Crafting Tunnel Books

This past Saturday, a small group of book enthusiasts gathered at the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections in Olin Library to learn how to craft tunnel books as part of a series of book making workshops generously funded by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation.

A tunnel book constructed during Special Collections’ second Book Making Workshop. Photo by Laura Head.

We began the afternoon by viewing some of the tunnel books from Washington University Libraries’ rare book collections that curator Cassie Brand had put out for display in the Special Collections Reading Room.

One of the workshop participants peeking through the peephole of the tunnel book  Le Palais Royal. You can see the inside of this tunnel book in our previous blog post. Photo by Laura Head.

Also on display were other books with movable parts, like selections from Washington University Libraries’ extensive pop-up book collection.

A workshop participant viewing one of the pop-up books on display in Special Collections. Photo by Laura Head.

After viewing the collection, we headed into the Special Collections Classroom to learn how to make a simple tunnel book ourselves. Cassie led the workshop, assisted by two of Washington University Libraries’ five Book Arts Fellows.

Curator Cassie Brand demonstrating how to make a stand for the book pages. Photo by Laura Head.

Each participant was given six sheets of paper with which to construct the four pages and two sides of their tunnel book. After coming up with a concept for our books, we diligently went to work cutting out our designs with X-Acto knives.

Participants designing their book pages. Photo by Laura Head.

There was much joking and laughter as we worked, and even the novice crafters who were struggling to make their cutting skills match their artistic visions (most notably myself) seemed to be having a great time.

One of the workshop participants cutting out her designs. Photo by Laura Head.

After cutting out their designs, some participants used paper cutouts and markers to decorate their pages, while others stuck with a more minimalist plain white theme. We became so lost in our work that we were surprised when Cassie announced that the workshop was almost at an end.

A completed tunnel book constructed by one of the workshop participants. Photo by Laura Head.

Finally, after much toil, it was time for the easy part: actually constructing the books. Cassie showed the class how to paste their pages together to create their three-dimensional designs.

Participants gather for a demonstration on how to attach their book pages. Photo by Laura Head.

The final product proved to be well worth the labor, and everyone went home with a beautiful hand-crafted tunnel book and a new set of skills under their belts.

A completed tunnel book constructed by one of the workshop participants. Photo by Laura Head.

About the author

Rose is a PhD candidate in English and American Literature at Washington University in St. Louis. When she is not working on her dissertation on post-1945 asylum novels or blogging about the amazing materials in Special Collections, she fills much of her time reading, writing, gardening, and wrestling.