I went trolling for Melissographia and landed on Maud’s Book. Both are artistic books by artist Amy Shelton. The former is a letterpress book composed of a series of bee poems with individually embossed, hand-painted pollen maps scattered among them. Created in collaboration with Scottish poet and novelist John Burnside, it looks beautiful, but it’s the latter book that drew me in: an artistic rendering of Shelton’s great grandmother’s autograph book from when she was a teenager, between 1914 and 1918. An original page from the autograph book is shown below.
Maud’s Book made me wish I’d kept my own autograph book from girlhood. I probably threw it away, thinking it was childish, yet now I’d regard it as a treasure. Shelton saw the treasure in her great grandmother’s autograph book, signed by soldiers stationed near her village in England, soon to be sent to the front of the Great War . It’s a memoir, of sorts, with its signatures and accompanying poems, drawings, riddles and musings. In its new form created by Shelton, however, it is neither hardbound nor paperback nor electronic, rather a series of clay tablets, like books used to be, thousands of years ago.
One tablet is below, but you can see more on her website where Shelton writes: “As clay tablets they reference the ancient clay writing tablets (cuneiform) from Mesopotamia, made three and a half thousand years ago, serving as recording devices carrying stories as hymns to the fragility of human culture.”