Post authored by Matthew Cjecka
In August, UWDCC added 128 cartonera books from places such as Chile, Cuba, France, Germany, Mexico, Mozambique, Peru, Spain, and Uruguay.
With the newest additions, UWDCC builds on the work that began in 2006 when Ibero-American Studies Bibliographer Paloma Celis Carbajal met with members of Eloísa Cartonera, the first cartonera publisher. By 2008, the first 100 entries were added, and now, the Cartonera Publishers Database boasts around 3,500 digital scans of the covers and title pages as well as 18 interviews, in Spanish, with creators and publishers of these works.
Cartoneras are nonprofit publishing projects whose shared purpose is to reduce the costs associated with the production and distribution of literary works to include emerging writers and texts otherwise left out by conventional publishing houses. The books are handmade from recycled cardboard collected from the streets allowing them to be sold at a fraction of the price of a conventional book.
In most occasions the bibliographer has acquired the books in person during trips to book fairs, conferences, or during vacation. Additionally, this collection has been extremely lucky to have graduate students and faculty volunteer to acquire cartonera books for the library when they travel abroad. Most recently, the collection has been receiving several generous donations of cartonera books directly from the publishers.
The process of digitizing these precious books is never complete, and the newest books seek to increase the diversity of cover art and stories already within the collection. While the books vary in topics, language, and literary genre, some do denominate themselves as collectives, cooperatives, or social sculpture projects.
Take for example, this elegantly-crafted purple box containing a collection of 8 books of Latin American poetry entitled, Poesía que gira: muestra de poesía latinoamericana (Poetry that turns: A Sample of Latin American Poetry). Published by Amaru Cartonera in Peru, each cover is an elegantly drawn and strikingly memorable work of art in its own right. As a whole, the collection allows multiple contemporary poets from Latin America to share their work with a larger audience. The image below to the right is a book within the collection by peruvian writer Mario Morquencho. The format of each book is taken literally from the title of the collection by folding each page in such a way that the reader needs to turn the book around every time it flips one of its pages.
An initiative that began in Latin America has proven to be successful all over the world. The book shown as the feature image for this post, (far left, top) is entitled, Faut pas mépriser le quidam! (Arts.ec1211) and was published by Association La Marge, a cartonera located in Angers, France that got its start in 2014.
The low costs of producing and obtaining the books is an innovative way to ensure that all people, regardless of income, have an outlet for personal expression. By continuously adding these items to the UW Digital Collections, UW-Libraries aims to preserve and share these works for years to come. For more information about cartoneras and to view the more books in the collection, visit the Cartonera Publishers Database page within the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.