Monday, February 01, 2016

What do tarot and bookbinding have in common?

Technically, nothing.
So why write about it, then? Well...

For the past two weekends I've been holed up with five other people in the basement of a local bookstore, learning how to build books.

We glued, cooked wheat paste, folded, sliced, pressed, squashed, stitched, stabbed, pierced, took notes, made diagrams, made mistakes (lots!), commiserated with each other. Our teacher was an accomplished binder and patient slave-driver, always ready to bail us out of some ghastly bookbinding blunder.
It was by turns exasperating, exhilarating, and exhausting.

Yesterday, day 6, at forty-two hours down, eight to go, it hit me:
We were learning methods of building books - binding, sewing, assembling - that were used several hundred years ago. When the first tarots were emerging.


We chose finely-crafted papers to cover our small hardcover books. Papers made in Italy, home of the earliest known tarot deck, the Visconti-Sforza, which dates from around 1450. Perhaps the artist took his drawings to a printer friend in Milan who bound books for a living, but agreed to produce this odd collection of picture cards on the side.


Then there are the more mundane connections - books and decks are both made of paper, with symbols printed on them, which people read.
And of course there's the steep learning curve one encounters when acquiring any new, complex, frustrating-but-satisfying new skill. Like bookbinding or tarot, for instance.

And that's it. I'm brain-dead from bookbinding.