In Praise Of Little Books

Here at The Observer Office, we like little books. Some of them are quirky and hastily made but contain exquisite content and some of them are beautifully made by crafts people and you just fall in love at first touch.

Here are a few of our favourite LITTLE BOOKS.

For those of you that don’t already know, we play ukulele in these ‘ere parts and I (Jacqui) make a bob or two from teaching folks to play and leading ukulele workshops. When I first started teaching people I pretty swiftly ran out of two chord songs, so took to the internet to see what I could find. I found this lovely book. They’re not craftsmen made, they’re photocopied sheets, stapled together by the Boulder Acoustic Society, but contain songs collected by Aaron Keim, renowned ukulele player and master of Appalachian music. The books contain wonderfully quirky illustrations and have been true workhorses in my quest to keep groups of Ukulele Beginners happy and occupied.

Pretty soon I’d moved onto volume 2, and again, another badly photocopied, badly cropped, badly made book came to be in my possession. But do you know what, I LOVE these little books, I can always find something in them for someone to play. They’re now really tatty and are inscribed with my own amendments and augmentations and they go with me to every new workshop I run. Have a look at LAZARUS BOOKS and see if anything there takes your fancy.

This next one is a beauty. We bought it when we went to see Tom Waits in Edinburgh in 2008 and it’s made by the magnificent X-RAY BOOK Co. Their work is exquisite, check out the curved corners? The book cost us a fiver and it’s one of only 5000 printed for his Glitter and Doom tour. There’s currently one on Ebay for £39, I don’t think SO!!!! We won’t ever part with this and it’d be one one of the few items along with the dog that we’d save if there was a house fire. The book contains and interview with Tom Waits, he is interviewed by himself. It’s funny, self deprecating and for those of us in training to be Tom Waits when we grow up it’s a crash course in thinking like Tom.

Ahhhh now, this next one is made by someone we love. Artist STEFFAN JONES-HUGHES, friend, one time co-worker, sporter of natty tank tops and wearer of an impressive beard. It’s hand made in the truest sense, the pages are cut and sewn by the artist and the cover is cut and folded as you’d bind your school text books with a poster of your favourite boy band or some leftover wallpaper you loved. It contains his scribblings and ponderings and occasional smatterings of things written in Welsh. My copy came to me wrapped in tissue paper and I occasionally let it see the light of day but then we realise how much we miss him.

Speaking of things in a foreign language. The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet by John Hegley has caused great amusement at The Observer Office as it is written in both French and English. Neither Ralph, nor I, nor any of our other Observer’s speak french but we can occasionally be heard reciting very loudly En Francais the words of Mr Robinet. We think it gives us an air of grandeur and a gravitas that our native tongues can’t quite muster. In truth if it wasn’t for the handy English translations we’d have NO clue what we were on about, and even when we DO know what we’re on about it doesn’t prevent us from exclaiming ‘Mitterand a disparu’ whenever more Anglo Saxon words might be a more appropriate choice.

One of the reasons we love this book so much is that it’s about a man and his dog and as you know we have a dog and we love her, she is called Nora and John inscribed this book specially for her 🙂 We occasionally read passages to her in French, she seems to like it.

I’ve no idea where Ralph got these books from but he arrived home with two of them. ‘Susie and Edward’ which is about a couple having relationship difficulties, and ‘Stanley and Marvin’, who haven’t seen one another for a while and one of them has grown a moustache. These books are very lovely. Written and illustrated by Billy Kiosoglou, they are published by this lot BRIGHTEN THE CORNERS  and they’ve got an astounding catalogue of beautifully designed printed works. If you favour uncluttered design that doesn’t get in the way of the message this lot are for you. I keep these little books in the cellophane in which they first came to me as I don’t want them to get spoiled. Each read is a delight as I find pathos, joy, melancholy and love within their pages.

We’re getting a little closer to home now with this lot. This is a small collection of writings put together by SJ Bradley for THE PRINT PROJECT, who are based at the 1in12 club in Bradford. The Print Project made our fabulous Ossett Observer business cards and the gorgeous letterpress posters for Ossett Observer’s Weekend Extra. We like print you can feel and you can definitely feel the indentations made in this book by the type. Roger Grech at Papercut Bindery says you fall in love with a book ‘at first touch’ and I think he’s right. You can still feel the indentations of the type in our 150 year old Ossett Almanacs and you can feel the print in this contemporary book of writings.

We’re BIG fans of The Print Project but find browsing their ETSY SHOP can result in random purchases of little books of beauty. These delicious notebooks have been bought to use for special projects. Little books we can write our own words in, our own chord progressions, our own poems, our own lists of things we want to be when we grow up. They are exquisitely made, using vintage type and are bound by the excellent PAPERCUT BINDERY.

All of this loveliness on our own doorstep and our passion for Little Books has led us to commission our very own LITTLE BOOK PROJECT.

Ossett Observer is going to publish our very first book. It will be small, little in fact, a chap book, an art book, a thing of beauty. It will contain the poems of Ossett Original Ralph Dartford, it will be designed by the crack design team at Shephard Creative  and will be made by The Print Project and PaperCut Bindery.

It is called ‘Cigarettes, Beer and Love’ and we hope it will be a little book that you will fall in love with at first touch, then you will read and savour and love and enjoy time after time after time. We’ll keep you posted about its progress.

Let’s hear it for Little Books everywhere.




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