Nile (Papers of River Muds) is a limited edition book printed by the Lapis Press, Los Angeles. It is usually displayed with its pages open for view next to its slipcase. The slipcase is made with grey hand-made paper with vellum-like edges, and the title ‘NILE | RICHARD LONG’ is printed centrally in red letterpress. The cover of the book is made with orange-brown, hand-made paper and has a spine also made from a vellum-like material. The name of the river ‘UMPQUA’ in Oregon, USA, is printed centrally in red capital letters. ‘RICHARD LONG’ is printed in red capital letters on the spine. The hand-bound pages of the book are made of heavy hand-made paper in various shades of brown, their edges left uncut, or ‘deckle-edged’, following the paper-making process. The names of several rivers from around the world are printed on separate pages in red.
Hand-made paper, such as that used here, is produced by suspending particles of paper pulp (made from textiles or recycled paper) in a fine mesh stretched over a frame, creating an even spread of pulp which is then pressed and dried to form a sheet of paper. Long worked in a paper mill for a brief period after his time at art college in Bristol and before starting at St Martin’s School of Art in London in 1966. He has reflected that ‘the paper mill had quite a big influence’, adding ‘I’m sure part of my appreciation of paper and books comes from that experience’ (Tufnell 2007, p.119).
For the paper used in Nile (Papers of River Muds) the pulp was mixed with mud from rivers around the world, producing pages in different shades of brown. Long first used this technique using mud taken from the River Avon in Bristol, remarking that ‘somebody in France sent me a bucket with some paper pulp in it, and they said if you mix this paper pulp with some of your River Avon mud and send it back to us in this bucket, we’ll pulp it and send a book made of real River Avon paper’ (Elliot 2006, p.51). In Nile (Papers of River Muds) the name of each river used in the paper-making process has been printed onto the corresponding page of the book. The rivers are: Nile, Umpqua, Hudson, Murrumbidgee, Mississippi, Indragoodby, Jordan, Condamine, Avon, Chitravathri, Amazon, Rhine, Guatiquia and Huang He.
Nile (Papers of River Muds) was created in 1990, eleven years after Long’s earliest experimentations with hand-made books and river mud in an edition that includes Book with Mud-Dipped Pages 1979 (Tate AR00144), for which mud was applied directly onto the paper rather than using it as an ingredient in the paper-making process. The River Avon features prominently in both these works and has had an enduring influence on Long’s work. Referring to the Avon as his ‘home’ river – since it runs through Bristol, where he was born – Long says: ‘I suppose I’ve always been fascinated by rivers, because I grew up in Bristol. I’ve always liked looking at the tide … Water, it’s like a circle. I can use it as a vehicle for many ideas.’ (Tufnell 2007, p.70.) This book demonstrates the artist’s fascination for rivers, comprising not only the names but also the sedimentary material of world rivers in its pages.
Patrick Elliot, Richard Long: Walking and Marking, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2006.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007.
Clarrie Wallis, Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009, p.199.