When is a Book not a Book? When it’s a Blook

TEACADD1

Tea caddy, the perfect gift for tea-loving bibliophiles.

Cigarette kit2

For the smoker determined to keep the habit hidden, between the covers of this blook.

camera3

Portable camera is somewhat bulky by today’s standards.

cameraw:f4

James Bond camera with built-in flash, circa 1890s.

Coward Flask5

Noel Coward signed flask, for the literate drinker.

ALARM CLOCK6

Mid-century alarm clock in three volumes, with the title Time.

snake7

Open the cover of this blook and the hidden snake will take a bite of your finger.

I have used fake books for a variety of decorative purposes, but it wasn’t until I heard of an exhibit at the Grolier Club in Manhattan that I became aware of the fascinating diversity of the genre. Mindell Dubansky started collecting fake books twenty years ago, and even coined a name to describe them: blooks, for book-look. It seems they’ve been around virtually as long as bound books, and their uses defy categorization.

How about a carved box with a hidden snake, ready to snap at the fingers of those who dare open the cover? Or a tea caddy blook with a paper theatre embedded on the lid. A sub-genre of camera blooks arose in Victorian times when it was considered rude to use hand-held cameras (hard to imagine in the era of the selfie). Pin cushion blooks, alarm clock and radio blooks, blooks with alcohol flasks or perfume bottles, even blooks made of stone. There seems to be something about the book as object that people find irresistible. I know I do.

 

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