I’m hurting… – my book died

The photos I am showing here are relatively bad – sorry about that. They were taken by artificial light late on March 18th when I had finished the booklet, just before wrapping it for shipment. It was the last time it was handled with love. It is a Nag Hammadi style pamphlet with 40 pages. The leather was a beautifully soft, brown and un-dyed lamb leather.

The pages were an ivory colored rag paper, with wet-torn deckle edges . The pages A8 sized, the whole book was about 5cm x 7.5cm small (about 2″ x 3″). It was made as part of a proposal for a possible commission that I received last month. He wanted something durable, that can be worn in a pocket for ages without being destroyed. So this was my solution. I honestly still think it does everything he asked for.

He writes: “I tested for pen and pencil writing, tear resistance, and ability to withstand erasers. The paper is OK for my pen and pencil, but failed the other tests. I would have done more testing, but the paper was really too fragile.” – I think the paper is especially tear resistant, and you can actually use an eraser on it, but in the end it is paper, of course. Further down his message I had to read: “I tested the leather binding, and found that is was also quite fragile.”
I cannot imagine what he did to this actually very robust construction. I feel sick just thinking about it. And I don’t want to go into more detail.

It is hard for me to say what makes this so horrible for me. I mean, I think it is a legitimate question to ask how durable my books are, and also test it. And I do believe this book would have withstood lifelong use. But not brutal acts of violence and abuse. Of course you can rip a book apart if you really want to…

It is totally o.k. for me that it is just not what he wanted. But the image of this book being torn apart is haunting me.

13 replies on “I’m hurting… – my book died”

    1. Thanks for your compassion!
      Part of my distress about this comes from that he put it to “tests” (he wrote a long letter describing them) that really have nothing to do with natural wear. I keep thinking: How can you take something nice and intricate, that was made by hand, a mini book, and test how much you can pull until it comes apart?! It seems to show so much disrespect for the love and work that went into the making.
      You are right, it is more his attitude than his doing that is hurting here.

  1. Ohhhhhhhhh Schreck ein Bücherschänder????
    Jetzt wollt ich schnell mal wieder ein Hallo hier lassen,
    damit Du auch weißt, dass ich immer bei Dir bin!!!!
    Und dann muß ich so was lesen….bzw zamreimen
    mein Englisch is ja nicht so dolle ;O)
    Oh ich versteh Dich, da blutet einem das Herz
    Aber Du mußt fest dran glauben – es ist ein tapferes kleines Buch und wird den Angriffen schon einiges entgegensetzen ;O)
    Ciao Liane

    1. Ja, du hast richtig gelesen. Ich hab’ das Büchlein hier als Anschauungsstück gemacht, um einen Kostenvoranschlag- und Vorschlag überhaupt zu begleiten. Mein nun-doch-nicht Kunde hat es offenbar komplett zerrissen. Er meinte, er müsste testen, wie fest man daran ziehen kann, bevor es kaputt geht. Da sowohl das Papier, als auch das Leder, eigentlich sehr verschleißsicher sind, muss er ganz schön Arbeit damit gehabt haben, es kaputt zu bekommen.

      Aber es freut mich sehr zu hören, dass du als Leserin noch dabei bist 🙂 Das erinnert mich daran, dass ich mal wieder mehr deutsche Teile schreiben sollte.

      Frohe Ostern!

  2. What an awful waste. I’ve seen a couple of your books in person, and can vouch that the quality of your work is top notch. “Tests”?! Anything made with leather and paper tears if stretched enough! It’s beyond belief. I’m really sorry to hear you had this depressing experience.

    1. Thanks for saying that!
      I find it hard to understand the mindset one must have to test a book this way. I could have told him that it is possible to tear it apart, had he ask for it!
      But I am slowly recovering from the shock of receiving his letter yesterday.

  3. That’s an aweful thing happened to your wonderful work, ‘testing’ is not the same as tearing apart. I feel for you.

  4. I read your blog entry to my partner and we both groaned with sympathy for you. Sometimes you just get “one of those” clients. Most of the rest of us recognize and appreciate the craftsmanship of your books. Remember us and forget this guy.

  5. I can’t even begin to image what he must have done to that beautiful book, I also can’t shake the impression that he just wanted a toy to pull apart… I’m sorry you’re hurting so much over this, but it’s his terrible attitude and, dare I say, childishness, that is to blame and not your craftsmanship.

  6. Your book didn’t die: it was murdered. I suggest that you try and avoid this type of customer in the future, though I am not sure how. One way might be to require payment for “sample” books. You could make that charge refundable on the customer actually ordering (and paying for) a final product, if you felt badly about charging for a sample. Personally I would just require that any “sample” be purchased like any other work. After all it cost you in both time and materials and you should be compensated. Though I’m not sure how much you would need to charge to make this customer’s behaviour feel all right. I don’t believe there is a book in the world that could withstand extreme testing, unless perhaps it was entirely made out of something like Tyvek and Kevlar!

  7. Thanks to you all for your compassionate anger. Knowing that my distress is not too inappropriate, helped a lot with feeling better, and somehow let this work go. Apparently I do feel a little bit too attached to my works.
    And sorry for not answering earlier: I had some beautiful non-bookish days with my family which also helped recovering from this shock.

    As to the business side of this event: Before I made the mock-up for him, we talked a little about what I could make for him. We agreed on a range of 15$ to 50$ per book, depending on what he finally wants to have. My usual arrangement is: Discussion of ideas and this kind of cost estimate is free. A more elaborate proposal with a mock-up is free if I get the commission, and the lowest price in the range (so 15$ in this case) if he decides not to commission me.
    I send him an invoice right after I received the last email, and he paid within minutes. – I cannot complain about this part of our arrangement.

    I spend some time trying to understand this man. By now my picture is of someone who is very correct in any way. He would never act irrationally – something that defines his moral: to do bad is to act irrationally. And to test book before ordering a dozen of them is the rational thing to do. And of course he sticks to what he promised to do to the word.

    He is not a bad customer as such. And it also was not him who decided not to commission me to be quite correct. – He just requested that I used other techniques and materials. Concluding that in the end he didn’t want a book at all, I decided I could not do anything else for him. (It seems he wants something indestructible.)
    Cathryn’s idea to use Tyvek and Kevlar is maybe not bad. If you want to give it a try, let me know, I’ll give you more detail about what he requested, and I’ll pass your email on to him. (No sarcasm involved here.)

    I hope all of you who celebrated Easter had a wonderful time! See you around.

  8. I have Tyvek, but I have no idea where I could get Kevlar or how difficult it would be to work with!

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