Fruit forever ripe

'Imitation of life' cover, Santos Museum of Economic Botany
Imitation of life cover, Santos Museum of Economic Botany

One of the best moments in working on beautiful illustrated books is when you see the final product.

When you’re an editor and/or proofreader, you only see the project at certain stages. You can visualise the final book in your imagination, but even when you’ve worked on the proofs it’s a fantastic surprise actually seeing the published book itself.

I’m always in awe of the work of the writer(s), designer, photographer and others, and grateful to have been a part of that team. And I give thanks to the publishing gods that people continue to collaborate and make big, sumptuous books!

Imitation of life – a visual catalogue is one of those projects. This book is seriously breathtaking. It still amazes me when I look at it, months after it was published. It’s a substantial hardback catalogue – a true visual feast – and won a 2014 MAPDA (Museums Australia Multimedia and Publication Design Awards) Award.

It’s the work of Tony Kanellos, cultural collections manager and curator at Adelaide’s Santos Museum of Economic Botany, with incredible design by Kate Burns and photography by Paul Atkins. (My contribution was tiny, copyediting the texts that bookend the catalogue.) Continue reading

A few stories for Children’s Book Week

It’s Children’s Book Week (16–22 August 2014), so let’s enjoy a few stories about literature for the young (and young-at-heart).

First up, an old school/new kid project out of the University of Colorado (Boulder): the Tactile Picture Books Project.

Tactile books have been around for a long time. They’re fantastic objects for introducing the magical world of books to very young children who are blind or visually impaired. You can read about the Tactile Book Advancement Group here, and about how to make fabric tactile books here. You can also find out more here about Vision Australia’s Feelix Library. It’s a great Braille book library for children who are blind or have low vision.

But the CU-Boulder Tactile Picture Books Project has a surprising ‘new kid’ aspect. It’s producing the first-ever 3D-printed tactile picture books.

University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)
Some pages from Goodnight moon – University of Colorado Boulder students Abby Stangl and Jeeeun Kim are using 3D printers to assist very young blind and visually impaired readers (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

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Old school, new kid – the drinkable book

One of my long-time favourite web publishers is It’s an international noticeboard of ingenious new projects, large and small – a self-described ‘essential fix of entrepreneurial ideas’.

In its most recent weekly email, springwise included a new invention from the US: the drinkable book.

This imagination-grabbing object mixes science with profound social benefit, design, marketing, and the old school hard-back book. It could prevent millions of deaths around the world, caused by waterborne diseases.

The new kid/modern surprise in the drinkable book? It’s filled with pages that can be used as water filters. The pages/filters also feature printed info (done in food-grade ink) about sanitation and safe water practices.

Pages from the drinkable book
Pages from the drinkable book

The box housing the book doubles as a water container.

Getting ready to filter and store water in the drinkable book's cover box
Getting ready to filter and store water in the drinkable book’s cover box

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A sky full of blue

It’s Anzac Day today, and here’s a postcard written in February 1915 in Cairo, 99 years ago.

I’ve had this card with me for years, and it’s lovely to share it with you now. I hope that George (the writer) and Elsie (the recipient) are smiling kindly, somewhere under a sky full of blue, at being remembered this way.

Here’s the front: the Bristol Hotel, Cairo, which opened in the late 19th century, and closed probably in the 1940s.

Postcard from George to Elsie, written in Cairo, 1915 (front)
Postcard from George to Elsie, written in Cairo, 1915 (front)

And here’s George’s message to Elsie, on the back.

Postcard from Cairo, 1915 - back
Postcard from Cairo, George’s message reads: 18.2.15 Dear Elsie, This is a new way to write a letter & a very quick one, I hope you won’t be annoyed. I didn’t get a letter from you this week, in fact I don’t think the mail came in again as none of our boys got letters, so I can’t blame you can I, I shall expect to get two next week, I haven’t had a letter from home for weeks I must write this mail & blow them up*. I am stuck for news this week will try to write a long letter next mail, Love from George [*tell them off]
George’s words to Elsie echo what we all write on postcards when we’re far from home and, at that very moment, can’t think what on earth to write about!

They also burn with his need to hear from his loved ones, his longing to know what they’re up to and that they’re thinking of him. It was a common theme with troops stationed so far away from home. Continue reading

Escape into online treasures #2

(Members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are respectfully advised that a person in a photograph in this post has passed away.)

Researching online can be a bit like taking off on a magic carpet ride.

There’s that sense of wonder at clicking on a website and easily navigating your way to a masterpiece. You can zoom in on the details of brushstrokes, handwriting, gesture. You get to see works that you may never see otherwise.

More prosaically, it certainly helps me to look at artworks closely when I’m editing a text describing them!

Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr
She could almost be the e-genie of online treasures! Portrait of Pixie Herbert in a bat costume, c 1923, NLA Commons on Flickr

Do you ever get used to visiting a digitised treasure chest? I still feel like a genie’s spread the wishes of the world before me: a wealth of treasures … famed works at my fingertips … the power of creativity, right there on screen …

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The presence of books

Last week I was in an inner-city cafe, gathering my thoughts before an important meeting. Without thinking, I did what I always do to calm down. I quietly began studying everyone and everything else around me.

There were the guys behind the counter; the people lining up for coffee; local office-workers at other tables, having meetings over laptops; two young men hovering around out the front, smoking quick ciggies; the hints of traffic movement and light in the busy street outside.

Mio Mia cafe, in Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe's Facebook page)
Mio Mia café in a quieter moment, Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe’s Facebook page)

It was a small, noisy place. My eyes lingered on the delicious food on display. But what really stood out was the wall beside me.

It’d been completely covered with wallpaper depicting trompe-l’oeil shelves filled with old-style hard-back books, from floor to high ceiling. Continue reading