Sarah Bryant’s Simulations on a Two-Dimensional grid begins with a great line – or actually, several. One line – the conceptual basis for the book – graces the first page: “reveal that if conditions are met to destabilize the equilibrium, individuals cycle out of phase with their neighbors.” This is a portion of a spatial population model, which may not tell you much directly but implies everything you need to know before experiencing this intriguing and appealing book.
Other lines – and there are many of them – stretch horizontally and vertically across the wrapper and across the unbound pages inside, in groups of 8-10 lines drawn in orange and black. They stretch across the surfaces like so many precise warp or weft threads, knotting together somewhere off the edge but on the page presented as flat and straight. They intersect, they interact, they form small grids as they cross. If you’re fascinated by grids, as I am, the multitude of crossing lines is appealing: specific and direct, like so many telephone wires stretching across a densely peopled city.
Additional lines are created by folding, creasing the paper but then flattened out and waxed back into white lines of evenness. The folded lines often parallel the drawn ones, or echo their placement on another page, but occasionally these lines set off on their own, creating their own patterns. They provide a subtle texture, a creased braille, a treat for eyes and fingertips.
The lines are complemented by small holes, just larger than pinpricks. There are groups of them, clustered together as if in a pod, travelling tightly and (for the most part) uniformly. This is the closest literal reference to population, these individual perforations that have gathered together in neighborly communion. For most of the book, they elude structure of the gridlines, but the last page and back cover allow the satisfaction of holes and lines aligning together, delightfully “in phase” with each other.
One of the most engaging aspects of this book is the treatment of the Zerkall paper. The waxed surface is lovely to handle, weighty like an ancient map, and its translucence both reveals and obscures the pages following. The folded lines and pricked holes take on a delicate thickness due to the waxing. I found that I wanted to keep exploring Simulations, especially for the pleasure of touching the pages.
Beyond lines and holes, the book is without imagery. Beyond the title page, initial quote, and colophon, the book is without words. These choices allow simplicity to reign, undistracted. The book is clean, well-crafted, and evocative.