Raking Leaves is a independent publisher specializing in contemporary art projects. The organization commissions two book projects and two special editions each year. One of the book projects for 2011 was The Incomplete Thombu by T. Shanaathanan, designed by Nia Murphy. The project records the subject of displacement through a series of drawings that overlay ground plans of houses drawn from memory by displaced Tamil-speaking civilians, with architect’s renderings and dry pastel drawings. Following publication of the book project, we were commissioned to work on the special edition. The design solution was to create a thombu; a land registry in use by Dutch officials in 17th Century Ceylon. This book was bound by hand, using the preservation methods for archival documents currently employed by the technical branch of the Sri Lanka national archives.The binding method allows for flat opening of the content without placing strain on the spine of the book. The book was produced as a collaborative effort between three local artisans. Its construction included hand-marbled endpapers, hand tooling, and embossing, as well as a print using a Golding Reddish Jobber printing press from the early 1900s, one of the few letterpress machines of its kind in existence. The book was featured in The Collector’s Edition - a summary of notable special editions book - published by Thames and Hudson in 2014.

By T. Shanaathanan

Edition of 25 published 2011 by Raking Leaves

Hardcover, 12” (H) × 8.7” (W)

80gsm Creamy Bulky Woodfree

The Incomplete Thombu

Thombu Special Edition

73gsm tracing paper

foil stamping, embossing & hand-marbling


320 pages