"Dante's Prayer"

Manuscript Book, 2014 

5”x 10”, 12.7 x 25.4 cm, 

Black Sumi stick ink, Frankfurt Paper, Bookbinding Materials

 

Text: Dante’s Prayer

Written by Loreena McKennitt 

Published by Quinlan Road Music Limited

From the Quinlan Road recording

"The Book of Secrets"

(P) 1997 Quinlan Road Limited

www.loreenamckennitt.com

 

There are many interpretations on how the lyrics of Loreena McKennitt’s song refer to Dante Alighieri’s works and his unrequited love to Beatrice di Folco Portinari. As far as I know, Miss McKennitt never commented on this matter herself. Regardless of the reference in its title, both the song and the lyrics are capable of moving us in the most personal way. To me, they speak of devotion, loss, love, mourning, admiration, trust and understanding. I wanted to capture these emotions with the creation of a manuscript book. But I also felt the urge to illustrate the lyrics and catch their transcendental character. 

I decided that it would be best to just work in black and white. My inspiration for the illustrations came from Japanese woodcuts by Hokusai and Hiratsuka.

I am also very fond of the wonderful ink drawings done by Aubrey Beardsley, a 19th century English illustrator. These two very different influences resulted in the illustrations in this manuscript book. Although they look like woodcuts, they are actually outlined with pencil and filled in with a brush and handground Sumi ink.

I chose the Carolingian hand for its wide and rounded shapes, that correspond to the shapes in the illus- trations, as well as to the strong meaning of the words.


I marbled each page of the Frankfurt paper using the ancient Asian Suminagashi technique, with Sumi ink floating on water. The flowing texture of the marbling supports the dreamlike contents of the lyrics. The motion on the paper, also works as a counterpoint to the heavy illustrations and helps the eye to transition from the images to the small Carolingian writing.

The book is bound with a Japanese stab binding and is closed by a long strip of Arches Cover Black paper, to which I adhered a metal button. I hand-wove the cord with a medieval weaving technique and sewed it to the paper strip, so it can be wrapped around the button.