Ukulele Books
by Peter and Donna Thomas

spacing 260 Fifteenth Avenue Santa Cruz CA 95062 (831) 475-1455

To contact Peter and Donna use this email address: peteranddonna ( ) cruzio.com
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About the artists

Ukulele Books

Exhibition Information
Interviews and essays

Music: Peter plays his ukulele books

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Read about our walking across California and the Muir Ramble Route Ukulele Class Information Read about our road trip as Wandering Book Artists

Ukulele Books

One day I thought to myself, "I love to make books and I love to play the ukulele. Can I put these two loves together? Can I make a book out of a uke?" After Donna and I made the first one, I thought, "How many more can we make? Each one will have to represent a different book structure, format or concept and each will still have to play...."

All ukulele books measure approximately 18 by 6 by 3 inches.

Top 50 Ukulele Sites

Ukulele Series Book #1: The Ukulele Fanbook. 1996
This was my first ukulele, the one my brother gave me when he said, "Let's all get ukes, so we can play with dad and be like a Partridge Family." The fan book structure is often used in Southeast Asia. We have modified the traditional structure though. The pages were cut from a Sunset Travel Guide to Hawaii using pinking shears to give them the feeling of a pineapple. A cover was made by covering binders board with tapa cloth and both were attached by a post screw to the heal of the neck. $1650. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #2: The Ukulele Accordion. 1996
Text is Little Grass Shack, handwritten and illustrated ukulele shaped paper cut in paper doll style. Leather bound cover with leather onlay picture in sound hole. $2300. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #3: The Altered Ukulele book. 1999
A Visual History of the Ukulele by Jim Beloff has been cut up and pasted onto a ukulele, the text is pasted on the fretboard, and explains the meaning of the word "ukulele". This is a second copy, the first being made in 1997 and in the private collection of Ukulele Dick. $1500. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #4: The Ukulele Bookshelf. 1998
This ukulele has a bookshelf of twelve miniature books in three sets of accordion books in different colored bindings. There are four books per set and when lined up open, one on top of the other makes one full page spread from the book "A Visual History of the Ukulele." $1650. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #5: The Faux Book Ukulele. 1999
This book is covered with bookbinding materials: marbled paper covers the top, headband material mimics rope binding around the sound hole, leather with raised bands covers one side as a spine and the other side is covered with deckle edges of handmade paper. The ukulele is painted by Sheryl McCartney. $1650. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #6: I'm a Fan of the Ukulele. 2000
This is a premium older cheap ukulele made in Japan. It was sawed in half, and boards were added to make both halves solid. Pages were handmade with a ukulele shaped deckle, letterpress printed with the words, "I'm a Fan of the Ukulele" and attached by screw post to the back half of the uke. Each page is autographed by a famous ukulele personage. $4850. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #7: The Fanned Foredge Ukulele. 2000
This ukulele belonged to a friend's child and they gave it to me to stop her incessant playing. It was sawed in half, and boards were added to make both halves solid, and the sound hole was drilled straight through the book. Pages were handmade with a ukulele shaped deckle that has a heal shape on the top and attached to the ukulele by a post screw through the heal of the uke. The ukulele was painted by Suzanne Thomas and then the text was written by Donna Thomas. The pages were first drilled to remove a hole the size of the sound hole then each page was cut by hand to give it a slightly larger hole and create a ring of concentric circles. These were painted, in the manner of a foredge painting with the title of the text. $1850. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #8: Mystic Isles of the South Seas (The Real Fake Book Uke). 2000
The neck of a ukulele was attached through the top end of a copy of Mystic Isles of the South Seas by Fredrick O'Brien . A sound hole was drilled through the cover revealing some of the text and a bridge was mounted on the cover below the sound hole. The book opens at the back cover, so the title page was moved to the back of the book so it could still be read. $1750. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #9: The Letterpress Ukulele. 2002
This is a rejected prototype concert ukulele donated to the ukulele book cause by Lehua Ukuleles. It was sawed in half and boards were added to make both halves solid. Pages were handmade with a double ukulele shaped deckle so that the pages could be folded and sewn through the spine. The pages were then letterpress printed in various colors of ink, using old wood type and two of Donna's linocuts of ukuleles. The book was sewn with two needles over tapes. The tapes, made of brass wrapped in leather, were attached to the front and back half of the ukulele with brass hinges and screws. $2200. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #10: The Scrolling Ukulele. 2002
This is a tenor sized ukulele. The same tuners used for the strings were attached to brass tubing and mounted inside the ukulele, parallel on each side of the sound hole. Our book, A Brief History of the Ukulele was attached to the tubing and can be seen as it scrolls across the sound hole. $1750. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #11: The Concertina Ukulele. 2002.
This was an inexpensive 1960-70s Japanese "Aloha" ukulele. The neck was warped, so it didn't hurt the instrument much to be cut in half. Boards were mounted inside each half to create a cavity. The halves are hinged at the bottom of the ukulele, and a simple clasp through the heal holds the ukulele book shut. The text is created by attaching postcards (with imagery from vintage matchbooks and other Hawaiian ephemera) to a folded paper "concertina spine", thus making it a Concertina Ukulele. The thing that took forever when making this ukulele book was finding the vintage matchbooks that are mounted above and below the concertina, they are not that easy to find. $1850. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #12: The Ukulele String Set Book. 2002 This Uke Brand soprano ukulele was sawed in half and new boards were attached to the open ends. The halves are attached at the heal by a hidden hinge which makes the ukulele open like a counterbalanced clamshell. A dozen vintage glassine string envelopes are mounted in dowels, as newspapers are held in libraries. $1950. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #13: The Ukulele Jam. 2002
This uke was once part of some sort of mechanical calliope and it had holes through the neck and fret board to attach it to the machine. Also it was created with triple high action to accommodate the mechanical strikers, making it useless as a regular instrument. The uke was sawed in half lengthwise. The halves were attached by hinges on the back, with a hasp on the back of the headstock to hold it shut. Small chambers were created in each half and a tall narrow book is inserted in that chamber. The book is Coptic bound, with boards covered in Moroccan leather with colored leather picture onlays. The book is a "exquisite corpse" book, where the pages are silt horizontally to create interchangeable heads, torsos and legs for 15 different images of ukulele players that Donna painted for this book. $2500. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #14: Old Ukes. 2001
We also call this the Ukulele Top and Back Text Book as the pages are old ukulele tops and backs (given to me by Peter Bermudez of Haiku Ukuleles on Oahu). These wooden pages were attached by hinges to wooden bands which were then attached to two Mexican extra large soprano ukuleles which act as the covers. Eight different vintage wooden tuning pegs were added to the covers to make the ukuleles playable. $4000. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #15: The Cabinet of Curiosities - Cigar Box Ukulele. 2002
A small sized cigar box was attached to a soprano ukulele neck. Inside the cigar box is a diorama which tells a story about the historical allure of Hawaii as an archetype of tropical paradise. Artists often think of these structures as books because of the way they tell a story, and the story can be different for each viewer. $1650. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #16: The Jacob's Ladder Ukulele Book. 2002
The neck of this ukulele was excavated to make room for a book. A Jacob's Ladder book structure was constructed of koa wood and printed paper panels connected by black satin ribbon. In Hawaiian, ladder is often translated as "the way of spaces" and the text we have used is from Davida Malo's 1898 edition of Ka Moolelo Hawaii, where he discusses the naming of the upper and lower spaces. $1650. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #17: The Duke Uke. 2002
A Duke Kahanamouku ukulele was cut in half and attached to a commercial book which is a biography of the Duke titled The Duke by Joseph Brennan. A special case, made to look like Duke's surfboard, was constructed for this book. $3000. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #18: The Shaped Book Ukulele. 2003
The ukulele was sawed in thirds to create a bent wood "shaker" box by affixing the middle third of the ukulele as a band around the back of the ukulele (which is now the top of the box). A copy of Hawaii: Isles of Dreams by Jacques Chegaray was cut to the shape of the ukulele box and placed inside the uke box. $1650. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #19: The Ukulele Tunnel Book. 2003
The back was sawed off this ukulele and a second inner top was attached inside the front half. The two halves are held together by three little clasps on the sides and bottom. A tunnel book with the text images and words to the song Little Brown Gal, painted by Donna, is attached to the front and back halves. $1850. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #20: The Ukulele Flip Book. 2003
This Regal uke has been converted into a flip book showing a mainlander's dream of paradise. The animated hula dancer was created by Evert Brown. The pages are attached to a dowel with a brass crank handle. This is inserted through a hole in the side of the ukulele and the pictures are viewed through the sound hole. $1900. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #21: The History of the Ukulele Cigar Box Ukulele. 2002.
Cigar boxes have traditionally been used for both books and ukuleles, so it was a natural leap of imagination to use one cigar box for both purposes. I found this cardboard cigar box in Moss Landing and fell in love with its patina of age, and didn't realize the challenge I was going to have attaching it to the ukulele neck (usually cigar box ukuleles are made with wooden boxes). Inside the cigar box is a diorama that tells a story about the history of the ukulele and allure of the tropical paradise where it originated. I bought the ukulele neck from Bernuzio Brothers in 1994 thinking it was going to be attached to a ukulele and so had it lying around when I thought of this project. We even constructed some of the little items in the diorama. $2500. More images.
Ukulele Series Book #22: The Ukulele Sheet Music Book. 2002
The ukulele was sawed in half and attached to koa wood boards. Vintage sheet music is bound between the two halves. $2650. More images.

Ukulele Series Book #23: A Brief History of the Ukulele. 2003.
This book is made by sawing a ukulele in half, then re-connecting the two halves with hinges and a lock. Both halves of the ukulele have chambers constructed in them to accomodate the accordion text The text was oringially made for a miniature book in 1999. It has been enlarged and reprinted for this edition, with a new title page and colophon, printed on Peter's handmade paper, sewn to the text. Edition of fifteen copies. $1250. More images.

Study number 1 for uncompleted Ukulele Series book:
This is a study for a palm leaf binding in the neck of a ukulele. 2000 The neck with the palm leaf book structure and the covers with the blank pages sewn in. $450. More images.
Study number 2 for uncompleted Ukulele Series book:
This is a study for a coptic binding with old top and back of a ukulele. 2001 Double ukulele shaped paper is folded in half and coptic stitched into covers from an old concert sized Kamaka ukulele. $450. More images.

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