Some years ago, I did a research project on medieval bookbinding, complete with making my own (rather clumsy) examples. At a street fair in Providence, I found this amazing book offered by a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, and fell in love. I owned it for several years (I have a large collection of blank books, actually), during which time I couldn’t bring myself to journal in it. But when I took my first research trip to England while I was working on Elisha Barber, I gave myself permission to use it.
This book has since gone to England several times, as well as to Germany and to Avignon. It contains lots of notes, in a variety of pens (and with widely variable legibility). A few envelopes in the front contain leaves collected in the New Forest where I discovered that every tree has its own companion vines. Occasionally, I try to sketch some detail or map out a room or a place.
Taking notes and sketching are valuable tools for memory. Do I refer back to the notes? Sure, but in large part, they exist for me to digest what I’m seeing or hearing. This mnemonic is an aid to the maps, photos and guidebooks I bring home, as well as to the conversations that I have, or the guides I follow from room to room and street to street.
This book is bound in black leather in a classic style. It is just large enough to fit comfortably in hand. Because I am generally standing while taking notes, I don’t write on the left-hand side as I go through the book. It’s much easier to balance the book while holding it in my left hand if I write only on the right. Then, I flip the book over and write back in the other direction, resulting in upside-down facing pages.
I have just a few pages left in this book. They are thick, cream-colored water-color paper with a distinct, soft texture. And they may remain forever empty, but I think the project worthy of this, and I am now on the look-out for another. . .