Field Book #4

Japanese Tray Landscapes

Created by Alfred Koehn in 1937, this book is an example of a handcrafted individualistic piece of art and literature. The book is made of bamboo paper; it’s bound by blue string and glue on the spine; the cover is made of chinese grass linen; and the images are actually prints from woodblocks. There are a few more interesting facts about this book:

  1. There are gold leaf flakes that decorate the inside cover
  2. There are no page numbers
  3. Some of the pages are doubled

This book serves as a form of artistic expression in relationship to different types of Japanese Tray Landscapes (which are mini, tangible gardens). The colored paintings in the book express different types of bonkei which are meant to provide different types of aesthetically pleasing landscapes for contemplation. They are an important cultural representation of Japanese culture and historically, date back to the seventh century.


This book and The Birds of America are similar because they display the importance of artistic expression. Both of these books, I would consider, are like coffee table books. They are not necessarily for a reader to absorb information in the way one does with a textbook. Both books express a certain amount of culture that is understood through interpretation, not text. Furthermore, the structure of “Japanese Tray Landscapes” contributes to the book’s contemplative personality. The large margins, pages without text, and simple artistic images embodies a peaceful experience between reader and book. The purpose of this book is to evoke the feelings that physical Japanese landscape trays are meant for.

Between Page and Screen

This interactive book by Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse represents a new medium that combines physical books and high technology. Essentially, this book has reinvented visual poetry because it uses black digital bites (on the page) that can only be deciphered by a website using a camera. The only “thing” with the ability to understand the text is a robot/machine. Some of the things that were interpreted on the computer screen were:

  • Multiple letters of exchange between P and S
  • Rotates shapes with different yet similar words
  • Similar words that change as you move the book back and forth (EAR, HEARS, SHEARS, SHE, SHE HEARS)

“Between Page and Screen” is a great textual example of our modern culture and the technological boom that began in the twenty first century because humans cannot actually read the book. The symbols are easily deciphered by the computer which demonstrates the power of technology and the foreseeable future of [technological singularity] (, which is the hypothesis that robots and artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence within the next decade.


“Between Page and Screen” teaches readers about the shift in how humans read and interpret information. This is similar to “The Birds of America” because Audubon chose to not write an encyclopedia about 435 types of birds. Instead, he painted each species in their natural habitat. Information is more that just the written word, which most people associate with books. This page-screen dynamic is about the experience, not the text. It is meant for tech savvy people, most likely younger generations, who are open to a new types of books because readers need to use a computer to translate. So, the interpretation is like a chain reaction the suggests a certain type of understanding yet, humans will never be able to truly understand the black symbols in the book.

Audubon’s The Birds of America

John James Audubon was an American, origianlly from the Caribbean, ornithologist and painter in the early nineteenth century. Audubon travelled extensively in search of specimen: he studied birds in their natural habitats, befriended Native Americans, and became an appealing figure to English society. His book represents a point in American history defined by exploration. Here are details of the final piece:

  • 435 plates
  • 5 volumes
  • original [watercolors] ( were transfered onto sheets of copper
  • 200 copies were completed, 120 survive
  • 25 new species were discovered

Audubon’s represents the American spirit during the nineteenth century in terms of triumph adversity because he demonstrated his perseverance by living hand to mouth in the wilderness (after a devastating bankruptcy). His paintings and subesquent book allowed him to achieve moderate success and comfort but still, he had a deep appreciation for conservation and wildlife.


This book is an interesting choice for the publisher because every other page is blank - which is a waste of space. But when you open the book, your full attention is upon one image of a bird which makes the book very aesthetically pleasing. It has a very simple design similar to “Japanese Tray Landscapes” because it had wide margins, excess space, and pages without text, only paintings. On the other hand, “Between Page and Screen” has symbols, lots of white space, and no text. Each book I choose was designed with presentation as a particularly important aspect of production because they aren’t about textual information.