Exquisite Objects: Discover Rare and Beautiful Books on Kickstarter

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A Kickstarter-funded facsimile of Fortunato Depero’s Bolted Book. Photo by Lauren Renner.
A Kickstarter-funded facsimile of Fortunato Depero’s Bolted Book. Photo by Lauren Renner.

Throughout the month of February, Kickstarter will celebrate Exquisite Objects, a collection of artful publishing and design projects created to delight the senses. Here, Kickstarter’s Director of Publishing Margot Atwell shares a bit more about the initiative.

Spending an afternoon in a rare or secondhand bookshop is one of my favorite things to do. Trailing my finger along the spines of gorgeous leather-bound gold-embossed hardcover books; sliding a book out of its protective slipcase and thumbing the deckled edges. Beautifully published books create new entry points into classic works and encourage new ways of experiencing old stories. They can also signify that a text is worthy of a reader’s time and attention.

This month, we’ve invited a few of our favorite creators to dream big and make something truly stunning and out of the ordinary. We call these works “Exquisite Objects” because the care put into their creation far surpasses the common paperback—these works incorporate an attention to detail worthy of a museum display. To borrow a phrase from Josh O'Neill of Beehive Books, these books are "refined, gorgeous, and elegant, but still somehow kind of punk rock."

A few of the projects you’ll see this month include:

You can explore all Exquisite Objects projects here.

Reviving artisanal practices

In addition to creating beautiful works, many Exquisite Objects projects preserve ancient artisanal techniques and carry them into an age when many books are digital or cheaply made and disposable. Thomas Negovan of Century Guild told us that bringing one of his projects to life “takes a collective of craftsmen and designers who are dedicated to perpetuating technologies and ideas that would otherwise be lost.”

Isaac Newton's 'Principia Mathematica' reissue, published by Kronecker Wallis. Photo by Lauren Renner.
Isaac Newton's 'Principia Mathematica' reissue, published by Kronecker Wallis. Photo by Lauren Renner.

Kickstarter is very much of the modern age, but the model we draw upon is very old. Luke Pontifell of Thornwillow Press reminds us that “presenting a book for prepublication subscription, which is what we do on Kickstarter, is how books were published for centuries. In the 18th century, John Baskerville had subscribers ‘back’ his books before going to press. He would print the list of subscribers, as we do, to accompany each copy so history can bear witness to exactly who was part of our community of ideas.”

In addition to making these publishing projects possible, Kickstarter backers are “supporting a growing community of artists and craftspeople,” says Pontifell.

Connecting creators with supporters who care

Just as the slow food movement revealed the differences between factory farms and locally sourced produce, Exquisite Objects projects underscore the effort and resources it takes to make something unique versus something mass-produced. The supporters who rally around these projects on Kickstarter—like the 1,315 backers who pledged $254,971 to publish an exact copy of Fortunato Depero’s 1927 Bolted Book—show that there is an audience for books created outside of the norm of modern book production. Their support and enthusiasm makes it possible to produce books that will last a lifetime and beyond.

“Backers on Kickstarter respond to the odd, the ambitious, the quixotic, the seemingly impossible,” says Beehive’s O’Neill. “Qualities that are seen as fatal flaws in the quick-and-dirty, ever-shakier world of traditional publishing become remarkable virtues in our model. Kickstarter is how we make these crazy things happen, and our vision would not be realizable without some model like this.”

Yuko Shimizu's illustration of Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince," published by Beehive Books. Photo by Lauren Renner.
Yuko Shimizu's illustration of Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince," published by Beehive Books. Photo by Lauren Renner.

Join us as we celebrate Exquisite Objects this month with a collection of books and other brilliantly designed objects produced using the highest possible standards. We hope you are as excited about these phenomenal projects as we are.

Discover all the Exquisite Objects projects here.