I’m working on a book. It’s sort of an unusual book, an art project really. It’s a collection of poems, that are going to be bound together in a rather interesting chap book. Actually, it’s a total of three collections of poems — three sets of hymns. I suppose you could call the book a hymnal in three parts. The three parts are individually dedicated to different astrological phenomena: one is a set of hymns to the Sun at various seasons of the year; the second is a set of hymns to angels of the Mansions of the Moon; and the third is a set of hymns to the Behenian fixed stars.
I intend for the book to operate on a dos-a-dos-a-dos binding. Normally, a dos-a-dos binding has three card covers — a middle ‘cover’ that acts as a spine for the book, and two outer covers. The book is then bound dos-a-dos: back to back, with the ‘back’ side of each book attached to the central panel, and each book opening from opposite sides of the book. I’m adding a third option by adding a fourth cover. So you’ll be able to open this book top-to-bottom, left-to-right, or right-to-left.
But getting the geometry, for lack of a better word, right on the book design is… well, challenging. The most difficult part of the design is the pages of the top-to-bottom opening. You and I in the western world, unless we’re regularly reading in Hebrew or Arabic, are used to reading from front cover to back cover, left to right, with the spine on the left side of the book. If you read Hebrew or Arabic regularly, you’re used to having the spine of the book just under your right hand.
So I’m building a mock-up. About 95% of the poetry is done; it was written by hand under the stars, like it should be. And of course it’s typed up, it’s in digital formats that can easily be ported into a paper-layout program. I happen to be using Apple Pages, which is terrible for this, but it’s what I’ve got. Even the old version of Apple Pages was better for this task than the current version, but it is what it is. You work with the tools you have. I guess.
In any case, I’ve now done the layout two different ways — on 5 1/4″ x 17″ paper, which I have to make myself by cutting down 11×17″ tabloid paper to the right size. The individual pages are then folded and stacked into the right order to make two signatures or quires. And now I’m trying to figure out if I’ve set the pages up correctly — or if I’ve just printed them back-to-back in the wrong order (top-to-bottom, rather than back-to-back measuring tallness like competitive siblings).
I have the front (Sun) portion of the book laid out already. And I have the back (Moon) portion of the book laid out already. There are no Moon poems left to write or edit; there are two Sun poems started from last year but not yet finished; it’s mostly a matter of drag-and-drop once they’re typed up. Their spots in the book are confirmed. And all the poems in this section are also written. It’s just a matter of getting the layout right.
And then… altering the layout so I can take it to a printing place and have it done up properly on 11×17″ paper, which I can then cut myself; rather than cutting 11×17″ down to fit my printer.
Still, this is what a good artist does: figure out what works, discarding what doesn’t work along the way. It’s a new version of Solve et Coagula, writ large for the 21st century.