Structure of the Visual Book

By Keith A. Smith

Structure of the Visual Book was written “to elaborate on the potential of the book format, whether text, images, or a combination…” My copy is the third edition of this self-published book — not the first Smith has made on the self-referential subject of book-making.

It took me a while to parse the maybe-subtitle “Book 95” — it turns out, this is the 95th book Smith has made — or conceptualized; some of his books are one-page conceptual recipes for potential-books, a la Sol Lewitt!

Smith has done lots of book experimentation: with transparencies, composition, book formats, and something he calls “residual concepts”. I love this idea — that “[s]tructures in music, poetry, story-telling and cinema can be translated to the book format.”

The book covers wide ground: The Book as Physical Object, Display, Picture Relationships, Movement, Syntactical Pages, Structure and Composition; it’s illustrated with meticulous examples.

One section, examining books as both physical things and containers of meaning, covers unique types of book objects: fold-outs, fans, kaleidoscopic folds and bindings. There’s much more: a consideration of the experience of reading; fertile themes of book-making like the relationships of book elements, rhythm, transitions, motifs.

This thoughtful exploration — “as much an autobiography as it is a book-about-books” — is clearly product of a life of both close appreciation and learned practice of the bibliogenerative arts.

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