Land of the Inca

by Carol Cunningham
Published by Sunflower Press, California, USA, 1985 (copy 15 of 85)
Book dimensions: H 65 x W 90 x D 19mm
Box dimensions: H 120 x W 120 x D 40mm
Sample board #66
Bound in 2023

About the book:

This miniature book was produced by Carol Cunningham, who has been printing books for over a half-century under the name of ‘Sunflower Press’. This book contains information and illustrations related to the Inca Empire. Known for creating books dealing with different cultures, Carol has also published books on: The first Emperor of China; Kachinas; Muses; and a book about the earliest Japanese printing titled One Million Pagodas.

She publishes both full-size and miniature books, using a variety of techniques, including silk-screened images, linoleum blocks, zinc cuts made from drawings, and colour photocopying of original watercolours for her artwork.

The Incas were a group of South American Indians who ruled an empire that extended along the Pacific coast and Andes Mountains from what is now northern Ecuador to central Chile. According to tradition (the Inca left no written records), the founder of the Incan dynasty led the tribe to Cuzco, which became their capital.

About the binding:

  • A miniature stub binding, bound in black goatskin with a false round spine.
  • The boards of the book are made from brass sheet to give them weight.
  • The front and back cover of the binding is embroidered in a mirrored Inca-inspired pattern using metallic gold thread.
  • The title of the book is cut out of the covering leather on the spine, with gold leaf stuck down behind it.
  • There is a hint of lilac leather stuck down to the inner board edges.
  • The text block has a double-core made leather endbands with thread detail sewn to them.
  • The book has edge-to-edge black leather doublures.
  • The box is made of Poplar, with the lid held on using concealed magnets.
  • The box is lined with leather and paper, with the book sitting within a well.
  • The underneath of the lid is covered in leather with an Inca-inspired pattern embroidered onto it.

Design Description:

Textiles were very significant for the Inca empire because they had religious and social value. A piece of cloth was considered the most precious gift, it was a sign of social status and was exclusive only to members of the royal family and the highest officials of the Inca civilisation. Textiles symbolised wealth, the finest fabrics were among the most valuable of all possessions and were even more precious than gold or silver. Textiles could be used both as a tax and as a means of payment.

The Incas favoured abstract geometric designs, especially checkerboard motifs, which repeated patterns (tocapus) across surfaces. With this in mind, the covers of the book were designed to mimic this idea, with the patterns sewn in gold thread on black leather. The gold thread symbolises the idea of wealth whilst also tying in with the gold printed imagery on some pages of the miniature book.

The original cover of the book included some abstract depictions of Alpacas, which were treasured as the most important animal for the Inca civilisation. Their meat was consumed; with their wool they made yarns and fabrics; plus the bones, leather, fat and excrement had diverse applications such as musical instruments, footwear, medicines and fertiliser respectively. Due to this, they were preferred animals for religious sacrifices, the Incas thought that sacrificing an alpaca served to appease their gods.

The cover design of the book includes two alpacas, along with a larger one appearing on the underside of the box lid.

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