October 21, 2009


I collaborate a lot with the artist Timothy C. Ely. Tim is an amazing draftsman and maker of spectacular manuscript books. The titles of his books are often single rather enigmatic words. Here are a few examples: Coil, Annulus, Antarktos, Geotriphinities, Graphocephalia, Isometria, Lumularia, Megalith, Materia, Mistocestial, Observatory, Salticidea. And these titles are usually set in Gill Sans, a beautiful sans-serif face designed by Eric Gill (1882–1940). I consider titles as a form of preparation for a pending journey, and Tim's inscrutable titles are cryptic invitations to dive into the unknown.


One day, I happened to find a fine piece of teriyaki flavored jerky that was really flat and wondrously translucent. And I thought that if I could get enough of it, I could make a book you could chew on. As Tim is one of my principle teachers of bookmaking, I thought maybe I would dedicate it to him (and maybe to all of the fallen cows as well). In honor of Tim's one word book titles, I would call it Esoteriyaki. But it turns out really flat jerky is hard to find. So, I made this book, which is but a single piece—front and back cover and text block all squished into one chuck. I engraved word ESOTERIYAKI in Gill Sans into the surface along with bits of Tim's cribriform script that I pulled from a book (The Tables of Jupiter) I wrote about him years ago. I then wrote a letter in Tim's voice and sent it (along with this photograph) to Tim and some of our friends as a joke. I was expecting something of a reaction.


To my surprise, there was no reaction. Everything was silent for days. In fact, each day seemed to be more and more quiet. At last, I called Tim, prepared to apologize for having perhaps offended him by impersonating him on a piece of jerky. Imagine my surprise, when he admitted a great sense of relief. He had read the letter several times wondering if he had really written it. I thought the idea outrageous, only to learn that the lines of reality are very shaky.