Pangolin Pandemic

Artist: Gabby Cooksey

In her artist statement, Gabby Cooksey wrote, “Pangolin Pandemic, is about two stories scaled into one. The imagery shows the life of a pangolin while it is being poached; alive, curled up in defense, killed, hung up, and then descaled while also telling a story from the plague in 1348 with Francesco Petrarch’s words.

The pangolin is the most trafficked mammal in the world: its scales are primarily used in traditional Eastern medicine, exotic hides, and as luxury meat sold in wet markets. Stories of the pangolin being the disease vector for COVID-19 were popular at the outset, but conditions of wet markets and human activity is the suspected source. During my time making this book, COVID-19 spread across the world infecting millions. Francesco’s words feel like they were spoken in 2020, not during the Bubonic Plague era. There will soon be a vaccine and pangolin’s are getting much needed worldwide protection from poaching.

The scales were a large draw to me when I first saw the taxidermic animal on the table at the Slater Natural History Museum, their pattern was mesmerizing. How can I recreate that pattern in a collage? How can I make the viewer want to touch my book and possibly make it feel like a pangolin”

Size: Book: 7.75″ wide x 11.6″ tall x 1.2″ depth . open: 16.4″ wide x 11.6″ tall The box is: 8.3″ wide x 12.25″ tall x 1.9″ depth. 

Materials: Vellum, leather, fabric, paper, vintage wallpaper, thread, binders board, acrylic paint, methylcellulose

Book Structure: Codex, quarter leather with montage sur-onglet binding.

Printing/Production Method: Letterpress Printed

Edition of 6

Gabby Cooksey lives and works in Tacoma, WA as a bookbinder and artist. In 2014, she received her diploma for Bookbinding at North Bennet Street School in Boston, MA. Her love for odd materials, storytelling and well crafted books are a good combination to producing truly unique books.

Gabby Cooksey: e-mail:; website: