Binding of 'Through the Looking Glass' by Lewis Carroll, 1973

Faith Shannon

Leather, linen, board, paper

The notion of playing with time and space, introducing unreal or unusual characters, and the playful use of language and puzzles, as explored in Lewis Carroll's books about Alice, seem to resonate well with designers who are looking to flout convention, and to exploit the freedom of yet-to-be-defined media spaces. It seems an ideal vehicle with which to suggest new reading paradigms for a new medium...

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FAITH SHANNON

Binding of “Through the Looking Glass”
by Lewis Carroll, 1973

Leather, linen, board, paper

The notion of playing with time and space, introducing unreal or unusual characters, and the playful use of language and puzzles, as explored in the Lewis Carroll's books about Alice, seem to resonate well with designers who are looking to flout convention, and to exploit the freedom of yet-to-be-defined media spaces. It seems an ideal vehicle with which to suggest new reading paradigms for a new medium.

Alice in Wonderland is a favourite starting point for publishers who wish to explore 'new' media. An 'expanded book' version, called The Annotated Alice, was one of the first titles published on floppy disc by the Voyager Company in 1993. It was intended to be read on the original Macintosh laptops. Now, with handheld electronic readers such as iPad and Kindle, Alice has made an early return to the digital platform and is one the most successful e-books so far published.

The first exhibit that I have chosen suggests we may sometimes judge a book by its cover. This particular edition of Through the Looking Glass, wraps a handmade binding around an existing volume, and brings to life Tenniel's black and white illustration in colourful three dimensions. Turning the book around, however, we are witness to Alice climbing towards us from the back of the book into the looking glass world. The effect is to suggest that the reader has taken the journey through the looking glass too.

This is such a simple and playful conceit, which is beautifully handled. The idea is that Alice has clambered through the entire book, and emerged on the other side, giving the sense that the binding has transformed the pages of the book into the looking glass itself. Carroll is careful not to call the looking glass a mirror, for what is seen in it is not at all the same as what exists on the 'real' side. For me this then becomes a useful metaphor for the digital screen, as it is the division between what is real and where the imagination takes over. Whilst there is no actual 'other side' to a computer screen, neither is it flat nor two dimensional in how it portrays a virtual other world of its own. in the same way that Alice finds new experiences, which remained out of sight when viewed from the real side, the digital screen can become a looking glass into a world of infinite possibility.

Malcolm Garrett

Faith Shannon’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is bound with red and silver leather. The figure of Alice is made of linen painted with watercolour, padded and embroidered.

Working mainly to commission on special bindings for collectors or for presentation, Shannon feels that the book offers the perfect vehicle for the combination of a painter’s eye; a designer’s training; a craftsman’s skills; an artist’s imagination and a sense of humour.

Born 1938, Faith is an RCA graduate and recipient of an MBE in 1977 for services to bookbinding. Her work has also been translated to the high street including commissions by Royal Mail, Habitat and Boots. www.faithshannon.com

 
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