels of darkness. The art of the past is not to be copied in a servile spirit,” (Wilde, 1916). Wilde took much pride in his work; because he thought of each novel as a piece of art, from the inside and out, it makes sense that he did not want to use the conventional means of printing for his books.

The 2010 edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray was printed in Guangzhou, Guangdong, China. Today most books are printed using offset lithography, a process in which the ink is transferred from a plate to a rubber sheet and then onto the printing surface. It is called “offset” because the plate never comes in direct contact with the paper (“Offset Lithography”). It is likely that this edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray was printed in this way. Wilde took so much pride in making his books beautiful that it would be really interesting to see how he would feel about the way they are mass-produced today.

“Offset Lithography.” Graphic Design. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2013.

Southward, John. Progress in Printing and the Graphic Arts during the Victorian Era.London, Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co.: n.p., 1897. Print.

Wilde, Oscar. The Essays of Oscar Wilde. New York: Cosmopolitan Book, 1916. Print.