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Tucson, Arizona, United States
I work as Panther Peak Bindery and am a bookbinder, conservator and instructor working outside Tucson, Arizona for individual and institutional clients across the country. I am a two term President of the Guild of Book Workers, was a Fulbright Scholar, taught at North Bennet Street School for over nine years and was the fastest in my middle school class at running up and down a flight of stairs (really!).



Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The perfect baby gift

When three of my nieces and nephews were going to have children very close together we had to decide what to give them as a baby gifts.  To me the key phrase in that sentence is "baby gift."  A gift for the baby.  As opposed to a gift for the new parents.  It always seemed to me that giving baby clothes was a gift for the parents, which is fine - there's nothing wrong with giving gifts to new parents, but then call it a parent gift, not a baby gift.

My idea, and Diane agreed, was to give each child a drop spine box like this one, with their name on the cover:

Inside we filled it:

In each box was a New York Times and a Seattle Times, from their birthday, along with eight or so magazines that were on the news stands when the child was born.  We picked magazines which would cover culture, fashion, sports, computers, technology, news, music and others we thought would be of interest.  I think Diane put an architecture magazine in one of them!  We tried to think of magazines that would evidence the greatest change over the next fifty, or hundred, years.

What I particularly like about it is this:  it's kind of worthless now, it's just a bunch of magazines.  But in thirty years it'll start being kind of interesting.  In fifty years it'll be pretty cool, and in a hundred years it'll be amazing.

At least we hope!

To make the box I made a drop spine box the size of the newspapers and then infilled the lower part of it so that the magazines wouldn't jostle around too much.  And that's the important thing here, the box can't allow the movement of the magazines or newspapers.  And it needs to be made of proper, acid-free and durable, materials.  You can see the structure in these pictures, and in the picture above:

On the inside of  the other tray is a letter from Diane and myself explaining why we did this.  Diane wrote it, so it is prose that reads as poetry.  

What struck me after we had done a couple of these (this is the third one) is that even having a newspaper will be interesting in a few decades.  News of the Picayune going to three days a week is pretty hard to hear for someone like me who loves newspapers. Especially Sunday newspapers.  You also have to wonder how long printed magazines will last as well.

I often get asked what I think of Kindles and Nooks, with the expectation of I'll start screaming or yelling about how they are the end of civilization and decency.  But really, the main thing I think we lose with electronic books is the loss of cultural history.  You won't be able to pass down grandma's Kindle in the same way you can save her cookbook.  And the stains on the pages of the cookbook, even more than the words on the page, say a lot about grandma, what she liked to cook, and even how careful of a cook she was!  Same for Bibles, or favorite children's books.

Sometime you should leaf through the pages of Copernicus' books, and see all his marginalia.  Reading his notes means you can see his thoughts as he read a section of the text.  His unguarded thoughts.  Sure todays' Copernicus can make notes on his or her Kindles, but you won't be able to read anything off a fifty year old model.

Maybe that's why I like this gift so much.  It's saving a bit of culture in a way that will allow it to be experienced a century from now.  In that way, it's perhaps more of a gift to Phoebe's grandchildren than it is for her.

Of course part of the key to it, I suppose, will be to keep it out of their hands until they are old enough to  understand what it is.  And hope they find it interesting enough to take care of and save.  We'll see...


  1. Great idea, Mark and Diane!

  2. I love this idea! I'm so excited for those babies to grow up and discover the wonderful gift you gave them!

  3. Im so Amazed, what a great Idea you have.

  4. Selecting gifts for babies is not as easy as it is selecting gifts for adults. This is because, it is really difficult to know about their likes and dislikes and the worst part is they can't even voice their opinion. Thus in order to solve this problem, let us discuss about some baby gifts that will surely help you.