Making Books and Learning Slowly

Before my mother married my father in 1946, she worked at Wright Field (now Wright Patterson Air Force Base). As a going away/wedding gift, Mom’s mustachioed co-workers down the hall in the art department (yes, the Air Corps had an art department) created this little home-made booklet for her in response to her comment “I’ve never been kissed by a man with a mustache.”

The book is so charming, the illustrations and intent so sweet.  And now it’s become one of my most treasured possessions. Look closely and you can see the human touches: the pencil marks, the erasures, the gestures, the staples. The illustrations clearly caricature the artists, just as they tell the story of a time and place very different from today.  The homemade book lives and breathes, long after the people who made it are long gone.

The homemade book is beautiful and charming, and touches us for years. The real charm of the homemade book, however, is what the act of bookmaking does for the bookmaker.

DIY bookmaking requires us to slow down, think, notice, compose, contextualize, design, illustrate and organize.  We have to care deeply for how the whole thing is packaged or it might easily fall apart. If there’s a fundamental difference between reading a book and skimming web pages, imagine the difference between reading and creating a book.  Students in Waldorf schools learn to make their own books, why not adult learners?