The Official Word on an Episode in Chinese History

The book’s binding speaks to the history of old Chinese books (xian zhuang, or thread-bound) and to the tradition of tightly controlling information.

Private collection
Approximately 8 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 1/4 inches

Sexo Puro prototype

For a project on the life and music of Brazilian songwriter and performer Suely Mesquita, I designed a book with a CD sleeve sewn into the signature and a letterpress cover. The book eventually was published in a trade edition, by Verse Chorus Press.

5 1/2 x 5 1/4 x 3/8 inches

New China

China makes beautiful money, and it makes beautiful books.

This piece combines the two.

One of a kind, nfs
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches

The one-of-a-kind binding and text on which the Bahia Night edition was based features a pastepaper cover, inset photograph, and the original calligraphy. The spine is covered in magenta Japanese bookcloth.

One of a kind, nfs
5 3/4 x 9 3/4 x 5/8 inches

Back to the top

Chiyogami Breakup

Woven together, modern machine-printed paper from England and Ume Yuzen from Japan make a tactile and cultural mash-up on the cover of this clamshell box.

One of a kind, nfs
11 x 8 3/4 x 2 inches

Back to the top


The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (a collaboration with silversmith Karen Cheever)

A letterpress “text” of ironic, and conversant, pairs of images comes tucked within a hinged silver binding. It’s heavy, and it’s light.

One of a kind, nfs
approx 3 x 2 x 1/4 inches

Back to the top

This book within a box also has an electrical component, a switch that can be pressed to illuminate the map.

One of a kind, nfs
11 1/4 x 9 5/8 x 1 1/4 inches

Back to the top

Another book within a box, this model showcases another electronic capability: It plays a sound sample of a Chinese knife sharpener’s call when the Ma Nao Books seal is pressed. The bookboard is perforated for speaker amplification.

One of a kind, nfs
9 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 1 1/4 inches

Back to the top

Classic, simple, and tightly packaged, the single-section binding can serve so many purposes. It’s also practically indestructible.

This one’s covered in pastepaper.

6 x 4 3/4 x 3/8 inches

Back to the top

Here’s a larger version of the single-section binding. The linen thread in the middle of the signature signals the handiwork involved.

Other elements to look for in a handmade book include “knocked-up” corners, which wear better when they’re not shaped into pristine points; an even foredge; lush papers; and a book block that sits square, proof that the grain direction of the materials runs parallel to the spine.

7 1/2 x 10 1/4 x 3/8 inches

Back to the top

A multisection book adds many more signatures, and therefore pages, but also brings limitations. For instance, as a journal it’s just too frighteningly big.

8 1/2 x 6 x 3/4 inches

Back to the top

Ma Nao Books has produced hundreds of boxes over the years, with the hands-down favorite being the clamshell. Light- and dust-proof, the clamshell consists of two “trays” that fit together, providing worry-free storage for everything from love letters to photographs.

11 x 8 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches

Back to the top

A small version of the clamshell and two other boxes exhibiting Chinese design elements show the possibilities in cover paper and cloth.

The cover of the clamshell features a glass Perro Color “slide-binder” recessed into the bookboard and framing a bridge image.

Approx 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches

Back to the top

More current titles Earlier editions One of a kind Chinese bindings Home décorEphemera