William T. Vollmann

Images of artist's books cited in William T. Vollmann: A Critical Companion. Edited by Christopher K. Coffman and Daniel Lukes, Chapter 29, "William T. Vollmann: Artist's Books" by Priscilla Juvelis.

Announcing Book Launch Party and Reading Event



The Book of Candles.

Vollmann, William T.

Sacramento, CA: Co-Tangent Press, 2006. Artist's book / First Edition, one of 10 copies, each signed by the author / artist, William T. Vollmann on a page of the text as well as in the box housing the book. Page size: 19 inches x 16 inches; 75pp; (2pp. per folio sheet, 32 sheets in all + 2 unnumbered double-page spreads). The text is a suite of eight religious and blasphemous love-poems to prostitutes and was composed in the Philippines in 1995 and relief-printed on Rives de Lin paper by the author over a period of years (1997-2003). The text is previously unpublished and there are no immediate plans to publish the poems in any other edition. The text blocks were photo-etched magnesium plates as were some of the illustrations. Other illustrations were woodcuts done in Thailand and Cambodia on Chinese ulo wood. These were colored a la poupee and further hand colored with watercolors and acrylics. Housed in a sailcloth-covered basswood clamshell box which the artist / author has painted, collaged with hand-painted woodblock prints, and suitably adorned with gewgaws. The outside dimensions of the box are 31 inches high x 24 inches wide x 2.5 inches deep. The woodcut image on the underside of each box is different. Four Japanese "doughnut hole" coins have been screwed in to the underside of the box to comprise protective feet. Inside each box, a narrow channel, collaged with painted paper, runs around three edges, leaving the spine side open. Within this are set two wooden corner blocks mounted with selenium-splotched flower-engraved brass plates, a strip of painted walnut engraved with a print of a female nude, two engraved beeswax candles on engraved brass supports wrapped round with brass wire. Even the brass screws of these assemblies are engraved and rubbed with oil-based ink. On the inside of the spine are one engraved and inked aluminum plate and one engraved and inked brass plate which is signed and numbered. This is certainly the most labor-intensive project undertaken so far by William T. Vollmann's Co-Tangent Press but it is also the most beautiful. William T. Vollmann, awarded the National Book Award in 2005 for his novel, EUROPE CENTRAL, has created a book unlike anything else we've seen. The box and the woodcuts are hand-painted as well as printed making each copy of the book unique. The naive aspect of the art of this "journal" brings to mind Gauguin's NOA NOA, which was a book for the 19th century. This is most definitely a book for the 21st century. Using the sexual metaphor of male subjugation of women for the West's exploitation of the more "primitive" East, Vollmann creates imagery that we ignore at our peril. The beauty of the prints, which includes the vibrant colors, lead the reader / viewer to understand that a less sophisticated life has a beauty that cannot be extinguished.