The Elephant’s Child

Although the artist’s books produced by Byopia Press usually contain original images and/or text, occasionally I use material from other sources. The Elephant’s Child is one example of this.

One of the tales from Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Elephant’s Child is possibly my favourite piece of short prose. It has everything a short story (or a longer one) requires: a sympathetic protagonist, character development, conflict,  retribution, and a happily ever after ending.

I decided that I would do a palm leaf binding. This binding structure was not traditional in Africa where the story is set, but had the right ‘feel’ for the book. Since I don’t have access to palm leaves, I made paper and card stock which included cattail leaf fibre — a reference to the recurring mention of the Limpopo River.

Choosing to write out the text by hand, I used a personal (more easily readable) variant of uncial script. I was concerned that I would not be able to write the entire text without at least a few mistakes, so I did the lettering on regular paper, scanned it, reduced it, printed it on transparent label sheets, then cut and pasted the text onto the book pages.

I did consider doing more illustrations but because the paper itself is rather busy, I limited myself to two drawings: the elephant’s child at the beginning of the story with his “blackish, bulgy nose, as big as a boot” and the elephant’s child at the end of the story with “a really truly trunk”.

The book was completed with a hand-braided linen cord and a found elephant button. It was finding a set of elephant buttons on some cheap chopsticks that started the whole train of thought that led to the edition.


About Byopia Press

I have been working in the book arts field for more than twenty years, and operating Byopia Press with my husband David since the late 1990s. I began producing artist's books and altered books in 2004.
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2 Responses to The Elephant’s Child

  1. I envy you for your neat and even writing.
    I once wrote by hand the Schachnovelle (Royal Game) by Stefan Zweig for M. I don’t know how many pages I re-wrote, especially annoying when the mistake is on the last line of a 4 page signature spread, and then I needed to re-write the first two pages and make sure that all the words fit on the page and the page is filled. Not easy for me – my writing is nowhere as even as yours. I must admit that toward the end of the book, I let a couple of minor mistakes in there.

    Putting the label on transparent sheets sounds like a smart idea, especially for an edition. I am surprised that it works that well. ( Have to keep that in mind; Methods of text reproduction are of special interest to me at the moment.) I would have throught it would show as a glossy film on the pages, and might not stick well enough on a paper with texture. Good to know it can be done.


    • Byopia Press says:

      I studied lettering in school, and uncial is closest in style to my natural handwriting. ;] (I also practised for several days before starting!) The label material actually has a matte surface. The people whose lettering most impresses me are the ones who do hand painted signs on glass. There’s a blog post from wemadethis that shows a little about it.


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