Portfolio boxes for physical objects

This is an example of how the construction of a multi-purpose portfolio case can be used to store, display and describe physical mementos and other objects.

About 40 years ago I acquired a paperback copy of the I Ching – the Chinese book of change which provides a guide to divination or prediction of the future. The inside cover of this book notes that it was written in 1000 BC, is probably the oldest book in the world and is the most powerful distillation of Chinese wisdom. The divination method is to hold 50 sticks upright in a bundle and to allow them to fall randomly, and the text assists the reader to interpret the resulting positions of the sticks.

The book instructs that the fifty divining sticks should be yarrow stalks which should be stored in a lidded receptacle which is never used for any other purpose; so I duly collected yarrow sticks from a rural verge side and placed them in a terracotta lidded jar. I only used the I Ching a few times – and still have the notes I made on two of those occasions. The book ended up on a bookshelf and the terracotta lidded jar mostly resided on the bedroom window sill of the various houses I lived in.

In 2018, as part of my effort to eliminate all paperbacks from my bookshelves, I decided that I would convert the paperback to a hardback book and, at the same time, to unite the sticks with the book. This was achieved by first turning the paperback into a hardback and including the two sets of notes at the back of the book. The inside sleeves of the cover were used to document the story of the collection of the yarrow sticks, my use of the I Ching, and the creation of a folding portfolio case for both.

Then a case for the book was created as shown below.

Next a box for the sticks was created with thin magnets in the flap and in the side of the case, to secure the flap.

Then a surrounding cover was created onto which the case and the box were glued. Thin magnets on the top of the case and the top of the box help to keep the structure in place.

Finally a dust jacket was created and the story of where the yarrow stalks came from and where they had previously resided, with photos, was documented on the back cover.

Box Set

I was a keen athlete when I was at school and collected a number of ‘how to’ booklets and training aids which are now quite precious to me – see below.

Unfortunately they are thin soft backs which flop around and have no space for spine titles, so they don’t sit very well on a bookshelf full of hardbacks. I needed some sort of container on which a title could be inscribed.

I asked at the bookbinding class that I go to, and was told I needed to make a Portfolio – apparently a common construction in the bookbinding world. A Portfolio is made in two parts: the outside piece which folds over so that, like the outside of a book, it provides a base, a spine and a front cover; and an inside envelope with flaps, which is glued onto the base of the outside piece.  The finished portfolio is shown below.

To this basic construction I decided to add a dust jacket which is attached to the portfolio by gluing the right hand flap of the dust jacket between the outside and inside pieces. The remainder of the dust jacket wraps around the portfolio such that the left hand flap goes inside the front cover.

As with the rugby book, I used the dust jacket flaps to write about my athletics endeavours; and I included copies of some memento documents on the rest of the jacket. However, I tried out a couple of new things on this dust jacket: first, I included several old photos and this seems to have worked very well – photos are easy to see and speak for themselves. Secondly, I put thumbnails of the Portfolio contents on the spine instead of a written title. This too has worked well and produces a colourful and interesting spine on the bookshelf.

In retrospect, I think I was too ambitious with the memento documents I included – the text is too small and indistinct to read easily as a result of wanting to display the whole of a memento page. Perhaps next time I put a jacket design together, I’ll explore just including selected parts of a page magnified to a level where it is very easy to read.

Dust Jacket Augmentation

I have a bookcase of hardbacks interspersed with the odd paperback. When I started bookbinding last year I decided to turn the paperbacks into hardbacks (something I’d done as a school librarian many years ago). The first one turned out quite well: it was a Pan paperback and I photographed the cover after I had removed it so that I could print out a dust jacket for it.

After that, the cover was cut into front, back and spine, and each of the three pieces glued onto the new hardcover. I was able to use inside sleeves of the dust jacket I created in PowerPoint to reproduce summary text about the author and the book which was present on pages at the front and back of the book (see a previous post about how to create and print out dust jackets).

With this experience under my belt, I started on my next paperback – a history of the Kodak UK Rugby Club for which I played a few games in the 1970s. As before, I photographed the cover after removing it, and set about creating the dust jacket in PowerPoint.

However, this book included no summary text and the back of the cover was blank. I realised that here was a great opportunity to include some additional material from my memento collection. I duly placed copies of the 6 pages of the Club’s December 1976 newsletter on the back cover, and copies of 6 of the selection slips I had received to play in various matches in 1973 on the back inside sleeve. On the front inside sleeve I wrote some words about my rugby playing career and my time with the Kodak Rugby Club.

I do like having glossy covers on books, and this experience has convinced me that a dust jacket can offer even more. It can also be a great non-invasive way to include additional personal material which is then much more accessible on a bookshelf rather than trapped away in a folder in a cupboard. Regardless of such additions the books still look great on the bookshelf.

The Mutability of Books

There is little point in keeping things if you are not going to enjoy them and/or use them. By applying digital technology, collections can be exploited, made visible, and brought to life. There are a huge numbers of ways in which you can relate items together, tell stories about them, and use digital technology to present the results in some form or other.  This particular journey will look at ways in which books can be used to exploit the contents of collections.

Since the common experience of books is of finished, immutable, items, the idea of using books as vehicles for exploiting the contents of a collection may seem a bit strange. However, there are a surprising number of ways in which this can be achieved including creating your own books, adding dust jackets, creating portfolio boxes and slip cases, and including additional documents and artefacts into the fabric of a book.  These are some of the possibilities I shall be exploring in this journey.

There is one way of doing this that many people are already familiar with – creating a Photobook.  This capability is widely and cheaply available on the internet through services such as Snapfish, Blurb, Photobox and Truprint, to name but a few; and many people have either created and/or been shown the Photobooks they supply. However, although such services are designed primarily to assemble and print a set of photos into a bound book, It is perfectly feasible to include images of artefacts and documents, as well as descriptive text. They are very versatile and can produce great looking results: this is a link to my first attempt – a seventy page book of my retirement cards and work experiences – and I subsequently produced a fifty page 90th birthday book for my mother. These experiences have convinced me that Photobooks can be used very effectively for all sorts of things and I shall be reporting on my creation of another Photobook later on in this journey.