This text was published in The Artist's Book Yearbook 2016-17 by Impact Press at The Centre for Fine Press Research, University of the West of England, Bristol, in September 2015.

3-6-9

1. This year is a special year. (6)

2. Surprisingly I will be sixty. For the first time in my life. What an interesting experience it is, indeed. (19)

3. Liberatorium, our press, will be six. (6)

4. Thirty nine years ago I made my first book. Being absolutely no aware what avalanche it would cause later. (19)

5. Everywhere three, six and nine. A coincidence? A magic of numbers? As you like. If you like sorcery, you can call it magic and expect magic consequences. I don't care at all about any forms of numerology, and I expect absolutely no consequences of this nice combination of numbers. But I'm grateful it happened and made me write this essay. (60)

6. Is it an essay? Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. With no doubt it is a try. I will try to summarize 39 years of my life with books, among books, for books. I will try to answer myself a question what has changed and what has not. I will do this in 33 paragraphs, each having combinations of 3-6-9 words, altogether in 3960 words. (66)

7. You may count the words. Or trust the numbers in brackets. Depends on what you think magic is. (18=3x6)

8. So, thirty nine years ago I made my first book. Made means I imagined it, wrote, designed, printed (rather typed) and bound (bound? no, I didn't bound it). And this is one of those things that haven't changed at all. My very last book, which is a description (or, as usually, an attempt to describe, a try) of a tube world, is being created exactly in the same way. (69)

9. Can I call this a rule? Maybe. But it is not a result of intellectual speculations. This is how my mind works. My mind is a kind of bookshelf. From time to time a new book appears on it. And it's just there. As if physically present. I can take it, turn pages (if it has pages to be turned), read it, travel through it... I don't start my work with a vague vision – I start with a ready book, and then I try to take it out from my head, which is a very complex and toilsome process. (99)

10. So, thirty nine years ago the first book appeared on the shelf in my mind and for the first time I tried to take it out. I succeeded only partially. Maybe that's the reason why I'm not sure if it really is a book. Better to write: almost a book, quasi-book. It was to be a gift for my parents, for the 25 anniversary of their marriage – a kind of short story about a family, rather chatting, mumbling-blabbering, flowing slowly, meandering like a brook across flowery meadow. I had only an old typewriter I had inherited from my grandfather. As you maybe remember such old machine could align the text only to the left. The right edge of the text block was tousled and jagged. Because I never saw a river with one bank straight and the other winding, I decided to break and tear also the left edge of the text. I also found that turning pages normally disturbed too much the flow of reading, so I seamed the sheets on the top; turning the pages up I hoped to keep the impression of “reading downstream” (as if scrolling down – we would say now). My elder brother, an architect and a painter, was to draw “a meadow”. At first he was quite enthusiastic, but very soon he refused. I was not disappointed – I understood I couldn't share my vision with my brother, because it was too sharp, too precise and entirely hidden in my head, closed, inaccessible for anybody; he told me he could not draw what I saw in my mind because he simply could not see it – he could draw only what he saw in his mind but then his drawings most probably would not fit to my story. He was right, indeed... On the shelf in my mind a brook-book stood and this was what I wanted to give to my parents. However what I kept in my hands was just a strange looking typescript with hand-written cover page. (333)


11. Nevertheless my mother, who was a great fan of literature, showed this brook-book to her cousin, who was known across our family as a writer. And she really was, though she worked as a dentist; she published a collection of short stories and a novel, and used to repeat that she was the best writer among the dentists and the best dentist among the writers. My aunt looked much alike Gertrude Stein, but her style, as well the concept of writing, was much unlike the one of Gertrude Stein. She read the story. Whether she like it or not is not important – what could she say? – important was the question she asked: Tell me, what is it? I answered: I don't know. Is it an essay? a tale? a poem? a report? a bed-time story? I repeated: I don't know. Then she said: So, we have a problem, serious problem. If we knew what it was, we could use right criteria to evaluate your work – how can we make any judgement if we don't know what is to be judged? (180=3x60)

12. And this hasn't changed. Thirty nine years later I still don't know what it is what I do. There are many labels: artist's books, book objects, liberature, fine press, just to mention a few, but I have a feeling that none of them fits well and fully. My books have always been somewhere in between. My books – yes. Probably this label would be the most accurate. The author's books. (69)

13. Books? Really books? Am I sure? (6)

14. Well, I'm pretty sure... I'm sure that the idea of book has always been the core of my work. Of course, a lot depends on the definition, on what is hidden behind the notion book – I won't try to give any definition right now, I'm afraid a good definition of a book will need a book to be written, and this is not the point here. Book is one of these numerous notions that everybody seems to know well what it means, but nobody would be able to explain what it really is. (93)

15. All my books I made so far are more or less books. Codices, leporellos, box-books, book-maps, landscape-book, street-books, vanishing books, growing books, hypertext books, tube-books, book-sheds... Always books. Each of my books, no matter what shape it has, how it is build, what is its construction, how you have to open it, to turn pages or roll it, to enter inside it or go around it, tells a story. It can be a story about a travel along a fjord or across a desert, about a walk along the street, about a visit to a flat land, about a trip inside the notion “blin”, about practising scales on the piano, a treatise on water, a description of a place in a wood... whatever story it is it is told by the book, not by the text only. All elements the book is composed of are telling this story. Or at least try to take part in telling the story. Most often the text (as the most talkative element) is the core, and everything what's going on around it is its extension, however sometimes the proportions can be inverse and the text is not the core, but the extension. It can happen that all elements are well balanced, but this is really rare situation. (213=(2+1+3=3+3=6)

16. That's why the brook-book is so important. With no doubt my recent books are better. I can write better, I can design better, I know more, I'm more experienced, and so on. If you go on working, you keep improving your skills. (This is what has changed.) Provided that nothing bad happened to you on the way. (Then also something would change.) The brook-book was a juvenile work. “Sienkiewicza Street in Kielce”, “Chromatic Concerto”, or “Tube World” are mature works far more sophisticated in every aspect. Maybe my senile works will be even more sophisticated, who knows. Nevertheless all essential features of my works can be found in this inconspicuous typescript. A seed which has grown into a tree. Yes. All next books have been but extensions of this very first one. Yes, it is a tree. Each book contains a bud (word, letter, phrase, picture, page, anything) that sprouts into a new book... Since we are living in a digital era, we could say this is a kind of hypertext, a physical hypertext – which is proof that the idea of hypertext does not belong only to the cyberspace, and is much much older than computers. (196)

17. It is true what they say that a writer writes all the time one and the same book. At least it is true in my case. Yes, I really feel like I'm writing one book. One big book. Each new book that appears is but a next chapter of this big one... I could use also a metaphor of jig-saw puzzle (is it a metaphor or maybe reality?): each book is a piece of an image I'm trying to put together – the only difference is that I don't know what this image is and how many pieces I need. (99)

18. Really? I think I know. I know what this picture is – this is the world. But I don't know how many pieces are needed. And this is also what hasn't changed. Since the very beginning the core of my writing, the central point that everything revolves and whirls around is the world, not the humans. Hence the title: NON-DESCRIPTION OF THE WORLD. This is the title of the big book I have been writing for thirty nine years. It's highly probably than also thirty nine years ago I was reading “Description of the World” by Marco Polo. I asked myself a question, which is one of the most fundamental questions to be asked: can the world be described? Or: is the world describable or indescribable? This question is so important also because in contains another question, the question about the very nature of the world. But why I use non instead of in? Indescription would suggest that the world is indescribable, and this is what I'm not so sure about – I do prefer supposition to ascertainment. Non-description could indicate that script is not the only tool we can use for describing. Or, that we can use various scripts. Or, that we can use an extended script. Consistently: I non-describe the world, I non-write... and you non-read. Sounds and looks crazy. But take a look at the world. The world is like a book – a banal phrase, so banal that ridiculous. Yet in fact it really is a big book. The problem is we still don't know the language and script it is written in. Of course we are looking for a human like language, while we should rather expect bacteria like language... But these phrases are trite, too, which also means more and more people are aware of this problem. (300)


19. There is another consequence of the question I asked myself thirty nine years ago. Sometimes I feel myself a bit like a scientist, an explorer. A new book is a new problem to be solved, a task to be completed, a new land to be discovered. The book is finished – the case is closed... Hence next unpleasant consequence: I don't write for a reader, I rather write against a reader. But reading is not only a fun. Reading is also a challenge. And this attitude of mine hasn't been changed. (90)

20. So, what has changed? Machines and tools. Materials. Techniques. Technologies. I don't use any more my old typewriter (though it is in working order ready for use and waiting patiently for the right moment to come) and carbon papers. However I still have been using my pencils. As for drawing nothing can replace a classic pencil (and a classic pen or classic brush as well). A tablet is a tablet – a pencil is a pencil. They are different. Like different is a drawing on paper from a drawing on a screen. Hand-binding also follows very traditional patterns and not much has changed in this matter. Although new techniques can be easily mixed with the old ones, they generate a slight, but very interesting, problem. Each new printer (or type of printer: dot-matrix, inkjet, laser... and how about 3D?) brings new demands and gives new possibilities. Hence some books, mainly the older ones, had to be adjusted to these new technologies, reshaped a bit. Interestingly, it turned out some books accepted new bodies preserving their souls intact, while the others do not accept any changes, maybe only except for sizes (can be a bit bigger or smaller). Books are really mysterious creatures – sometimes it's hard to comprehend their nature... New machines, like laser printers gave me the opportunity to produce books faster. This can seem a purely technical problem, a trifle not worth to be discussed here but it must since the speed is related to time and time is getting crucial to me and my Liberatorium. Briefly: more and more books – less and less time. Liberatorium offers now nearly thirty titles and all are available due to the fact all editions are open; nothing is out of stock, nothing is sold out, new titles appear and they are added to the old ones which don't disappear don't fall into the abyss of oblivion. This hasn't changed. I never wanted to make strictly limited editions – the only exception to this rule would be a book of which number of copies is an important part of the story told in it, yet so far I haven't written such a one. The idea of open edition is very simple: you find a book interesting, worth reading and possessing – you order a copy – I print and bind and send it to you – you buy it. In the beginning I used to number and sign each copy, but after some time I got lost, although I had lists with all titles and versions and tried to update them regularly, so I decided it would be easier to write the date indicating when a copy was completed. This means I will never know how many copies of my books I have made so far altogether – less or more than 963? Take it easy... Less time does not only mean I'm getting old and maybe will not have enough time to write all those books crowding in my head (which of course is true) – it means also that more books need more time to be produced. Let's imagine I'm going to have an exhibition of my books and I'd like to show all of them including different language versions (sometimes the books are bilingual or trilingual, sometimes each language version needs a separate copy) and different incarnations I mentioned above. Altogether it is about 60-70 copies, maybe even more. So, it takes really a lot of time to make them, even now, with the help form the friendly machines. And I still have only two hands – this hasn't change, either. This is the reason why I gave up hard binding – if a book has a classic codex form I use Japanese stab binding, it's quite attractive, looks nice, but first of all I can do it fast. (630)

21. Making books faster means also they are cheaper. Much cheaper than previously. However still a bit more expensive than standard books produced in thousands of copies. And probably still too expensive for those who would like to read them, at least here, in Poland... And this is another thing that hasn't changed: I haven't learnt how to sell books. Probably I will never learn. Well, the problem is way more complex than it might seems. Let me mention only that I don't consider books a typical commodity; they are something more than just a product. So, what are they? (99)

22. I'm as good a manager as goat's ass is a good trumpet. This is a good old Polish saying. I can't find better. It's easier to write a book than a business e-mail. Nothing has changed in this matter. (39)

23. There was a time when I used to take part in various book fairs all over Europe and not only. Definitely I should have done this more intensely. I didn't. Firstly, because I simply couldn't afford it. Secondly, because it is time consuming, and as I've written above, I'm running short of time, so I do prefer to spend my time writing, taking out of my head new books. Thirdly, there are and more and more books to carry. Obviously my body is less and less strong. Exhibitions, presentations, lectures, meetings are not that many as previously, either. This is one of the main reasons why we decided to open last year a reading room in the attic of our house. If I can't bring my books to the people, let's bring the people to my books! What a splendid idea – splendidly naïve... But who knows? I'm afraid, I know. We made the opening in the end of summer – now a new season begins. Yes, yet to open a reading room, even solemnly, with a concert on the terrace, poetic installation in the garden, and many guests, is not enough. Once again a nightmare of promotion attacks. The information of the website is not enough. Social networks? Maybe, but these are even more hideous nightmares of mine. I wouldn't like to spend the rest of my life trying to keep everybody informed about the tinniest event taking place in the attic, for example of wasps which are trying to build their nest though this may be quite interesting story – then the books I carry in my head will begin to decay there, transform into lethal tumours and soon I will be dead as dead is my FB account... Yes. More books – less time. What can I do? Practise scales on my piano. This is something I hated as a kid. Now I find scales and their variations the most beautiful music. An infinite universe of sound constellations. What a cosmos! Hence “Chromatic Concerto”. (333)

24. A seek-and-hide strategy, is it? But who would like to play this game knowing nothing about who is hidden and where? Oh, really fascinating strategy... Nevertheless sometimes it works. When? (30)

25. Now the time has come to tell a little about the biggest change that occurred and changed not much. I don't mean the digital revolution when I replaced my old typewriter with a computer and printers. (36)

26. I don't mean either the migration from Windows to Linux. I guess it happened twelve years ago. Although 12 has quite a lot to do with 3 and 6 I won't discuss this fully justified and successful migration, mainly due to the word guess indicating that 12 is not as undeniable as 60, 39 or 6. Exactly on the first of April, six years ago we founded a publishing home (not house, no) called LIBERATORIUM, a small press, indeed. On Fool's Day, the best possible day to commit madness. Since that day on what had been underground and overground has been onground. I do exactly the same what I have been doing for thirty nine years. Once a month my wife does some accounting. Definitely some things are easier now: taxes, invoices, contracts, trading, ISBN numbers, etc. Of course Liberatorium publishes only my books, it is an author's press, like my books are author's books. However there is something much more important than this and it seems to be hidden in the name. Liberatorium sounds Latin, English version should sound Liberatory, which is very close to Laboratory. In fact Liberatory is a laboratory of books, a book laboratory. But liber means also free. Yes. That's the point: freedom of making books, freedom of making free books, making books free, setting books free... It's quite astonishing that books which deserve our deepest respect for what they have done for our freedom, are not free themselves being so highly conventionalized as objects. However it should not be surprising since we love to speak and write about and fight for freedom, but we so willingly reduce it to the choice of this or that convention, of these or those limitations. Oh, what a treacherous and tangled thread I have begun. Let us cut it or tie a nod, now. (306)

27. Making everything by myself may seem sheer madness. Yet in every madness there is a method. My method gives me full control over the entire process of making a book. Everything depends on me. I negotiate only with myself and machines. So, no compromises, no diplomacy, no tricks, no politics, no arguments. I take the whole risk. As well as the full responsibility. (63)

28. In the 1980s I tried to negotiate with several publishing houses in Poland, but all in vain. I know I had not much to offer in those days, I also could not explain clearly my point of view for intuition and instinct were prior to intellect – the knowledge came much later. I felt the failure of these negotiations was not caused by political or economical reasons (it was gloomy decade in the recent history of Poland), the reasons were much deeper: cultural, philosophical... as though we were from different planets... (90)

29. The last attempt took place a dozen years ago. The publisher told me something I repeat often: you want to deprive us of the whole pleasure of making a book. He was right. But his pleasure was my unpleasure. (39)


30. This year in springtime, for more than one month, my books were displayed in the window of the biggest second-hand book shop in the main street (which is the topic of my street-book) of the town where I had been born. I had whole big window for my books. Of course, an antiquarian book shop is something else than a normal books shop – there are always some curiosities in it. Any time I enter a book shop and see so many books around me the following thought slowly sails through my mind like a cloud in the bright blue sky: and just here, among all those books, there could be mine? what would they look like there? would they fit? they are strange, bizarre, so different.... where would they fit, then? where is their place?.... millions of books around me, does the world need a few more?.... Standing in front of this window filled entirely with my books, I meditated: maybe they shouldn't be in normal book shops? what for? I will never have enough copies... they look like an invasion of aliens... they don't fit, they are as if from another planet... alien books – really nice, isn't it?... I wonder if my aunt would be satisfied. No. She would need alien criteria. (213=(2+1)+3=3+3=6)

31. And where is this “other” planet? When I was a kid I was asked: where would you like to live? I answered: where I would be able to do what I would like to do. Surprisingly I can do what I want to do here where I was born regardless all political, economical, cultural, or whatever crises, quakes, collapses, ups and downs... though “here” has changed a little: twenty years ago I moved from my home town to the village, thirty kilometres to the north-west. Nevertheless geography has never mattered much. I've always been living on my own planet. (99)

32. Well, anything else? (3)

33. If one day, by any reason, you find yourself here, in almost central Poland, in vicinity of the Bald Mountains, and have enough good or bad luck to find Liberatorium hidden in the jungle like garden, please come in. (39)



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