The University Libraries Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections recently announced the addition of A Book of Cranes to its permanent collection. This collaborative masterpiece brings together 12 New Mexico poets and artists to capture the elegance of cranes in a stunning work of art.

A Book of Cranes Artwork
Artwork by Mary Sweet. Photo credit: Margo Geist.

The project took place in Albuquerque over the course of a year in 2012. The poet artists eagerly awaited the arrival of the cranes, observed their presence in the fields, and bid farewell as they embarked on their migratory journey. Throughout the year, they exchanged poetry in the form of Renga, a traditional Japanese style.

A Book of Cranes is a large, accordion-style folding screen book measuring 24" x 32" x 5", with an extended length of 16 feet when fully opened. The book consists of 10 pages, including covers, showcasing art on both sides. These pages are connected by book-cloth hinges and bamboo posts. The book is displayed either in an open position, standing upright on long tables for viewers to walk around and appreciate the art, or as loose pages housed in a specially made clamshell box.

“I am thrilled that UNM Libraries has acquired A Book of Cranes. It is a stunning piece of art and I’m so happy that this book is now available at the CSWR,” said Portia Vescio, University Archivist at CSWR. “What is most impressive to me is how much care and thought went into putting this piece together. From the handmade paper to the calligraphy to the artwork, every part of the Book of Cranes is an individual achievement that adds up to a masterpiece.”

A Book of Cranes Artowkr2
Arwork by Margy O'Brien. Photo credit: Margo Geist.

The original artwork in A Book of Cranes features silk paintings, watercolors, and woodcut prints created by seven artists. Brush calligraphy by Ginger Rice beautifully presents the poetry from the Renga exchanges and the cover titles. The pages are made from a heavy-weight, handmade paper specially crafted by Stephanie Lerma for the book. The covers highlight a mosaic inlay of colorful specialty papers, with a central silk painting of Sandhill Cranes by Judith Roderick. The design and fabrication of A Book of Cranes were expertly handled by Dale Harris, while the clamshell box was created collaboratively by Dale Harris and Mita Saldano from Against the Grain.

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Artwork by Dale Harris. Photo credit: Margo Geist.

Dale Harris is a poet and artist who lives in Albuquerque’s Sawmill Neighborhood. She enjoys book arts as a way to combine these two favorite activities, often using poetry as content for handmade books. “Collaborative projects such as A Book of Cranes I find especially rewarding because of the opportunities for community building and creative cross-pollination,” said Harris.

For more information about A Book of Cranes, visit the website about the project.

The Center for Southwest Research and Special Collections is a renowned institution dedicated to collecting, preserving, and providing access to a wide range of materials related to the Southwest region. With a vast array of collections encompassing various subjects and disciplines, the center serves as an invaluable resource for scholars, researchers, and the general public alike.