Books As
Aesthetic Objects
A unique collection of contemporary
rare books The core of the original
gift to FAU in 1998

Three Mysterious Mysteries: Riddle Book, Ghost Book, Defensive Book

    Defensive Artist Book; 1992; coriander reisbord; three mysterious mysteries: riddle book, ghost book, defensive book(View flashbook) Ghost (View flashbook) Riddle (View flashbook)


By Coriander Reisbord


Three little books in a black case allow you to (see and) hear an eloquent pained whisper by their creator, Coriander Reisbord. Number eight in an edition of fifteen from the Skeptical Press in 1992, these slim volumes continue Reisbord's concern with the dichotomy between keeping secrets and revealing them. The cloth-covered board case gives nothing away; the included descriptive pamphlet tells of the complex printing and binding methods, but nothing of the contents. A quotation from the San Francisco Center for the Book about another of her works says:One of Coriander's interests as a printer is in not communicating. [She] speaks to the conflict between the relief of confession and the shame of exposure.

The set starts with Riddle Book, printed on unsized handmade linen paper. Each page has a raw-edged rectangular cutout into which is stitched an illustration for the closed and cryptic text. I am thinking of a stone it says, and there it is, an apparently translucent cube intaglio-printed, suspended from its four corners with silk thread.

The material in the pamphlet about Ghost Book emphasizes its ephemeral nature: This paper silk tissue is very sensitive to moisture and will pucker if it gets damp,the dye in this paper [on the cover] is very fugitive. The focus of the book is Resibord's grandmother, Helen Maureen Bonham Rodin, 1906-1992. At the end, Reisbord's grandmother was frail, the artist's memories sketchy, her regrets futile. The pages are almost transparent, so that the brief memoir reflects time and memory past. Says the script, I pamper myself with remorse, such vanity. Who can call my bluff? I never knew her.

Be careful of Defensive Book because it bristles with pins. The printed pages were laminated with wheat starch paste, with pins between, and give pointed advice like,Don't go to do laundry alone, and Don't act provocatively. In an interview about the book she says, I tried to show that if you follow all the rules for self-protection, you end up living an intolerably constricted life.

The irony of the constructs and the progression from the interior monologue of Riddle Book through the concentration on a second person in Ghost Book to a fully externalized set of rules (from a university pamphlet on safety for female students) in Defensive Book run the gamut of perception. With her words and her skills as a printer, a binder, and an artist Coriander Reisbord has covered the territory.

Judith Klau