Gina Fowler, “The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette”


Gina Fowler
Newburgh, New York

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette
Artist’s book, Letterpress
8″ x 8″ x 1.25″

Artist Statement

The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette was born of a desire to question the validity of socially constructed standards of behavior, while simultaneously deconstructing the traditional notion the book. These two objectives work together in parallel throughout this artist’s book.

Housed in a clamshell box, The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette is made up of 12 individual, hand-sewn napkins. These napkins have been letterpress printed with content from an 1860 etiquette manual by
Florence Hartley, which is the book’s namesake. After the title page, each of the 11 prints is folded inside the book, encouraging viewers to handle each piece separately. These prints contain passages from the original text that were particularly compelling, interesting, or amusing to me, which I then manipulated to tell a new story. Prints that contain direct passages are interspersed among prints that contain text from multiple, unrelated sections of the etiquette manual, combined or rewritten out-of-context.

Viewers of this book are encouraged to abandon any sort of sequence as they unfold and handle each individual page, considering each selection of text and typographic design independently of the whole.

Once they have explored and handled the entire book, readers are encouraged to re-fold as desired, returning each napkin to the box in any order they choose and creating a different experience for the next person who opens the box. Alternatively, the napkins can remain unfolded and stored as a set of flat prints,
leaving open room for individuals to make their own construction of this project.

The Ladies Book of Etiquette was produced in an edition of 15.