This week, we just added a new artist’s book to our collection:
HERetic: Joan of Arc, by Dorothy Simpson Krause (Marshfield Hills, Mass. : Viewpoint Editions, 2009).
What’s an artist’s book, you say? One short definition, by scholar Stephen Bury, says that “Artists’ books are books or book-like objects over the final appearance of which an artist has had a high degree of control; where the book is intended as a work of art in itself.” Suzy Taraba, Wesleyan’s Director of Special Collections & Archives, adds that artists’ books are “important not only for their content but for their unique forms” and that they often “challenge the reader to think about the nature of the book and the act of reading in new ways.”
How does HERetic: Joan of Arc do this?
First, check out the binding — it’s made to look like a medieval notebook, bound in pliable white vellum (a kind of animal skin), and with long ribbon ties that the journal’s owner would use to tie the book up. You can almost imagine this as the personal diary of Joan of Arc herself, or of someone living at the same time that she did.
Inside, the left side of each opening is filled with what looks like old-fashioned handwriting. These cursive letters are pretty different than what we use today!
The texts are excerpts from a translation of Le Ditié de Jehanne d’Arc written in 1429 by Christine de Pisan, a 15th century woman poet, two years before Joan of Arc was executed for her supposed heresy.
On the right sides of the openings are images of St. Joan statuary with a summary of her life history, including excerpts from her own trial testimony (also in translation, of course).
The whole experience of reading through this book brings you centuries into the past, and gives Joan of Arc’s story a certain in-the-moment poignancy.