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!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Unfolding The Thanksgiving Ball

In the early 19th century, Thanksgiving was still an unofficial holiday in the US, and it was celebrated on different dates in different states. This unfolded sheet of paper printed with a modest invitation to attend a Thanksgiving Ball on Friday, December 5th, 1823 in the small town of Vernon, Vermont, is available from this eBay dealer. The single sheet was originally folded into a self-enclosed envelope and addressed on the opposite side. This was a common occurrence in that era.  

Part of what I love about old documents such as this, is connecting the dots of history. My research began with the name of "Holbrook & Fessenden", credited on the right side of this invitation. What unfolded was a story rich in printing history and book publishing in 19th century New England. The Brattleboro History site, recalls Holbrook & Fessenden as founders of a large publishing house, bookstore, bindery and paper mill in Brattleboro, Vermont—just up river from Vernon, the site for this Thanksgiving Ball. 
     The Brattleboro Bookstore, as it was called, was founded by William Fessenden in 1810. Fessenden was a generous man and an enterprising character who was widely respected in Brattleboro. He was a journeyman printer when he established The Reporter newspaper in 1803. His interests were largely in the publication of books however, and he later left the newspaper in the care of capable hands, while he built the Brattleboro bookstore, paper mill and publishing enterprise. Fessendens' considerable achievements were short-lived however, when he died suddenly at the age of 36 of a probable heart failure. His death in 1815, was said to have caused such universal sorrow, the entire town suspended all business to attend his funeral. 

Source of advertisements: Brattleboro History 

In 1816, his father-in-law, John Holbrook took over the management of the publishing and bookstore enterprise along with William's brother, Joseph Fessenden. By this time, the store had taken on the character of a general mercantile with stationers' goods, shoes, textiles, school slates, paper hangings, gun powder, flour barrels, French crayons, and tack goods, amongst the thousands of books for sale. The bookstore soon became something of a town center for local patrons, and payment was often accepted in produce for goods and services. 

Brattleboro Messenger, July 2, 1820

The Reporter, February 25, 1817

In 1821, the first lending library was established at the Brattleboro Bookstore by a small group of local citizens with 300-volumes to share amongst themselves. This service later became the Franklin Circulating Library, named after Ben Franklin, and was open to subscribers who could afford the $3.50 annual fee.

I have never been to Brattleboro, Vermont, but with a town so rich in printing and book publishing history, I expect it would be nice to see some of the remaining old brick buildings, and imagine what it would be like to have attended the Thanksgiving Ball. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Feeling Lucky?

It seems a lucky someone will be getting a nice stocking stuffer tomorrow. Oh who, oh who, will it be? 
     As a curious sidenote: The Bay Psalm Book of 1640 is not without numerous flaws. Most notably, the inking of the Caslon type is uneven, frequent spelling errors and omissions occur throughout the book, and inverted commas are used in place of apostrophes at times. Some 200 years ago, publisher and author Isaiah Thomas said the Bay Psalm Book "does not exhibit the appearance of good workmanship. The compositor must have been wholly unacquainted with punctuation." 
     Even the translations of the verse have been sharply criticized by scholars, yet this first printed book in colonial America remains one of the most valued in the world, as it represents a historic turning point of Western civilization in what would later come to be the United States.    

Sunday, November 24, 2013

NaNoWriMo ReDo

November is National Novel Writing Month; or NaNoWriMo, for those in the know. Now in its 14th year, NoNoWriMo originated to encourage creative writing "from anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel" according to their website. The goal is to complete 50,000 words or less in 30 days. 
     Rob Bowker of the entertaining Typewriter Heaven blog in the UK, recently checked in from the Typosphere to send me his own surrogate version inspired by this annual event. He created his first NaNo typewritten book (NaNoTyBo?), The Micro-Book Typed, and completed it by the 4th of November.

Typing on a 1950s Olivetti Lexikon at 12 characters per inch leaves little room for a wordy text, so Bowker wisely chose to just write a DIY textbook of sorts, on how to type a 16-page book using only a single sheet of paper. Written in concise language, he answers the questions of Why and How to go about typing a small book on a typewriter. Bowker, who frequently types blog posts on one of his many typewriters, also provides helpful hints on formatting monospaced text and creating illustrations using characters, pattern and texture. The Micro-Book Typed is currently available from Issuu as a free downloadable PDF ready to print, fold, stitch and trim. Bowker suggests more of his typewritten chapbooks, possibly with spreads and even illustrations, may be in the pipeline soon.

In more recent posts, Bowker offers a number of other downloadable PDFs of some fun DIY typewriter "Graphikubes" from his personal collection. As an added bonus, he also suggests a beer-of-the-day in many of his frequent posts—though not certain if he advocates drinking while typing however. 

This gif was made by Ryan (Magic Margin) Adney within an hour after Bowker 
originally posted his first typewritten micro-book. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963

Three distinctly different typographic book covers with just a solemn date for a title, fifty years ago—when we learned of President Kennedy's assassination. This black & white cover design above by Christopher Brand, hit all the right notes for the 2008 edition of Adam Braver's book, Nov 22, 1963 by Tin House Books. 
     In the second example, artist Ben Shahn (1898-1969) illustrated and hand-lettered Wendell Berry's poem, memorializing the assassination of John F. Kennedy in the book, November Twenty Six Nineteen Hundred Sixty Three, published in 1964. The poem originally appeared in The Nation magazine on that date, just four days after the President's death. Shahn's dramatic hand-lettered title carries the weight of this electrifying event, just by the very size of the text. The title was stamped in black on the white cloth cover and the book was then packaged in a black slip case.

Source of photo: Letterform Archive

Source of image: Aleph-Bet

Source of photos: Mary & Matt
Stephen King's 11/22/63 novel about a time traveler who attempts to prevent the assassination of Kennedy, was published in 2011. The cover design features the true historical newpaper headlines, while the back cover has a fictional account of an aborted assassination attempt. It lacks the drama of the others, but illustrates two sides of a coin. It's interesting to note, that Amazon now lists 3261 books which have been published about John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Source of photo: SashaRaskin  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

S'more Artwork

In yesterday's post on the Camp Stories, Illustrated exhibit, I posted a small portion of my mother's artwork chronicling her childhood memories living in the rustic one-room cabin lovingly known as "Camp". Curating this exhibit required a great deal of attention and time to edit and prepare my mother's work, which took precedence over my own. Therefore, much of my own work is still on the drawing board, yet I am eager and determined to complete it in time. Those which I did complete, are in editions—with exception to the campfire—and they will be for sale soon. 

Camp S'mores Outdoors Recipe Book
Borrowing from the theme of Camp Stories, I chose to construct a paper S'mores accordion book with an illustrated recipe for this All-American favorite campfire treat, consisting of roasted marshmallows and chocolate, sandwiched between two graham crackers. For the uninitiated, the name for this delicious dessert evolved after campers typically consumed them so quickly, they were prompted to immediately ask for "s'more." The first published record of this traditional treat is said to have been in the 1927 Girl Scouts Handbook. My Camp S'mores recipe book consists of laminated cardboard graham crackers (aren't they all?), white paper marshmallow pages and a choice of dark or milk chocolate endsheet filling. Laser printed and porchoir illustration; packaged in a glassine wrapper. 2.5 inches square in an edition of 100. Paper marshmallows sold separately.

Message in a Bottle
This mechanical paper construction derived from one of my mother's stories about finding a message in a bottle on the beach. Knowing what an imaginative kid she was, I pictured her making her own message in a bottle to ship out to sea. I chose to fashion mine all of paper. When closed (as seen on right), the message is seen inside the bottle. By pulling the exposed thumb tab at bottom straight down, the cork simultaneously pops up to expose the message. It is a very simple device, with an element of surprise. This digitally printed piece is in an edition of 25. 

Sunday Dinner at Camp
The most iconic piece I created for this show, was also the most challenging of any. I produced about 5 or 6 models, testing sizes, shapes and various weights of paper; then refining the drawings each time. I knew precisely what I wanted to do from the beginning, which was to parody my mother's image of Company Every Sunday, where the dining table on the front porch was filled with guests and food. The structure was to pop open to expose my dear grandmother, Mert, busily preparing food in front of the wood stove—just as my mother drew in her image below. 

Below are my first attempts at this mechanical structure which were mildly successful. The objective was to have the walls of the front porch open to expose the interior, when the two tabs on either side are simultaneously pulled away. With each successive model came improvements.

This version is my final outcome. It was my intention to keep the theme of my mother's original—illustrating the scolding she received from her father for clowning around during meal prayers. The table is filled with some of the same foods, although the people are mostly strangers to me—with exception to her sisters and brother, and the haloed young girl on the left panel. She was my mother's cousin, Marion, who later died and had gone to heaven she wrote. I took many liberties on the size and proportions of the porch, and the details of the house, which are much more finished than the original house was at that time. When closed as seen here, it folds flat. The illustration is laser printed and hand-painted. The house is made of 2-ply board and hand-cut papers. It stands freely when opened and is about 7 in. high x 10 in. wide by 4 in. deep. This is an edition of 10.

When I completed the final illustration, I noticed the young girl sitting to the left of my grandfather looks strikingly similar to my mother. Seems I made the same mistake she did on some of her drawings where she put herself in the image twice!

My dear grandmother is seen here wistfully waving, while dog, Spunky waits for handouts. The back door to the Camp house opens to find the outhouse. 

Building a campfire in the center of this library exhibit, seemed like the most appropriate thing to do for a cold November day. The paper marshmallows and stick accoutrements were an added attraction. The roasting is for real, and I took a cue from this earlier Halloween post for the process. The tablecloth was quickly assembled in place from scraps I found in a storeroom. This will be on exhibit at the University of Puget Sound Collins Library in Tacoma, Washington until January 14th. For more information on this exhibit, see my earlier posts here and here