Thursday, November 28, 2013

Hearty Fare

Happy Day of Thanks! This goes out to all who enjoy good books, good food and good company...not necessarily in that order. This sweet book is a reminder of all that I am grateful for: all of the above! Hearty Fare, by Bunston Quayles—pen name of the late, great Los Angeles artist, Vance Gerry (1929-2005)—was letterpress-printed in an edition of 150 copies on Rives paper in 1991. It is a small, chapbook of comfort food recipes "intended to be a reminder to gentlemen of dishes once relished but perhaps temporarily forgotten," according to Gerry. The quantities of ingredients are left up to the cook, and he only intends for the recipes to be inspirational reminders of hearty fare. This book is a treasure—even if it was printed for the "gentlemen"—and it is spiced with Gerry's own elegant woodcuts. It was a gift from my dear husband and friends for one of those pesky "round-numbered" birthdays I celebrated earlier this month, and it totally blew me over. For this I am forever grateful!
     Vance Gerry continues to be an inspiration to me. He was a master of porchoir illustration and was one of those towering talents who was always creating; always doing something new. At the age of thirteen, he learned to set type in the tradition of fine press publishers while working at Grant Dahlstrom's Castle Press in Pasadena. After attending Art Center and the Chouinard Art Institute on the GI Bill, he went to work as an artist in the Disney Studios in Burbank, where he spent his entire career working on such films as The Jungle Book, The Aristocats, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tarzan, The Rescuers, Robin Hood and Fantasia/2000. In his spare time, he wrote and printed many private press books for his own Weather Bird Press—often under the assumed name of "Bunny Quayles" or "Bunston Quayles." 

I never had the pleasure to meet Vance Gerry when I was living in Los Angeles in the mid-80s, however I did follow close on his trail. In those days in LA, the used and antiquarian bookstore association published an annual two-color brochure and map which was beautifully letterpress-printed by Patrick Reagh. The covers were always handsomely illustrated by Vance, and I would never miss an opportunity to pick up a copy (which was far more meaningful than the Map of Stars' Homes.) At the time, I was unaware it was Gerry's work, but I always saved them. The stories I've heard from friends who knew Vance well, tell of his sense of style, his incomparable talent, prolific output, and his very quick wit. Friend, Bonnie tells me, "When asked at one time if he had any children he replied, 'No, but I was one once.'" This goes far to explain why he was also a big collector of childrens' toys.
     To learn more about Vance Gerry and his work, there is a brief, but nice biography written by Adela Roatcap on the Fine Press Book Association site for which I am also grateful. May you all have a Happy Day of Thanks today and enjoy some hearty fare!


  1. I have something illustrated by Gerry, but hadn't thought any more about it until I read this. I had no idea this was he and he was this. Lovely to know.

    1. How fortunate! I'm so happy I could help connect the dots for you. John Randle of the Whittington Press has long been intending to do a work on Gerry, which I am sure will be a fitting tribute once completed.


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