Book People | February 2023 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Artists’ Books Celebrate Accordion Music & the Band Los Lobos

Courtesy of Peter Thomas

Los Lobos with an accordion book made to celebrate the band's 50th anniversary. 

Book artists Peter and Donna Thomas recently completed two unique accordion books with neat musical backstories. The one pictured above was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American band Los Lobos, known for its eclectic mix of rock, Tejano, and folk.

The other is also an accordion-style artist’s book, commissioned by the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Libraries. “The Real Tejano Conjunto Accordion Book” is the perfect marriage of form and content, as the book describes the history of accordions, accordion books, and the music that developed in and around San Antonio and the Rio Grande Valley.

Photo © Jon R. Luini / Chime Interactive

“The Real Tejano Conjunto Accordion Book,” made by Peter and Donna Thomas.

“We commissioned ‘The Real Tejano Conjunto Accordion Book’ to highlight the importance of the accordion and accordionists in Tejano music,” commented Steph Noell, UTSA special collections librarian, in a press release. “While the format of the book will excite and intrigue people, the content is just as important as it highlights a segment of music and musicians who are major figures in Tejano music but are rarely talked about.”

The book will join more than 250 other artists’ books at UTSA. “Some are readable, and some are just art, but they all stretch the imagination of what we consider a book,” Noell said.

Peter and Donna Thomas, aka the Wandering Book Artists, are known for bringing book arts to communities around the country on their “gypsy wagon bookmobile.” We profiled them back in 2011, and talked to them again in 2018 when they published an illustrated book about John Muir. For “The Real Tejano Conjunto Accordion Book” project, Peter digitally printed onto paper he handmade. Donna hand-colored the images. It is ‘bound,’ so to speak, in a real accordion case.

Check out this video about the making of the book: