Mini Book of Major Events: Whole World History in Your Hand


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mini book major events

In a handful of pages in a book the size of a fingernail, this book artist tells a minimalist story of life on Earth, illustrating pivotal moments with brief text and tiny images.

mini life arises page

mini dinosaur extinction page

mini fire discovered page

mini agriculture planting page

A beautiful bit of hand-bound book art, The Mini Book of Major Events is just one of a series of micro-volumes made by Evan Lorzenzen, all of which pack large ideas into the smallest space possible.

mini the plague page

mini electricity discovered page

mini first contact page

mini book of major cover

Of course, selectivity is key – which events warrant mentioning when space is at a premium? Then, how does one illustrate these most effectively at such a minute scale?

mini book wordless volume

tiny book folded open

little book inside pages

little book of big ideas

Along similar lines, The Little Book of Big Ideas tackles large and important concepts from war and death to love and infinity, again with lovely drawings alongside each.

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Groundless City: A Guidebook to Underground Hong Hong


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hong kong elevated walkway

Between raised walkways, subways, ferries, cable cars, a multi-block outdoor escalator and extensive double-decker bus system, it is possible to traverse a huge swath of Hong Kong without even touching the ground (photo above by HappyKiddo).

hong kong map detail

At the same time, it is hard to find maps and illustrations of this vast urban phenomena – at least outside of Cities Without Ground: A Hong Kong Guidebook, which maps 32 networks of pedestrian paths above and below the surface.

hong kong book cover

Architects and authors Jonathan D Solomon, Clara Wong, and Adam Frampton (through ORO Editions) documented these interconnected systems in amazing detail. As Kevin Kelly writes, the book captures the essence of a sort of shadow city: “Beneath and between the gleaming skyscrapers built over the cramped confines of Hong Kong proper are miles of subterranean malls, passageways, stairs, subway stations, parking garages, escalators, skybridges, and food courts.”

hong kong underground network

Like aged cities themselves (or water-carved catacombs or piecemeal-generated anthills), these networks were not designed as a whole. Rather, they developed organically over time via both private and public initiatives, slowly forming a convoluted but beautiful and evolving patchwork of voids with various degrees of privacy and accessibility.

hong kong detailed guidebook

hong kong public diagrams

If you do visit Hong Kong, try this for a start: take the escalator all the way up and back down the steeply-sloped hillside. Or: break off just before the bottom and stay on second-story walkways as far as they will take you. If you get stuck, instead of descending just to street level, go underground and see how far you can make it via subterranean passageways. If all else fails, hop on a bus, ferry or subway. You may be amazed at how far this combination can take you.

hong kong urban diagram

hong kong above

More about the book from the official description: “Hong Kong is a city without ground. This is true both physically (built on steep slopes, the city has no ground plane) and culturally (there is no concept of ground). Density obliterates figure-ground in the city, and in turn re-defines public-private spatial relationships. Perception of distance and time is distorted through compact networks of pedestrian infrastructure, public transport and natural topography in the urban landscape.Without a ground, there can be no figure either. In fact, Hong Kong lacks any of the traditional figure-ground relationships that shape urban space: axis, edge, center, even fabric.” (Photo by Nicolas Vollmer)

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Drinkable Book: Tear-Out Pages Filter, Clean & Purify Water


[ By WebUrbanist in Design & Products & Packaging. ]

drinkable book front pages

Each sheet from this life-saving tome can provide 30 days of drinkable water - all together, the entire volume is able make a total of 5,000 liters fit for human consumption (enough for four years).

drinkable book final design

The project, a collaboration between scientists, engineers and typographer Brian Gartside, was created for the non-profit WaterIsLife as both an educational tool and vital resource.

drinkable stacked book

drinkable volume front back

Coated in silver nanoparticles and written on with food-grade inks, the pages are able to actively kill off deadly diseases found in the water supply of developing countries. Straining out particles and reducing bacteria counts by over 99.99%, their filtering capabilities leave safe-to-consume potable liquid on par with American tap water.

filter book box

drinkable book page tear

Co-engineered by creators from Carnegie Mellon and the University of Virginia, the sheets are made to be torn out easily and inserted into a filter box, which doubles ingeniously as a storage and shipping container for the books as well.

drinkable book filter insertion

drinkable reservoir safe pour

Best of all, the book is cheap to produce and thus practical to manufacture and distribute in bulk to those in need. Including various tips teaching proper sanitation techniques and the dangers of dirty water, its messages of awareness are also translated into numerous languages to make it globally legible.

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Vanishing Vernacular: NYC Storefront Gentrification in Action


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store front five boroughs

Overtly a straight-shot photographic compilation, Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York shows the rich vernacular diversity of mom-and-pop shops across all five boroughs. Since publishing the book, however, its creators have revisited their subjects and documented the amazing rate of change as “luxury condos and artisanal cupcake boutiques uproot local delis and dive bars.”

store front bar office

These before-and-after pictures were taken across all its boroughs of the city, reflecting the influence of many immigrant cultures, including “Irish, Germans, Jews, Italians, Poles, Eastern Europeans and later Hispanics and Chinese. “

store front deli bank

The images themselves are unpretentious, allowing the streets and stores to speak for themselves. Supplemental maps, histories and interviews, however, help flesh the book out without detracting from the power of the photos throughout.

store front nyc photos

store front photo shoot

The visual story told by the book and followup photographs is hard to put into words, but captures the spirit of neighborhoods around New York. “The variety is immense, from Manhattan’s Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery and Katz’s Delicatessen to the Jackson Heights Florist in Queens, Court Street Pastry in Brooklyn, D. D’Auria and Sons Pork Store in the Bronx and the De Luca General Store on Staten Island … the face of New York is etched in their facades.”

store front then now

storefront street view image

About the photographers and authors, James and Karla Murray, and their work: “Their critically acclaimed books New York Nights and Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York as well as their graffiti publication Broken Windowshave set the standard for urban documentation. New York Nights was the winner of the prestigious New York Society Library’s 2012 New York City Book Award. “

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Encyclopedic Landscape: Artist Carves 24-Volume Book Set


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book landscape encyclopedia set

In his most voluminous undertaking to date, this book artist bids farewell to the long legacy of printed Encyclopedia Britannica sets with a mountainous tribute to their 244 years of history.

book landscape 24 volumes

book landscape design detail

book landscape close up

Guy Laramée, book artist and author of this piece titled Adieu (French for goodbye), has done similar works at smaller scale, sometimes carved into single books and other times made from whole sets or entire series. A range of fascinating examples can be seen below and certain pieces are available for purchase from the Foster/White Gallery.

book art carved cavern

book art cave inside

book art mountain landscape

book art landscape detail

The act of gouging into a book seems almost violent, making the idyllic and often nature-centric compositions this artist creates via that destruction seem strikingly peaceful by contrast.

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Explore Everything: Epic Book Shows How to Hack Cities


[ By WebUrbanist in Global & Urbex & Parkour. ]

urban exploration guide book

Combining harrowing first-hand experiences, vivid images and historical context, urban explorer and photographer Bradly L. Garrett takes his readers on a stunning in-depth tour through the hidden world of urban exploration and building infiltration. This trip passes through the sewers and subway tunnels of London, over bridges and skyscrapers of New York, and slip you in between derelict buildings and abandoned places around the world.

urban crane tower climb

Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City (from Verso Books) is more accessible than a manifesto yet more revealing than a manual. In highly readable and engaging prose, it manages to combine personal storytelling and thoughtful reflection with factual urban histories and practical tips for exploring secret spaces.

urban tunnel vertical view

If you are looking for a coffee-table book of eye candy to flip through, this is not the one for you, but there are plenty of those already. Instead, this is a rarer sort of volume that goes far deeper, drawing on meticulous notes, handmade maps, diligent research and many years of direct experience.

urban paris rooftop

urban deserted building structure

urban derelict building decay

urban tunnel graffiti art

urban subway tunnel

Like something from a China Miéville or Neil Gaiman novel, this author reveals that there truly is a layer of fantastic mystery behind, between or below the surfaces of any city. With stories of personal adventures, from climbing skyscrapers under construction to descending into derelict subway tunnels, Garrett conveys the hot sweat and cold fear experienced in his travels. At the same time, he manages to provide commentary that goes beyond the level of an explorer and into the realm of researcher and philosopher. His combination of first-hand and historical knowledge make this a book worth reading.

urban abandoned interior

urban detroit interior volume

The heavy volume may have travel anecdotes and photographs, but it is also not lacking in powerful insights and revealing opinions. Discussing Detroit, Garrett reveals the complexities of a city that is known for its abandonments but is simultaneously in many ways and places a “light, bright, vibrant, beautiful place” that is “full of life, events, politically active citizens, great places to go out” as well as “a plethora of sites ripe for infiltration.” He notes that “as images of decay had become culturally ubiqituitous in this city” many photographers have focused too hard on “sharp, vibrant, long-exposure photography” that produces stylized and idealized imagery that “look uncomfortably similar to traditional photos of colonial explorers, evoking images of white men sticking flags in the soil.” Detroiters sick of their city being seen as a one-sided wasteland will appreciate the author’s even-handed and open-minded approach to and appreciation of their home – and this is just one of many such examples.

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Edgy Art: Fore-Edge Paintings Hidden in Historical Books


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Invisible at a glance, artists have long hidden fore-edge artwork in plain sight, resulting in works that are sometimes first spotted decades or even centuries after their creation. What looks like a plain gold-gilt surface on the shelf can unfold to reveal a rich and colorful surprise.




Via Colossal, the above examples come from Colleen Theisen and the Special Collections & University Archives  at the University of Iowa. They are from a series of four books titled after the seasons (Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer shown sequentially above) published in the 1800s by Robert Mudie.

autumn winter summer spring

The art of disappearing fore-edge painting dates back hundreds of years, but (visible) edge painting on closed books goes back over a thousand years. Sometimes the scenes are made to match content, contexts and characters from within the book. In other cases, they are more broadly relevant, meant to set the stage or tone for the reader.

fore edge art

The fore-edge (found on the opposite side of a book’s spine) can be painted directly on the closed book to create a drawing that is immediately visible. Alternatively, the pages can be splayed out and painted on the front or back  of the edge. In some cases, both sides are painted to create a double fore-edge works that are entirely different depending on which way you splay the sheets. Triple fore-edge variants are also possible, with two patterns or scenes that disappear and a third that is visible when the book is closed.

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