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  • Michele Burgess

The Blood Book, forthcoming 2021

Updated: Feb 19, 2021

The Blood Book is the eleventh volume of the “Stratigraphic Archives” by Michele Burgess and elaborates on the poem “Where and How Blood Was Made” by Chard deNiord. It explores the provenance of human blood—a concentrate that evolved from the sea “where waters gathered to a clarity that was also sorrow,” its legacy in atavism, evolution, intelligence, and human behavior—as well as the horror and fascination we feel toward it in our collective memory. It includes the poem by deNiord, hand set in Bembo, and nine woodcuts, nine pochoirs, four drawings, and seven paintings by Burgess.

The seaweed forms, printed as pochoirs, were adapted and altered from Anna Atkins’s nineteenth-century cyanotypes of British algae, Dawson Turner’s watercolors from his book FUCI, published in 1808, and dried and mounted specimens prepared and sold by Mary Wyatt in 1834-1840. The engraving of the blood vessel system by Andreas Vesalius is from Vivae imagines partium corporis humani aereis formis expressae by Juan Valverde de Amusco, 1566. It was scanned from the primary source, made into a photopolymer relief plate, and printed letterpress. Nelle Martin printed the type and woodcuts on the letterpress, assisted by Sam Warford. Rafi Kopacz did most of the wood carving from Burgess’s drawings. The paper was handmade by the Morgan Conservatory and Cave Paper. The book was bound in vellum, buckram, and Cave paper over boards and housed in a clamshell box covered in silk. Sonja Jones and Amy Cordero assisted with production. The line drawings were traced with pen and ink, and the watercolor paintings were done by hand to create a slightly variable edition of 30 copies with three additional artist’s proofs.

The Blood Book will be published in the Winter of 2021. It was begun in the summer of 2017 and completed under quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, and multiple deadly wildfires throughout the West due to climate change.

Right now I’m just putting the finishing touches on the binding design. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the shelter-in-place orders, we haven’t been able to do our summer sales tour, or really go anywhere else, except for the studio, so I’ve been holed up with this book that I’ve been tweaking for four years. Now the book is starting to let go of me, signaling that I’m close to resolving it.

The paper is one of the most important elements in the book. The transparency and sheen of the overbeaten abaca fiber, for me, is very evocative of water. I was able to have it made in custom colors by the wonderful artisans at The Morgan Art of Papermaking Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. Here is a video of papermaker Allie Morris making the abaca sheets that are dyed to look like flax.

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