Peter and Donna Thomas ~ California
(Adventures of the Wandering Book Artists)

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Peter Thomas, Being a Book Artist: "Being a book artist is more than just making books; it’s living and breathing them. It’s about becoming so involved with the subject matter that the physical attributes of the book reveal themselves. It’s about listening to the materials invoke the proper text. It’s about loving those materials and knowing them so well that we feel their desire to be used in the book we are making. We didn’t begin our artistic careers planning to be artists of the book. It was more a case of being called, inspired with the desire to make a Good Book: one that, through the materials, in the text, and by the visual and tactile impact, will move the viewer from the everyday to a new place, a place that stirs the soul."
Books on Papermaking
Miniatures by Peter and Donna Thomas  
By Peter Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2010. Edition of 30.

8.5 x 5.5"; 12 pages. Laser printed. Handmade paper by Peter Thomas. Found pencils. Handmade trifold cover with pencil holder. Laid in handmade wooden hinged box. Numbered.

Peter Thomas: "This book is a celebration of the pencil. The text is a short history of the pencil and there are vintage advertising pencils displayed in the book. The text was handwritten and illustrated, and colored with pencil by Donna. The original was then color laser printed on Peter's handmade paper for the edition. The six vintage pencils are mounted in the center of the book, held in a wooden holder that we made using pencil cedar, constructed with a hand-carved dovetail joint. The binding has a unique tri-fold cover, the text hidden behind the inner cover and the pencil holder. Donna executed the binding, using oasis goat leather spines and Peter's handmade paper that he printed using antique wood type, with multiple press runs in multiple colors."
$545 (Last Copy)


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Poetry & Prose
Sometimes I Pretend
Poem by Naomi Shihab Nye
Book design by Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2014. Edition of 35 .

Double-sided scroll in a spring-loaded 4.25 x 10. 375 x 4.25" box. Handmade paper by Peter Thomas. Paper pulp stenciled images by Donna Thomas. Box sides covered in pulp stenciled handmade paper. Box ends of California walnut wood. Wooden sprocket cranks made from maple. Unsharpened No.2 Ticonderoga Beginners pencil attached to the end of the scroll. Signed and numbered by the artists.

Peter and Donna Thomas: "We found the words 'secret motor chirring' central to our reading of the poem. Our interpretation of Nye's poem was informed by previous explorations into this timeless theme, both by British arts and crafts fine press printers when they said 'don’t let yourself become part of the machine, but work to create beauty with your hands…' and the visual depiction of Charlie Chaplin in 'Modern Times' when he works at the assembly line or as he swings precariously from the hands of the giant clock, and this led us to bind the book as a motor. This also inspired our use of the clock and pencil imagery and the pencil page stop, which for us symbolize the relentless call of work.

"This short poem by Nye has been hand set with various sizes and fonts of wood and metal type and printed as a scroll, in multiple colors using a 'rainbow roll'… The paper is also illustrated with two paper pulp stenciled steam punk images made by Donna. Each image was sprayed using 4 colors of pulp through 2 or 3 stencils. The spray pulp was made from old colored rags with no added pigments. The scroll is bound in a unique box structure made with paper pulp stenciled handmade paper and California walnut. The box also features wooden sprocket cranks made from straight grain maple, inscribed with the word 'close' and an arrow indicating the direction to rotate the sprocket to return the scroll into the box. There is a pencil attached to the end of the scrolling text to restrain it from slipping into the box."


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The Tarantella Rose
By William Everson
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1995. Edition of 75

10.63 x 7.63" 38 pages. 7 linocut illustrations by Donna. Letterpress printed with Weiss type on Peter's handmade paper. Modified limp vellum binding using Peter's handmade paper.

Previously unpublished poems by William Everson.

Peter Thomas took a course in book making from William Everson in 1987. He then studied with Everson and eventually became his assistant until the poet's death in 1994.
$495 (Last Copy)

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Books on Papermaking

The History of Papermaking in the Philippines
By Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2005. Edition of 75.

10.75 x 13.624" with 50 pages. Illustrated by Donna Thomas with 15 linoleum cuts. Handbound by Peter and Donna Thomas. Letterpress printed on a text paper handmade by Peter Thomas. The text paper is from cotton rag, pigmented with umber and flecked with Timkin (a Philippine fiber). Includes eleven paper samples handmade by Filipinos from Philippine plants. Quarter bound with a red Moroccan leather spine (blind stamped with the title). Boards are covered with T’nalak (a Philippine ikat dyed fabric, made with twisted abaca fiber, woven on a backstrap loom). The binding structure was developed by Peter and Donna to accommodate the special requirements of this book: the short and long pages create space for the paper samples and the samples are sewn in place so that they can move with changes in humidity. The edition has seventy regular copies, in slipcases and five special copies.

Peter and Donna Thomas on the making of this book: "The History of Papermaking in the Philippines is the culmination of almost twenty years of work. Making this book could be likened to walking in the footsteps of Dard Hunter; or, in a less romantic but perhaps more accurate way to completing a doctoral dissertation. The book had its genesis in 1986 when Nida Dumsang, visiting from the Philippines, taught a one day papermaking workshop in Santa Cruz. Peter took the class, learning how to make paper from plants, a thing he had not done before. We bought samples of Dumsang’s paper with the thought of making a book to feature the papers that would be accompanied by a short text describing her processes and also a brief history of papermaking in the Philippines."

"This was easier said than done, for we couldn’t find any references to Philippine papermaking in any local libraries, the Dard Hunter Paper Museum or the Library of Congress. When we asked Dumsang for information on the subject, she wrote back: "The Philippines had no tradition of written history before the arrival of the white man...historians have found it difficult to piece together facts because there are only the scantiest written records from that era.""

Peter was astonished that there was not a history of papermaking in the Philippines; with such variety and abundance of fibrous plants, suitable for papermaking, it seemed likely that Filipinos would have used those plants to make paper. The idea of writing the first history of Filipino papermaking called him, and Peter entered into the project with the zeal of a second Dard Hunter. But it soon became clear he could not do justice to the subject without visiting the country and in February of 1990 he went to the Philippines. Later that year we made a book, Bayad - The story of a trip to the Philippines to discover why there is no history of papermaking in that country, which chronicles the trip. But the research had just started. It took years, following up the leads he found on that trip, to get all the information needed to complete the text.

This present book presents the information that was gathered over the following ten years (with the help and encouragement of numerous scholars and colleagues). The text includes discussions of the pre-historic precursors to paper, including Philippine bark cloth. It contains a survey of the first printed books made in the Philippines and the paper they were printed on. (The first book printed in the Philippines was made before a book was printed in the New England colonies.) It documents our research to discover when the first sheet of paper was made in the Philippines. When describing abaca fiber the text describes how it made Manila hemp rope, and how that was used to make Manila paper. The book ends with a chronological history of both commercial and hand paper making in the Philippines up to 2000.
$950 (Regular Edition. Five copies remaining)

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Papermaking in Seventeenth Century England
By John Evelyn and Celia Fiennes
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1990. Edition of 200

6.75 x 5". 42 pages.

The diary entries written by John Evelyn and Celia Fiennes, recording their visits of paper mills during the late 1600’s, are preceded by short biographies and accompanied by commentary on the author’s observations.

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Peter and Donna Thomas Sold and Out of Print titles:
The Alder
A poem by William Everson
Illustrations by Donna Thomas
Essay by Allan Campo
Artists' Statement by Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2012. Edition of 50.

12.5 x 8.25" 18 pages. Coptic bound between alder wood boards. Slipped in a leather satchel, (what Everson called a parfleche). Letterpress printed on handmade paper. Linoleum cuts by Donna Thomas. Handmade paper by Peter Thomas. Numbered. Of the edition, 30 special copies bound in a unique wooden structure, 20 copies bound between wooden boards.

Peter and Donna Thomas: "As we have come to understand Everson’s poem, through the process of creating this book, the poem's alder tree represented for Everson his own lost potential. In the poem the poet fells an old and stately tree, but only to use it as firewood. Everson was at the height of his career when he was working on this poem, and had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Like the alder, he was cut down in his prime, no longer able to create the work he previously thought possible. Shortly before he died, Everson confided to me his dream that his library and the A-frame building he had built with his own hands, would become a literary shrine, a place of pilgrimage, like Jeffers’ Tor House. Everson died penniless. That A-frame library had been built on rented land owned by benevolent landlords, but it was not his own, and on his death passed to new tenants. Symbolically, we made our book using of tiny pieces of alder wood to represent the fire wood fate of the alder in the poem. Rather than destroying, burning, those small bits, we built the binding for this poem using them. This book became a way we could fulfill Everson’s dream of creating a literary shrine for his words. This book is that literary shrine, a monument to his work and his life

"The wood we used for our binding is alder from an alder tree felled near Everson’s home, where he cut the tree in the poem, on Kingfisher Flat in Big Creek Canyon near Santa Cruz. The tree was cut and milled by Big Creek Lumber."

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Meditations at the Edge:
Paper and Spirit

By Dorothy Field
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1996. Edition of 100.

4.5 x 11”; 30 pages. Long, narrow format. In the edition of 100, there are 86 copies sewn into red linen over boards. Written and illustrated by Dorothy Field. Thirty pages of research and ruminations printed on handmade hemp paper by Peter Thomas. Kozo paper for illustrations was made by Field.

Over several years, Field traveled in Asia visiting papermakers, tracing the history of paper, and collecting information on how paper is made, while reflecting on its place in various cultures. She found that in parts of Asia the uses of paper went beyond the mundane into the area of spirit. She points out that in Japanese, although the characters are different and linguistically unrelated, the spoken word kami means both gods and paper. There seems a kinship. Before the invention of paper, both raw mulberry and hemp fibers were used as offerings to the gods. Reconnecting to paper's roots in the earth, good paper, she says, is a sensory experience—fingertips, eyes, ears, and nose are all engaged. Of a shop selling fine papers she writes, "A faint smell of harvest hangs in the air."

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Paper from Plants
By Peter and Donna Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 1999.Edition of 150.

8.75 x 11.6”; 100 pages. Quarterbound using green Moroccan leather with blind-stamped spine title. The book boards of the main edition are covered with handpainted, decorative papers. The front cover title is printed on pampas grass paper set into a simple, raised geometric design. Stiff paper wrapper slipcase. Letterpress printed in black ink from Centaur and Neuland types with illustrations from photo engravings in green.

A fabulous survey of America's hand papermakers with thirty, full-page sample sheets of papers made from local plants. The variety of plants and resultant papers offered some interesting occupational hazards in the making, and sometimes even in the transporting (as the DEA confiscated a shipment of Spanish Moss). Sample sheets are displayed alongside text sheets written by each papermaker that describes his or her choice of fiber and tells something of the plant and/or the process of making that particular paper. The colors and textures are rich, varied, and even surprising, some delightfully so. Illustrations of the plants by Donna Thomas adorn each text page. The 8.5 x 11 inch paper samples have been stab sewn through an accordion folded gutter, uniquely developed for this book, that allows samples to expand and contract with changes in humidity without damaging neighboring sheets. This book is beautifully conceived and executed from beginning to end.
(Out of Print)



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The Train Comes to Wichita
By Peter Thomas
Santa Cruz, California: Peter and Donna Thomas, 2004. Edition of 20

7 x 3 x 2.75" Three two sided 15 inch scrolling pages.

This book was designed and produced for an exhibit at the Wichita Art Museum. The train is a model of the typical western steam locomotive used during the period of westward expansion. The engineer's compartment has been hollowed out, a hole drilled parallel through it, and a brass crank placed through that hole. The text, on five scrolls, stacked on top of each other and rolled onto the same crank shaft tell the story of the arrival of the train in Wichita. The text, written by Peter after immersing himself in train lore and Wichita's early history juxtaposes fact with folk song: two of the scrolls are the lyrics to songs (The Old Chisholm Trail and The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe). Each scroll is decorated with water color illustrations painted by Donna, and has been color photocopied onto Peter's handmade paper. This book is the first time that multiple scrolls have been used as "pages" in an artist book.

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Page last update: 10.30.18


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