Like an ancient magical talisman, this small book emerges from its carrying pouch to unfold into a complete circle. The twenty-eight phases of the moon are revealed, along with the mansions (manazil, groups of stars) and zodiacal signs it travels through, and the twenty-eight letters of the Arabic alphabet that are said to be closely associated with this cycle.
Approximate dimensions of the closed book inside the pouch are 5x11x2.5 cm. When fully open, it forms a circle of roughly 50 cm diameter, and it can be framed that way (with the cover pages tucked behind the past two pages). Each copy is signed and numbered out of 14.
Made in an edition of only 14, a moon-related number, this book was inspired by medieval Islamic astronomical charts and their visual language. The diagrams of the constellations are accurate, but simplified in the style of period texts. I used four different early scripts for the different layers of information, although I am more interested in their capacity to evoke a sense of wonder than in them being deciphered.
The original spread was painted with period-accurate materials, and fourteen copies were printed with museum-quality giclée process on etching paper. I painted the back of each with watercolour, sprinkled it with golden star; added gold and silver metal leaf to the illustrations; cut, scored and folded the book. Finally, I created a pouch, made of sturdy, royal blue bookcloth which I also sprayed with gold, and lined inside with genuine wool felt to store the book safely and allow it to be worn around the neck.
Watch the making of a book and its pouch:
Over the Shoulder #5: Book of the Moon from Joumana Medlej on Vimeo.