Heavy reading. She was a “blook” called “Lulu.” Image credit: Ian Brabner, Rare Americana

6 Stone Books: Rare Book Shapes

They’re like books — they look like books — but you’ll never read them. Here’s the story of six blooks from the 19th-century; minding their own business. Then, greater forces come to bear.

In 2016, from January 28 through March 12, the Grolier Club is slated to exhibit Mindell Dubansky’s The Art of Books That Aren’t.

Ms. Dubansky has termed such objects to be known as blooks:

[Blooks are:] objects made in the emulation of books, either by hand or commercial manufacture. All over the world, for hundreds of years, people have been making, collecting and presenting book-objects that reflect their devotion and respect for books and for each other. There are countless examples; they include bars, cameras, radios, banks, toys, memorials, food tins, desk accessories, book safes, musical instruments, magic tricks, furniture and jewelry. Blooks embody the same characteristics as books and many take the form of specific titles and book formats. They signify knowledge, education, taste, power, wealth and more. They have been treasured and passed down through the generations, and many thousands reside in private homes, public and private businesses and in museums and libraries around the world. Blooks have been used to celebrate and memorialize important occasions and personal losses and successes. They serve as reminders of memorable visits to important places, as receptacles to hold valuable and practical objects and are the source of great amusement.

As Ms. Dubansky will no doubt demonstrate in her Grolier Club exhibition, blooks have been around for centuries.

This collection of 6 stone books or “blooks” can be dated to the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Over the decades, all were acquired in the Mid-Atlantic States by a single collector; one drawn to their aesthetic and singular uniqueness in design and presentment.

Six blooks from the late 19th and early 20th century, now floating in 21st century space. Image credit: Ian Brabner, Rare Americana

As can be seen, blooks can be attractive, useful as paperweights, and are rumored to quietly imbue a sense of gravitas those those individuals with especially-disorderly desks — in times of doubt, uncertainty, and great paperwork.

Chances are, somewhere in your house, a friend’s apartment, or your aunt’s retirement community lurks a modern-day blook.


Originally published via RareAmericana.com

Follow Ian Brabner, antiquarian bookseller and rare Americana specialist, on Twitter.

Join my free newsletter if you are interested in rare books, historical manuscripts, ephemera, visual culture of early American origin or context.

I acquire, research, catalog, interpret, exhibit and sell: printed, manuscript, and visual artifacts from 18th–early 20th century American History.

Enjoyed reading this article? Please click “Recommend” below. This will help to share the story with others.

© 2015 Ian Brabner, Rare Americana. All Rights Reserved.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.