Emily Martin, “The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet”

Front and back covers with spine tabbing construction.


Full view of carousel opened completely, magnets embedded in the covers. Ribbon tabs to facilitate separation to closing.


Two text panels, the first the original chorus from the play, the second, an updated section of the chorus and my commentary underneath.


The balcony scene from Act II. The text lines on the floor for each act alternate between Juliet and Romeo until Act V when the Prince speaks.


The banishment scene from Act III. The text line on the floor is Romeo.


Artist: Emily Martin (Iowa City, IA)

Title: The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet (2012)

Medium/technique(s): letterpress and trace monoprints

Edition size: 9

Number of pages: 10

Dimensions, open: 9 x 18 x 18 in

Dimensions, closed: 9 x 9 x 1 in


Artist Statement:

I originally trained as a painter but I was always interested in using narrative elements in my work. I started making artists books in the late 1970’s. Currently my work most often is with book forms. I have an ongoing interest in the artist’s book as a container of content but also as a sculptural object. I like the complexity that working with books allows, the materials, the forms, the content all working together. I am interested in the relationship between the viewer and the book. A book to be viewed fully must be handled. This makes for a more connected even intimate, type of viewing. I draw from my own life, what I read, experience, remember, dream and also make up, is used to develop the content of my books. I want a communication from the book to the viewer, a communication sometimes clear, sometimes ambiguous or subject to interpretation. This is another aspect of the relationship of the book to the viewer. I use a variety of materials and print methods, primarily letterpress printing, to make my books, which are presented in editions of 10-100 copies. Working in multiples allows the books to be more widely distributed.

This is a carousel book made in response to the call for entries from the Bodleian Libraries and Designer Bookbinders for an international designer bookbinding competition in 2013. I have never made a designer bookbinding and I didn’t intend to start now but I entered this competition based on two things. First I heard Richard Ovenden speak at the 2011 Codex meeting and he emphasized that they wanted artists’ books for this competition. And second there was a pop-up in the call publication. I selected the excerpts after reading the play a number of times, one line of dialogue to represent the story being told in each of the five acts. I had not remembered the chorus from previous readings and I have chosen to emphasize the timelessness of the play through repetition of the chorus and insertion of modern equivalents: Bosnia, Israel, Rwanda and the United States for Verona. I have also added a commentary of my own beneath the repeated chorus. This carousel book uses a format that I devised to allow for scenes and separate text panels. The spine tabbing, also of my devising, functions both to hold the book together and to balance the thickness at the fore-edge. The covers are printed on a handmade flax, abaca and linen paper from papermaker Mary Hark.