Gifts of Unknown Things

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Bound by Kate Holland

Gifts of Unknown Things by Lyall Watson
Hodder & Stoughton, London. 1976
Collection of Bruce Munro
232 x 142 x 32mm
Bound in 2022

Full hand dyed Hewit Fair Calf with 23c red gold and gold and green foil tooling. Doublures of teal goatskin with foil tooling. Printed endpapers, hand sewn silk end bands, hand coloured edges.

This was a commission from the internationally renowned lighting installation artist, Bruce Munro. His work has been heavily influenced by the books he has read and I have tried to bring my own artistic interpretation to them whilst incorporating a nod to the pieces that the book influenced.

'Gifts of Unknown Things' is a wonderful tale, part anthropological study, part marine biology lesson, part magical story, of the author's shipwrecking on an island in the Indonesian archipelago and of the years spent living amongst the people there, a people who are so much more connected to nature and the rhythms of life than us in the West. Magical feats, extrasensory perception, synesthesia and psychic healing are commonplace in this land where the natural and the supernatural coexist and challenge our beliefs about the "real world".

The book influenced two of Munro's best known works, 'Water Towers' and 'Green Flash'. The green flash is a well known optical phenomenon that occurs around sunset or sunrise when a green rim briefly appears around the rim of the sun due to the light from the sun refracting. 'Water Towers' responds to the fact that the Earth has a natural pulse, resonating at a rate of 69 beats per day coupled with the synesthesia, or ability to see sounds in colour.

"I've been slightly obsessed with the qualities of light reflecting on water for a while. I took the setting sun, with its green rim, as my starting point and dyed a skin to match an Indonesian sunset. Then a tooled gold line for the horizon and a myriad tooled gold dots to show the reflection of the sun. The image on the endpapers is an aerial shot of a coral reef in the Banda Sea, the approximate location of Watson's island, leading from the sea to the land where a lone figure stands on a beach. The edges are coloured to represent grains of sand. The endbands match the colours of the sunset with a flash of green. And the doublures are where the magic happens, where the sea meets the land, the 69 beats per day, the seeing in colours."

Kate is happy to undertake commissions for design bindings.

For further examples of her work please go to and on her Instagram @katehollandbooks.


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