Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Torch for Printing

A young Albert Maertens of Seattle made this book on The History of Printing for Miss Levine's class assignment in 1930. I found this treasure sitting atop an assorted pile of tools and junk in a scary basement of an 1891 house in the Georgetown neighborhood. It was an estate sale which brought me there just a few days after Christmas, and it was advertised as the oldest house in Georgetown. Visiting just before closing time was a bit of a lark as I recall, but I was curious to see the oldest house there. The book was my only purchase; for $10 I think. Now I'm not a big believer in fate or destiny, but finding this little book was a great delight. I felt it belonged in my hands (for now) and I would give it safe-keeping.

So thoughtful of Albert to take note of Gothic lettering (also known as Blackletter). He reminds us "We see them on Christmas." 

As a former teacher of typography and book design, I was pleased to see that young Albert followed instructions well and included the correct sequence of pages for his frontmatter; a Title Page, followed by his endearing Dedication page and then Table of Contents. Although he wasn't the best speller, his handlettering fittingly resembles a roman text font of the day, and he did manage to capture the spirit of initial caps by applying a box around each first letter of a sentence. All four of the tipped-on watercolor (and one pen and ink) illustrations are charming, as is the crafty cover design of cut paper letters, a small book and two curious little torches. The book itself measures approximately 5.5 x 7.5 inches, has three sewn signatures and is bound with construction paper wrapped boards and endsheets. Perhaps my favorite thing about young Albert's book however is the last page entitled I am the Printing Press by Robert Daves (Davis). It is an abbreviated version of an early 1900s advertisement written by Robert Davis to promote the Hoe printing press.
     My curiousity about Albert Maertens' life led me only to some general online records. He died in Seattle in 2007 at the age of 91. This would have placed him at the age of 13 or 14 when he made this book, and it must have been very meaningful as he kept it all of those many years. On Friday I will feature another child's handmade book from this same era which is a perfect companion to this book on printing. It is on the topic of paper.


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