A Book of Secrets

My daughter, like her father, loves to make shit. She’ll cut up anything, glue it together, and call it an airplane faster than I can boil a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (7 Minutes BTW). When we were building the house she and I would spend time at my moms ‘crafting’. If I had to explain where I get my creativity from it would definitely, without a doubt, be from my mother. Where she got it from? I’ll have to ask…

Daughter and I were wandering through our local dollar store, like you do, and I happened upon a section of books. Books that had longed for the day where they may be placed atop a Barnes & Noble book shelf instead to be tossed aside and sold in bulk to a dollar store for who knows why. I spot the book that I want to destroy, and I utter the following:

Father – “Want to make book you can keep stuff in?”
Daughter – “Yes of course! I will most certainly hide things in it you are looking for when we are late for school.”

A conversation that has been greatly exaggerated but is surprisingly accurate.

My daughter loves this idea. She’s always liked playing with little boxes or tiny bags she can tuck things into; Like three Mini-figures of Rey we couldn’t find for several weeks – for example. We chose the book “The Clinton Tapes” by Taylor Branch. No, we didn’t read it.

The Clinton Tapes.

I started this project sometime during the fall of 2016. I started by clamping the book together and gluing the pages to each other. I placed wax paper between the pages I wanted to keep and the glued pages so that they didn’t stick together. This book has an unnecessarily stylized “roughing” technique applied to the ends of the pages and made it difficult to make sure you got all the nooks and crannies while gluing. You’ll want to get in there with a thick brush and a shit load of glue. Using a very sharp Xacto Knife I peeled away page, after page, after page of glorious William Jefferson Clinton content. After what seemed like several weeks of work I had decided I had enough and called it off. The paper was just too thick. The Clintons’ spared no expense on this paper. The project would have to wait until I found a better way to cut through. Fast forward to Summer 2017. An extremely handsome and very handy friend of mine had an idea on how we could finish this. He suggested using a RYOBI JobPlus with multi-tool attachment in order to hack our way through. It worked like magic. It also created a lot of Clinton dust.

Let’s be honest, the book was pretty hollow to begin with.

By the time I revisited this project, the Myst 25th Anniversary Kickstarter was in full swing. I had shared this with my daughter and she had expressed interest in having her own “Myst” book. Did she though? I thought it may be fun to decorate this book in such a way that it might be Myst worthy.

Chose some paint: Cocoa Bean for the base, French Wine for a splash of color, and 14k Gold for the fancy stuff.

This book is brown. Those are lightsabers.

Boy that is brown. I taped off the area where I wanted to paint it red and gave it a few coats.

Painters tape for that sweet edge.

The French Wine and some gold trim going on. I really enjoyed how this started to look. The gold makes it pop.

The finished product… I’ve tried a few times to stencil on the word ‘Myst’ or our last name but it just isn’t coming out how I want it. Any suggestions on how to best stencil?

This book says “Pick me up, this floor is dirty.”

Winter 2020 update

While browsing the r/myst subreddit I came across a post where a fan of the series wanted to gift their mother the games of the series but wanted to make it a little more fun! Click here for more info on that project

During their build I saw that they had a great way to stencil the MYST logo onto the book using a printed stencil and some painters tape. So I gave it a shot and it came out pretty darn great! Layering a piece of painters tape down onto the book, layering the stencil over it and taping that down I was able to accurately cut out each letter and in turn cut into the painters tape below to make a sticky stencil right onto the book itself. Applying layers of the 14k Gold paint over that and we get this:

A little tape goes a long way!

The Linking Book

In April of 2018 Cyan Worlds announced that they were launching a Kickstarter for the 25th Anniversary of Myst. As a long time fan of the franchise I was extremely excited that my absolute favorite game of all time was being re-released along with all of it’s sequels. As a part of the campaign, backers would receive a replica of the Myst Linking Book which would house a video Linking Panel, physical copies of each game, and a replica of Gehn’s Inkwell.

It was a dream come true! The book, the games, the possibility of never before seen content! I made my selection as a backer and watched as Cyan absolutely crushed their goal. Now all I had to do was wait for delivery which was sometime in November… I could not wait to get my hands on that book!

Kickstarter backers had began to tag photos with #Myst25 out on the ‘internet’ in order to unlock Community Goals.

All my stuff, less the Myst: The Book of Atrus Graphic Novel that was hanging out on my book shelf.

Stuff we’ve been collecting for the better part of 20 years started to surface. It has been glorious. There are two pins pictured above that you can get here. They. Are. Beautiful. Now available in copper.

With all the sharing I was reminded of Myst enthusiast, and all around cool dude, Rium+’s project of a replica book that actually plays the games and is by far the best replica I have ever seen. It’s so good, in fact, that Cyan scanned his book and used it in the realMYST Masterpiece Edition. If you haven’t seen it, there’s more about that here. I was inspired! Thus began my quest.

My idea was to take some of the Flyby’s and put them on a Raspberry Pi for playback. If I wanted to load the games I could figure that part out later. I was looking at this project through the lens of a prop collector. A prop collector with limited funds…

Because I am very patient man, I immediately went out and purchased a few copies of Harpers New Monthly Magazine. Not the famed Volume 54, but copies I wouldn’t mind destroying while I figured out what it was I really wanted to accomplish.

These are my books…

I purchased a few things to help clean up the books. Cellugel to help preserve the leather on the spine and Absorene to help clean the dirt and dust built up over the years. Applying the Cellugel to the aged cracked leather was like applying lotion to dry feet… The Absorene was hard to manipulate at first as it has a Play-doh like consistency in that you really have to work it in your hand before you want to use it on the book. It helped to clean up the ends of the pages where dust had been collecting up from being shelved for 100+ years.

These fine products were found at Talas

The Pi Situation:

I decided to go with a Raspberry Pi, a compatible Touch Screen, a 32GB memory card, and a portable battery pack to power the Pi. I would cut out enough space in the book for the hardware, preserving some of the pages towards the front, and cut out a window where you could access the touch screen to activate the video.

It’s a start! Sorry for the awkward zoom. I was excited.

I would have to gut this book to see how these components would fit. I’ve cut into books in the past, but the pages in this book are thinner, and delicate. I didn’t want to do any damage to the exterior. I spent a lot of time looking at this set up and considering if this was the route I wanted to take as I wasn’t truly happy with the hardware. So, it looks alright, I guess?. You get what you pay for. The battery pack is pretty big. The Pi and HDMI elbow connected to the LCD is clever. I was happy with the results so far but I wasn’t blown away. The viewing angle is not good at all, you had to be looking straight at the screen to see the image. I decided to put any cutting on hold until I decided what to do.

The Brochure

At my last job, one of my many tasks was delivering mail for the office. Part of that task would require that I go out to our old office, check for leaks, mice, and any mail that may find its way there by mistake. Sometimes packages, almost always junk mail, would mysteriously appear on the old reception desk. One day a package from Salesforce appeared addressed to no one, for a company that was acquired by the company we had acquired, at least 10 years gone. On any other day I would have simply tossed the package out. For some reason, who knows why, I would open this one. It felt different. I’m glad I did…

It was a video brochure about a new Salesforce product. For those who are unfamiliar with what a video brochure is, I’ve got a sample here.

A Sample Video Brochure. Not the Salesforce one…

It had a 5″ high resolution full color LCD with an absolutely stunning viewing angle. It plays audio, and does all of this when you open it. I would, of course, be showing you the original had I taken any video of it whatsoever. Why? I was so excited by my discovery that I rushed to gut and strip out each and every component to build this:

It’s not pretty.

Here’s the run down. Using a piece of foam board I carved channels to run the cables through. I ‘peeled’ out the foam from the board leaving behind the card layer so that I could cut fit in the speaker, reed switch, USB cable and battery. Although, the back looks like a mess, it worked out really well.

Fun times!

At the time I put this all together the Kickstarter Myst book had no estimated time of arrival. I found some videos on YouTube of the Flybys but I decided instead to obtain the in-game media. Using disc images of each game I used an app called ‘Riveal‘ to extract the video files from Revelation, Riven and Exile. With the Myst I was easily able pull off the .mov files and convert them Quicktime. Using the USB connection built onto this ‘board’ I was able to connect it to my desktop and drop the video files into the “video” folder. The content for the Kickstarter book is now available directly from Cyan. Unfortunately, they do not include the Revelation FlyBys. I’ve uploaded them here.

The Semi-Finished Product

Now, it’s not finished quite yet! I have yet to apply the paint to the cover, and to decide if I want to modify the spine to add the same text. After all, this was always intended to be a prototype.

I like it! What do you think?