Friday, January 22, 2010


I found this intriguing "manuscript" here at Dr.K Natarajan's blog, Siddhadreams

My book obsession extends to ancient manuscripts, scrolls, maps and texts, especially those kept hidden deep in some cave or rock-hewn church.

How intriguing are the Dead Sea scrolls, Egyptian papyri, illuminated biblical manuscripts, Ethiopia's coptic tomes .....

Ethiopian manuscript. This photo belongs to A. Davey's Flickr photostream here, where you will find more photos of his trip to Ethiopia.

...... magic healing scrolls as tall as the people they've been created for ...

Ethiopian Healing Scrolls. Find more about them here.

.... and the mysterious manuscripts of Timbuktu.

Timbuktu Manuscript. Photo found here.

Great effort is being made to restore and preserve more than 700,000 ancient manuscripts found in Timbuktu and other areas of Mali. Imagine these time worn pages wrapped in engraved leather or within carved wood covers, secreted away in old trunks for centuries.

Leather bound manuscripts from Timbuktu. Photograph found here.

I enjoyed a film clip here showing Andrew Harding's visit to Mali but I must admit I blanched seeing these 800 year old manuscripts being so roughly handled.

Manuscript No. 11 by Ron Pippin. Be prepared to be amazed by Ron's artwork here.

With these beautiful treasures in mind I gravitate toward present day art which captures the essence of old manuscripts. Artwork that instills the feeling that you are looking at something ancient, sacred and irreplaceable.

Manuscript No.2 . Mixed media with bees wax by Ron Pippin

Ron Pippin describes his work as "visual prayers" that aim for healing and "grace".

"Pippin's boxes are close packed and seem more like survival kits from some archaic civilization, with medicine vials, packets of powders or possibly needles, blowgun darts, feathers, discolored files, maps, sepia photos that may portray the original owner. Or perhaps these kits belonged to magicians or healers of some sort." - Michel Oren (Gallery Director)

Recent work by Ron Pippin

Artifact by Gail Rieke. See more of Gail's exquisite collages here.

Boxed Books by Jody Alexander. See more of these amazing assemblages here .

"Jody Alexander is an artist, bookbinder, papermaker, librarian, and teacher who lives and works in Santa Cruz, California. She makes paper in the Eastern style, and uses her papers to bind books with exposed sewing on the spine in a number of historical and modern binding styles. She combines these books with found objects, wooden boxes and drawers, metal, bones, glass, etc. to create sculptural works. Her pieces celebrate collecting, storytelling, and odd characters. She also enjoys rescuing old books in distress and giving them new life as scrolls, wall books, and other objects."

Daniel Essig creates fantastic books. This photo comes from Flickr, here. See Daniel's website here.

"Daniel Essig creates wooden-covered art books and book-based sculptures. Using a fourth-century binding style known asEthiopian style Coptic, he creates mixed-media book structures that incorporate unusual woods, handmade paper, found objects, fossils, and mica."


  1. Thanks for another fascinating exhibition! There was a show at the British Library a few years ago called Sacred where they displayed many ancient texts from different faiths. Somehow very moving to be in the presence of those scribes and artists from so long ago.....

  2. I'm so excited I can't type! lol Thanks for finding all these. Ron Pippin is one of my favourites. It's funny, but I just came across this yesterday. It fits in well with your post.

  3. I just love old books and there is a little bookshop in St Davids (Pembrokeshire, Wales) that is just up a very steep stepped hill from the Cathedral that always has wonderful old books for sale. This post was great and got me thinking about book binding as well. Tendon still playing up so not carving unfortunately. Regards Dave

  4. Ron Pippin's manuscript No.2...I'm floored...

  5. Annie, I can only imagine such an exhibition. Even when looking at the photographs of these old manuscripts I am moved.

    Jo, I know the feeling! Looking at the gris-gris gave me the tremors. Thanks so much for the link.

    Dave, sorry your tendon is still playing up. Frustrating! I'm so tempted to start book binding but don't know that I could squeeze anything else into my day. However, if they had a bookbinding workshop in my area I would pounce on it.

  6. Firstly, congratulations to Annie!

    Oh my goodness! The ancient manuscripts are absolutely amazing! They are like centuries old altered art books and incredibly inspiring! What a find! Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention!


    Have a lovely weekend

  7. The artists you profiled are the alchemists of modern day books.
    Ron Pippin's work is truly a prayer and a grace, overwhelming really.
    History will uncover their work
    far in the future and find it just
    as precious as the ancient manuscripts
    you exhibited in this post. Such
    amazing talent all in one place. Thank you for such a lovely collection of incredible work.

  8. This is so amazing that I'm speechless and breathless! What a joyous way to start my Saturday with one of your inspirational posts! I just can't get over those old manuscripts!

  9. Someone like me that loves books can't help but drool over these examples of old manuscripts, sculptures and collages. They are marvelous. So much inspiration.

  10. well, I knew right away that I'd be inspired when you wrote that this post was upcoming, but I had no idea just how much!! I've been working out ideas of how I want to create a body of work with the asemic calligraphy that I do, using some of the techniques included here, so this gives me a huge sense of excitement and anticipation!! thanks Robyn ❤

  11. robyn, this is wonderful. I will be days absorbing it all. thanks once more. you are a gifted woman. your art is amazing and your ability to find other's treasures is outstanding. I'm glad I know you! lyle

  12. Your posts are always so interesting. I love the idea of healing scrolls as big as the person they are made for. What a wonderful idea!

  13. those magic healing scrolls are new to me...and fascinating! beautiful too. jodi and daniels work are beautiful! you did it again .... :)

  14. Beautiful treasures, Robyn! Thank you!

  15. I love Ron Pippin's work, every time I go to his website I'm blown away.

    The texture on those manuscripts is amazing!

  16. Thank you for the beautiful post!

    I can't even begin to tell you my facination with old books and manuscripts!

    But those Ethiopian Healing Scrolls just make me swoon!

  17. wonderful post. adore the books both old and new. i will return to follow the links. thank you for this interesting post.

  18. great post, each book a gem :) thank you robyn

  19. Priya, we are both floored! It's quite a surprise scrolling down from the Timbuktu manuscripts to Pippins work and then realizing that his art is not in fact part of the collection above.

  20. Love Stitching Red, Carolyn they are amazing aren't they.

    Dosfishes, glad you enjoyed the post.

    Lisa J, I thought you might love them ;-)

    Lisa at Greenbow, I had palpitations as I found each photograph of both ancient and modern.

    Karin, you've made my day. I can't wait to see what you create.

    Lyle dear girl, you always make me feel so good. Thank you!

    Jasmine, the length of the scrolls is the most intriguing part for me too.

    Paula, don't you just love discovering something new?

    Black & White, so glad you enjoyed the treasures.

    Little Brown Sparrow, I think I discovered Ron Pippins work on your blog about a year or so ago.

    T, I've been doing a lot of swooning lately too!

    Suki, thanks so much!

    Thanks Megha :-)

  21. Mt heart skipped a beat...I felt such a longing to touch, to reach out to both the ancient and new pieces. I've had a lovely morning following the links...thank you Robyn!

  22. Robyn this is so very visually chewy that I will need to come back and visit a few more times to really let it all sink in. leave it up a while would you?
    and thank you so very much for your kind words. they mean so much! xx cat

  23. This is wonderful stuff! Ethiopian Christian history is full of mysteries. there are evidence the grail may have been there and very holly relics are there still. In Toronto, here, in our ROM museum, they have some little Ethipian relics, hand painted on wood that are fabulous, you would love them! I'll try to take a pict one day...

  24. Mary Anne, I've been following links today too. It that sort of day!

    Thanks Jeane!

    Cat, my posts do get a bit lengthy but I get carried away :-)

    Kipik, I have a small collection of Ethiopian artefacts. They are so different to those found in the rest of Africa. I just love them.

  25. wow, i think as wonderful as the modern art that's inspired by the ancient is, none of it comes close to the magic of the ancient manuscripts themselves... they have such a powerful voice. xo

  26. Oh, joy. I'll be back for a virtual scavenger hunt through these links. But now the sun is out and I must play. Thank you Robyn for all the wonderful art you find for us to enjoy with you.

  27. wow. i just am amazed by these books. early books. i have access to a special collections library that has, among other treasures, what we call an "old bible". it's an ethiopian book, wooden boards and vellum pages with text and paintings. it smells of fires and incense and is hand calligraphed and wonderful. and since it's a teaching library, i can touch it and try to decipher it's secrets.
    ...check out shanna leino's books.

  28. Hey Robyn - did you know that if you click on Pipins photo on his website that a quicktime loads and then you can see his whole studio by moving your cursor around - it's amazing!

  29. This is all so incredibly perfect! I am totally in awe1

  30. Your posts are so wonderful. This one touching me so much. I love old letters, books and scrolls. The history and I could go on forever. Another thank you for sharing.

  31. What fun!
    A "blog series" on books!

  32. Thank you for finding and sharing these wonders.

  33. wow!

    have you read People of the Book
    by Geraldine Brooks?

    maybe you have,
    maybe someone
    told you about it already,
    maybe you know all about it
    if you do not,
    have not
    you MUST read it!

    this posting is wonderFULL,
    so thank you.

  34. Lynne, a powerful voice indeed!

    Marilyn, imagine how the first westerner must have felt discovering these manuscripts for the first time.

    Leslie, glad you have sunshine .... though ours is particularly sizzling today!

    Velma, how wonderful to have access to this book. There's something so magical about old Ethiopian books. I love the stitching of the one photagraphed here.

    Jeane, I didn't know!!! Thabnks for mentioning it.

    Curio, that makes 2 of us :-)

    Thanks Katelen, so glad you enjoyed the post.

    DJ, now what have you been up to?

    Pat, I enjoyed every minute of it!

    Somepinkflowers, I have since googled People of the Book and am intrigued. Thanks for mentioning it.

  35. you GET me everytime...
    here i sit again,
    DROOLING on myself
    over these images..
    oh MY.

  36. another fabulous post-- I have not visited Ron Pippen's website in awhile- his manuscript series is a new exciting wonderful addition as is all the artists you feature here..I brought back a lot of old books and papers from Kyoto and you have fired me up to get going in my studio and figure out what to do with all my paper treasure.

  37. Oh Robyn, thank you for sharing this. I am always searching for images of old manuscripts, for me they have some sort of magical (ancient) prescence.
    And the way you drew us from the old to the new artists that "instill the feeling that you are looking at something ancient, sacred and irreplaceable" made my heart sing! roxanne

  38. Old manuscripts are very powerful. I remember my uncle telling me that we must not keep them at home if we don know how to revere them in the appropriate way. And each of your image shows a different aspect of them in a different continent almost.
    Yours posts are an education for me Robyn, thanx for taking the trouble to put them together with so much thoughtfullness.

  39. I can't get enough of this post Robyn!!!
    Oh those Healing Scrolls...amazing!
    Thank you for the links too...will be off exploring them for hours! xxx

  40. So wonderful...I'm so glad I discovered your blog. You really have your finger on exactly the kind of art and artifact that I love to look at and learn about.

  41. I love that the art of book making / binding is making a resurgence, especially with artists. With so much technology on hand these days, there is nothing more satisfying than losing oneself in the pages of a book...
    Another wonderful post. Now that is my idea of vintage paper.
    I was really drawn to the Ethiopian Healing scrolls.
    Going back to check out all of the links now.

    Jacky xox

  42. finally time to comment. I found the Timbuktu manuscripts fascinating, why dont we know about these things? I have done some book making did a wonderful couple of courses but some how there is no time. I too love old books and manuscripts, I cant get rid of all the beautifully written farm journals, well they are really just profit and loss but even that is interesting. I dont think we ever make a profit!
    I dont know what will happen to all the collected "stuff" John and I have when the time comes and we either move or are no longer here. The next generations dont seem to be terribly interested.

  43. Great collection, yet again. I have seen many of these and read lots of articles on the restoration of coptic books etc but I am still floored by the beauty of old manuscripts. The Mali books look stupendous.
    Thanks for the collection.

  44. Oh my.......I'm absolutely happy with this!
    THANK YOU!!!!
    I love those healing scrolls and the link to Daniel Essig!!

  45. I adore Ron Pippin's work, he is such an amazing artist.
    Thanks Robyn for the fascinating post full of beautiful scripts, I will be visiting some of the other artists who you have highlighted here.

  46. This post is amazing, Robyn! Those Healing Scrolls are awesome.
    Ron Pippin is one of my favorite artists. I LOVE his creations, especially his boxes.
    Thank you for all the wonderful art you find for us.
    I haven't had time to follow the links but I will try to do that soon.
    Have a good one,

  47. Amazing post Robyn. Thanks for all the interesting links. I love Rob Pippin's drawers of teeth and nests. Those leather bound manuscripts from Timbuktu are quite fascinating. How sad that they are in such appalling condition though. I hope they can be preserved for the people of Africa.

  48. Great post - love the healing scrolls. Visit to your blog is so educational :)

  49. Wow. These are absolutely breath-taking! Thank you Robyn.

  50. Ah, yet another reason to re-plan that trip to Ethiopia.

  51. Wonderful, Interesting Blog...I could get lost here for a long time...


  52. When I was in Morocco recently I found the most wonderful bug eaten and aged Koran in a shop. I didn't even want to start the bargaining process. There's no backing out once you begin. I have no idea what the shop owner thought it was worth.
    I was so attracted to the paper, I would have loved to use it as an element in my creations but I knew that it's a holy relic and didn't want to risk being disrespectful to anyone.
    It would have fit in with your images here quite nicely though.

  53. just had to come back for another look! sigh...

  54. Ooooh! I so love your posts! I'm always so delighted to see the incredible images and read your words.
    Thanks Robyn!! I hope all is well!

  55. Hey Robyn, thanks for introducing me to some new artists. Books are a treasured thing in my family and I am fascinated by these manuscripts. Can't wait to go back and look again.

  56. I have died and gone to blog heaven with this post, drooling all the way.

  57. Neva, I'm drooling too!

    Donna, I've been waiting patiently to see what you do with all your old papers from Kyoto. Whatever you do I know I will be bowled over.

    Roxanne, is that what that beautiful sound is? Hearts singing!

    Vineeta, so glad you enjoyed the images. They are indeed powerful.

    Jo H, Enjoy the links!

    Thanks Laurie.

    Jacky, the Ethiopian healing scrolls are thrilling aren't they.

    Penny, there's been quite a palaver about the Timbuktu Manuscripts for the last few years. I suppose I'm more aware of them because South Africa has been involved in restoring them.

    Judy, your books floor me. They are so awesome!

    Uschi :-) :-) :-)

    Azirca, I can remember so clearly the first moment I saw Ron Pippins work. My heart stopped!

    Gaby,thank you.

    Cathy, I'm not sure that I like the drawers of teeth but there is so much that I do love.

    Thanks Pink Dogwood.

    Kathleen, it was a pleasure finding these images.

    Heather, at the moment there's a bit of trouble in Ethiopia. When you do decide to go you should go with a tour group.

    Thank you Adelesspookyart.

    NuminosityBeads, it sounds wonderful!

    Manon, thank you. All is well :-)

    Isabella :-)

    Leanne, introducing people to new artists is half the joy.

    Pam, cloud 9?

  58. Beautiful books, history. I love seeing how they were bound (and was lucky enough to take a class from Dan Essig). And the BBC film was fabulous. But I too cringe when really old documents like these aren't handled with utmost care.

    Thank you again for sharing - I had no idea that Timbuktu had such a culturally advanced past.

  59. Hi ms wonderful

    thanda for those healing scrolls. We should all wrap ourselves on such things. Or is that prayer. An invisible shawl.

    Blessings to you.

  60. So very fascinating. Ron Pippin's work is incredible. It is so authentically ancient. And Gail Rieke is one of my favorites!

  61. thank you SO much for introducing me to this amazing man Ron Pippin.xxlynda

  62. Hi Robyn - another inspiring blog post by you and thank you so much for leaving a comment on mine!!! I've had a crap weekend - in and out of hospital with excruciating pain and vomiting...having such a nice old time of it! Anyway, I've come back to find all these lovely comments on my own blog so I thought I'd return the compliment. I love our blogging community! It just rocks!!!!

  63. Incredible series on Manuscripts, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection...Thomas

  64. Love your blog. Enjoy ancient manuscripts/artifacts. Enjoyed looking at your work too.

  65. So good topic really i like any post talking about Ancient Egypt but i want to say thing to u Ancient Egypt not that only ... you can see in Ancient Egypt Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddess and more , you shall search in Google and Wikipedia about that .... thanks a gain ,,,