Brooklyn, NY: Waterstreet Press, 1986. Limited Edition. Hardcover. Ten folios, offset printed on Arches cover buff. This copy bound in 1998 in a unique binding by the author/illustrator Timothy C. Ely.
"'Approach to the Site' is one of the very few editioned books I have made. In itself it is a departure from my other editioned books because the printing was done using commercial offset lithography. I made this choice having seen some impressive examples of work produced by Waterstreet Press in Brooklyn, a fine book and art printer. My paper choice suggests oxidation and entropy. We all go yellow in the end. I received a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation which funded the printing and supplies for the binding.
'Approach to the Site' is a reflection on my ideas of libraries and how those ideas both inspired and directed some of my work at that time.
In the early 80’s, when this book was produced, a core idea for me rippled out from the image of Library as Island. I had visited national libraries in England, Italy and France and, of course, the Library of Congress and the New York Public library. I always look in on any library I pass for they seem to me to be like ponds of influence and all you have to do is throw in a stone. I am one of those stones. In addition to the visits, absorbing architecture and the direct influence and inspiration of physical books, I read a book on the history of the early Christian Church called 'THE LIVES OF THE DESERT FATHERS'. I became intrigued with the idea of an archetypal library as a radiant island or colony of thinkers and seekers. North Africa seems to be a string of beads, a constellation of sorts, each bead or star a monastery, many with a library. For some forgotten reason I set the archetype in central Turkey. The library was not Atlantis-like or special beyond just being an amazing repository of world knowledge, perhaps concealed or requiring clearance like the Vatican Library and its veiled basement.
I began a small series of now lost sketches mostly done in the American Museum of Natural History in New York. These would guide my ideas as I drew each mylar color separation by hand. A few images used 4 colors, some two, and many were monochromatic reflecting a set of subjects I would have liked to have found in this secret library.
The edition took decades to complete as I am a reluctant edition binder. With my work on unique manuscript books and other projects there has always been something more compelling to do. I tended to bind a few copies of 'Approach to the Site' at a time or when a client showed some interest." [Timothy C. Ely, February 2017]
As often happens with editioned books, copies of 'Approach to the Site' were not completed and numbered sequentially. Ely retains copy #1, unbound. Over time, many of the case bound copies were repurposed. Far fewer than the stated edition of 49 copies were issued or actually exist.
Timothy C. Ely is a renowned and enigmatic figure in the book world. His one-of-a-kind manuscript books combine elaborate and often mysterious painted and drawn folios contained within finely crafted bindings, most of which are original designs or variations on traditional binding techniques. Each book carries layers of both materials and meaning. Each drawing and element elicit revelations, personal to each viewer.
“For the last forty years, his books and other works have sprung from a central core of concepts, owing to a fascination with obscure or seemingly incomprehensible forms inspired by science and other projections from the history of the human imagination. This spectrum of inspiration includes such things as fractured and whole grids, cypher systems, landforms and landscapes as viewed from a satellite, and the archeological overlay of some of these sites, especially those containing libraries. Originally, the atlas format provided a platform for the rendering of his complex maps, which gradually gave way to an expanded psychological viewpoint of a larger universal scheme.
Much of Ely’s work is richly annotated with his own glyphs he calls “cribriform.” While they are made up of a finite set of marks, they take on many different “meanings” depending on the tool with which they are drawn. He has written and spoken often about the roots and evolution of these drawings. Gestural in their formation, these trailings evoke a sense of language and meaningful discourse. Though suggestive, they never yield up a firm translation.” [A. Schoolman]. Fine in Fine Archival Box. Tight, bright, and unmarred. Boards covered in remaindered leaves and fragments from the printing (partially revealed) and then given a crusticular treatment using various sands and aggregate compounds from many high desert landscapes, conventional sewing. Housed in a custom clamshell box by the artist. fo 27.5cm x 37cm. Numbered limited edition, this being 42 of 49. Item #9757