Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Data & Craft: The Book Beautiful in the Digital Age

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posted on 2021-11-12, 23:23 authored by Scudder, Dan

In 1917 Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson threw his life’s work off the Hammersmith bridge into the river Thames. Cobden-Sanderson did this for the ideal of the Book Beautiful, a book that he thought should be made for beauty, with all constituting elements considered; a book with presence and aura due to the manner in which it is crafted. In contemporary culture technology is becoming increasingly ubiquitous and as a result we read and interact more online than we ever have before. The ease of the internet seems to make the book redundant, yet despite this the book cannot be replaced as it is an emotive physical medium for our text. The ownership of a book is the closest relationship we can have to a text, belying the widespread prevalence of digital texts. This thesis investigates the relevance of the Book Beautiful in our technological society and explores the importance of the Book Beautiful today. One distinct importance is the collecting and ownership of books, in particular the Books Irreplaceable; those so saturated with memories that we cannot part with them. The Book Beautiful facilitates this relationship and nurtures the human side of us, retaining the associations and emotions that permeate it. One hundred years ago Cobden-Sanderson believed that only the exclusive use of the human hand can make a Book Beautiful, but today there exist digital manufacturing machines that can both facilitate the production of the Book Beautiful and facilitate its growth within our communities. To use such technology and yet retain the qualities of craft is called Digital Craft, which this thesis demonstrates is not a contradiction in terms.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Design

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Design


Petty, Margaret