Category Archives: Books

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Afrofuturism: The Graphics of Octavia E. Butler

Please join us for the latest in our series of live webinars highlighting Special Collections at Princeton University Library. This month focuses on speculative fiction, also called Afrofuturism, of Octavia E. Butler.

January 2020 brought the release of the much anticipated Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Octavia E. Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy and illustrator John Jennings, the follow-up to the no.1 New York Times bestseller Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by the same award-winning team. Butler’s groundbreaking dystopian novel offers a searing vision of America’s future. Set in the year 2024, Parable presents a country marred by unattended environmental and economic crises that lead to social chaos. Residents shelter indoors, warned against venturing outside into a world eerily similar to our contemporary COVID-19 existence.

Adapting Parable and Kindred to a graphic novel format is an astounding achievement and we are fortunate to have both Damian Duffy and John Jennings with us to discuss how they accomplished it. Their adaptations capture the energy and raw emotion of Butler’s prose with visual acrobatics and succinct verbal interchanges. Join this lively discussion with Graphic Arts Curator Julie Mellby, focusing on their graphic adaptations of classic literature, along with a look at their future projects.

REGISTER HERE

Date: Friday, July 31, 2020
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EDT
Location: Virtual

 

Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) was a renowned African-American author who was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Grant and PEN West Lifetime Achievement Award for her body of work.

Damian Duffy is a cartoonist, scholar, writer, and teacher. He holds a MS and PhD in library and information sciences from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is on faculty.

John Jennings is the newly appointed director of Megascope, Abrams ComicArt’s graphic imprint as well as a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of California, Riverside.

Anaïs Nin and Louise Bourgeois


(c) Museum of Modern Art. https://www.moma.org/collection/works/illustratedbooks/15383?locale=en

Angela Anaïs Juana Antolina Rosa Edelmira Nin y Culmell (1903–1977), known professionally as Anaïs Nin (pronounced Ana East Neen) and Louise Joséphine Bourgeois (1911–2010) were two of the strongest, most self-sustaining women of the 20th century. Together they produced a stunningly beautiful image/text narrative, He Disappeared Into Complete Silence, although they may never have met.


As Nin was signing a contract with Dutton Publishers in 1946 and preparing to close Gemor Press, where she and Gonzalo More had been hand-printing books since 1942, she expected to publish only one more title. A large folio edition of her House of Incest, which appeared in Paris in 1936 under the imprint Siana editions (Anais spelled backwards), was to be printed and published in a limited run of 50 copies. Then Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988), director of Atelier 17, the print workshop where Nin’s husband printed, walked in with another project.

Nin with Frances Steloff, at Gotham Book Mart

 

In the 1930s, Nin, her husband Hugh Guiler, More, Hayter, and Bourgeois were all living and working in Paris but when the city started mobilizing for war, they each made their separate ways to New York City. Just before leaving France, More worked with Hayter on Atelier 17’s limited edition Fraternity, which was completed in March of 1939.

When the Hayter’s studio reopened in New York, Guiler studied etching there and several of his wife’s hand-printed editions include her husband’s prints under the pseudonym Ian Hugo. Nin’s Diaries contain several mentions of Hayter stopping by Gemor Press on Macdougal Street or later 13th Street when they expanded their printing shop to include an etching press.

Nin credits Hayter with teaching her and More to print relief copperplate etchings and with bringing them work when they needed the money. There is never a mention of titles or publications, just the fact that he would bring work to their shop if an artist needed letterpress text with their fine art prints.

This might have been the case with Louise Bourgeois’s He Disappeared Into Complete Silent. There is no mention of Bourgeois in Nin’s Diaries, or of the project. Neither is Nin mentioned in Bourgeois sources. It is a tragedy the two never really collaborated. By this time, More had foolishly given away all the money needed to run the business and Nin had no choice but to close the door.

We would show more of the Gemor Press editions but someone has removed them from Firestone Library and the books will have to be replaced. Be careful when buying or selling these books to check for a Princeton property stamp inside.

 
In Paris
The House of Incest by Anaïs Nin. Paris: Siana éditions [1936].

The Winter of Artifice by Anaïs Nin. Paris; [printed in Belgium]: Obelisk Press, 1939.

Fraternity by Stephen Spender, translated by Louis Aragon. Paris: Stanley William Hayter, 1939). Text printed by Gonzalo More.

In New York City
Winter of Artifice by Anaïs Nin. Metal relief prints by Ian Hugo. [New York: Gemor Press], 1942. First edition 500 copies.

Four Poems by Sharon Vail. New York: Gemor Press, 1942.

Several Have Lived by Hugh Chisholm; Prints by André Masson. New York: Gemor Press, 1942.

Misfortunes of the Immortals by Max Ernst and Paul Éluard. Translated by Hugh Chisholm. New York: Black Sun Press (printed at the Gemor Press), 1943.

Alphabet du décor by Berthie Zilkha. pen drawings by Madison Wood. [New York: Gemor Press], 1944. 68 pages. Edition: 300

Ardentissima cura: a poem by Bernardo Clariana; translated by Dudley Fitts. New York: Gemor Press, 1st ed. 1944. [12] pages ; 22 cm. Edition: 400.

Ho! watchman of the night, ho! by Lee Ver Duft. New York: Gemor Press, 1944. 30 pages ; 23 cm. Edition: 300. Cover Art by Mastrofski.

Quinquivara by C. L. Baldwin; engravings by Ian Hugo. New York: Gemor Press, 1944.

Under a Glass Bell by Anaïs Nin. Line engravings on copper by Ian Hugo. [New York, Gemor Press, 1944]

This Hunger by Anaïs Nin; with five colored hand-pulled woodblocks by Ian Hugo. [New York] Gemor Press, 1945. [1]-183 [1] pages, 4 leaves woodblocks. 23.2 cm. Edition: 1000 copies and limited deluxe edition: 50 copies.

A Child Born Out of the Fog by Anaïs Nin. [New York], Gemor Press, 1946. 2 preliminary leaves, 1-6 pages, 1 leaf 20 cm.
A Child Born Out of the Fog by Anaïs Nin. [New York]: Gemor Press, 1947. 4 unnumbered pages, 6 pages, 2 unnumbered pages ; 19 cm. ?2nd edition?

Moods and Melodies by Henriette Reiss. New York: Gemor Press, 1946. 2nd ed.

Mujer, Estados Unidos de América: poema radiofónico by Tana De Gámez. New York: Gemor Press, 1946.

Nine Desperate Men by C. L. Baldwin. [New York] Gemor Press 1946.

Rendezvous with Spain: A poem by Bernardo Clariana: Translated by Dudley Fitts and illustrated by Julio de Diego. New York Gemor Press 1946. Edition: 520 copies (100 in black and white, 400 in color; 20 deluxe copies have been hand colored by the artist).

He Disappeared into Complete Silence by Louise Bourgeois. Introduction by Marius Bewley. New York: Atelier 17; Printer of text: Gemor Press, printer of images: Atelier 17, 1947.

House of Incest by Anaïs Nin. New York: Gemor Press, 1947. 43 cm. Linotype and etchings. Edition: 50.

Borderbus by Juan Felipe Herrera


Borderbus. Poem by Juan Felipe Herrera. Prints by Felicia Rice. Introduction by Carmen Giménez Smith (Santa Cruz, CA: Moving Parts Press, 2019). Letterpress printed using Garamond, Meridien, and Ultra types from photopolymer plates on Rives BFK paper. Binding by Craig Jensen of BookLab II. 8 x 13 inches (extends to 17 feet). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process

 

Thanks to the assistance of our colleagues in Latin American Studies, the Graphic Arts Collection is proud to acquire a limited edition artists’ book by Juan Felipe Herrera and Felicia Rice.

Borderbus is a rendering of one long poem by Juan Felipe Herrera. The poem takes place on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bus. Two women have been detained while trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, and are being transported to a detention center. They speak in English and Spanish, whispering to avoid the attention of the guard. The text is embedded in prints by the artist/publisher and interpreted in audio recordings of the poem.

One interesting element with the volume is a usb drive included with Borderbus contains two audio versions of the poem, Borderbus. The first is a moving reading of the poem in two voices, by Marisol Baca and Gabriela D. Encinas, directed by Juan Felipe Herrera and recorded by Curtis Messer. The second is a recording of Herrera reading the poem.


Felicia Rice is a book and performance artist, typographer and letterpress printer, printmaker, publisher, and educator. A student of the history of the book and printing, she also utilizes digital technology to produce limited edition artists books. Rice has collaborated with visual artists, performance artists, and writers under the Moving Parts Press imprint since 1977. Work from the Press has been included in exhibitions from New York to Mexico DF to Japan. Her books are held in library and museum collections worldwide and she has been the recipient of many awards and grants, from the NEA to the French Ministry of Culture.

 

Critic Stephen Burt praised Herrera in the New York Times as one of the first poets to successfully create “a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too.”

In 2012, Herrera was named California’s poet laureate, and the U.S. poet laureate in 2015. He has won the Hungry Mind Award of Distinction, the Focal Award, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN West Poetry Award. His honors include the UC Berkeley Regent’s Fellowship as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Stanford Chicano Fellows. He has also received several grants from the California Arts Council.

“In a 2004 interview at CSU-Fresno, Herrera noted the influences of three distinct Californias—the small agricultural towns of the San Joaquin Valley he knew as a child, San Diego’s Logan Heights, and San Francisco’s Mission District—on his work: “all these landscapes became stories, and all those languages became voices in my writing, all those visuals became colors and shapes, which made me more human and gave me a wide panorama to work from.” Influenced by Allen Ginsberg, Herrera’s poetry brims with simultaneity and exuberance, and often takes shape in mural-like, rather than narrative, frames.”

 


Borderbus [selection] by Juan Felipe Herrera
A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is going to come
A dónde vamos where are we going
Speak in English or the guard is gonna get us hermana
Pero qué hicimos but what did we do
Speak in English come on
Nomás sé unas pocas palabras I just know a few words

You better figure it out hermana the guard is right there
See the bus driver

Tantos días y ni sabíamos para donde íbamos
So many days and we didn’t even know where we were headed

I know where we’re going
Where we always go
To some detention center to some fingerprinting hall or cube
Some warehouse warehouse after warehouse

Pero ya nos investigaron ya cruzamos ya nos cacharon
Los federales del bordo qué más quieren
But they already questioned us we already crossed over they
already grabbed us the Border Patrol what more do they want

We are on the bus now
that is all
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/91751/borderbus

Secret Journal of a Self-Observer


Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801), Secret Journal of a Self-Observer;or, Confessions and familiar Letters of the Rev. J. C. Lavater… Translated from the German Original, by the Rev. Peter Will, Minister of the Reformed German Chapel in the Savoy… (London: Printed for T. Cadell, Jun. andW. Davies (Successors to Mr. Cadell)… [1795]). Early ownership inscriptions, in ink and pencil, of Henrietta Siffken and with pencil notes throughout; with an original pen-and-ink drawing of Lavater bound in as a frontispiece, “given by his Son to Mrs C. Beazley.” Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2020- in process.

 

The first English translation of: Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801), Geheimes tagebuch von einem beobachter seiner selbst (Leipzig: Weidmanns erben und Reich, 1771-73) is notable for the pen and ink drawing on the frontispiece attributed to Johan Heinrich Lips (1758-1817) as well as for the text never meant to be widely circulated.

Preface of the translator:

“The present Translation, which originally was intended to be circulated only in manuscript, among some admirers of Mr. Lavater, would certainly never have been intruded on the Public, if the Translator were not fully persuaded, that its great utility will overbalance its many defects, and contribute to propagate piety and Religious prudence, for which purpose he recommends the perusal of it particularly to his congregation, who always have displayed the most laudable desire to improve in Christian knowledge and virtue. . .”

“…Mr. Lavater’s manner of expressing his ideas, being as extraordinary as his manner of thinking, those who are not intimately acquainted with the writings of this eccentric, but truly venerable man, will easily be induced to mistake for a foreign idiom what, in reality, is an idiom of the Author, and could not be exchanged for a genuine English one, as it is the peculiar characteristic which distinguishes his way of thinking.”

The Swiss minister Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) was convinced that the science of physiognomy made it possible to know about a person’s interior self from their exterior body. This included both the physical skull itself and the visual representation of it. He published his beliefs in three major editions, Physiognomische fragmente (1775-78) RBSC Oversize 6453.568.15q, Essai sur la Physiognomonie (1781-1803), and Essays on Physiognomy (1788-99) GAX Oversize 2007-0002Q. Johan Heinrich Lips (1758-1817) was the principal engraver of the plates, working from his own drawings and after drawings by Georg Friedrich Schmoll. Lavater’s close friend Henry Fuseli (1741-1825) added a few illustrations and brought in the young William Blake (1757-1827) to complete a few additional plates.

William Blake, Johann Caspar Lavater, 1800. Engraving and etching. Graphic Arts Collection

 

Obsolete ideas from 1805: Single ladies, vulgarly called old maids

Eliza Browne, Obsolete Ideas, in Six Letters Addressed to Maria By a Friend (Sherborne: for the author by James Langdon, 1805). Graphic Arts Collection GA 2020- in process.

If the contents of this small volume written by a women to a female reader were not appealing enough, the provenance of a female owner,  Catherine P[ayton] Fox, (inscribed on the title page with her label on front pastedown), makes it extra desirable.

Eliza Browne, identified in the fourth edition of her work, wrote six letters giving advice to a younger women. This is not your usual etiquette book or guide to modern manners. It would be interesting to compare all four editions to see if the advice changes over the years.

“Under this singular title, are comprised some shrewd and useful observations on the relative conduct of parents and children; the fashionable dissipation of young men, who have been piously educated; the respect due to aged persons; chaste women, and women of character; on the poor in general; and on single women. To the latter two classes, the fair author, though apparently allied to neither, is in every respect very charitably disposed. In proof that a deserving person may be reduced even to beg in the streets, she relates a very pleasing and pathetic story… No part of the short table of contents, probably, may excite the curiosity of our readers, so much as the distinction between chaste women and women of character.”–The Eclectic Review, vol. II, part 1, 1806, pp. 148-49

“Courteous, candid, and gentle Reader,” Eliza begins, “those are epithets that must sound very strange in modern ears, but the writer of the following pages cannot by any means do without them; and as she makes a point of rejecting nothing that may answer her purpose, even though it should have been the fashion of the sixteenth century, it is therefore hoped that the introduction of so obsolete an address with give offence [sic] to [no one].”

The fourth edition of this book introduces yet another women to the mix. It is dedicated to the Viscountess Cremorne, probably Philadelphia Hannah Freame, the daughter of Thomas Freame and Margaretta Penn, fourth daughter of William Penn (1644-1718), the founder of Pennsylvania.

“In 1770 she married the widowed Thomas Dawson (1725-1813), who in that same year was elevated to the Irish peerage, as Baron Dartry of Dawson’s Grove. Dawson was the son of Dublin banker Richard Dawson and his wife Elizabeth Vesey Dawson. From 1749-1768 Thomas Dawson served as a member of Parliament for County Managhan [Ireland].

He was married firstly in 1754 to Lady Anne Fremor, daughter of the first Earl of Pomfret, with whom he had a son and a daughter. Dawson and his second wife had a son and daughter as well. In 1795 he was made Viscount Cremorne, and in 1797 he became Baron Cremorne of Castle Dawson.

Dawson was a patron of the arts and a collector of paintings. Gilbert Stuart painted his portrait, as well as that of the Viscountess, and he was included on Stuarts’ 1895 list of those patrons who were to receive copies of the artist’s portrait of George Washington (although it is unknown whether he actually received one).”–National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

 

Gilbert Stuart, Portrait of ‘Philadelphia Hannah’, ca. 1785. Oil on canvas. Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts 1999.11

Unfolding Digital Images

Folding plates are trouble in an all-digital world. The brief joy of finding a title through temporary access to Hathi Trust can be tempered when you get blank pages staring back at you instead of unfolded plates.

 

Princeton University’s library catalog offers 18 digital versions and/or editions of: A journey to Jerusalem, or, A relation of the travels of fourteen English-men in the year 1669 : from Scanderoon, to Tripoly, Joppa, Ramah, Jerusalem, Bethlem, Jericho, the River Jordan, the Dead Sea, and back again to Aleppo … London : Printed by T.M. for N. Crouch …, 1672, with its wonderful series of fold-out plates.Unfortunately, I was not able to find one copy that offered the plates unfolded, looking in google books, hathi trust, or several other platforms. While it is possible to access the engravings from museums that have removed them from the books, then you have the image without the text.

 

A class favorite is William Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty with two plates, usually front and back, folded multiple times to fit with the rest of the pages. Again, many museums have removed the plates and provide excellent digital access without the text but most online books either do not have the plates at all, or like ECCO, demand you look at the book at 10% of the original size, to see the entire print.The exception in this case is at Hathi Trust where you see the folded package and then, the opened image. Download this quickly before your one hour window is up.

 

There are a number of 19th-century journals that begin with a folded frontispiece, fun to teach with when you have the physical object. Finding a frontispiece in the all-digital world can itself be too daunting for most people. I had to look through a dozen or so issues before I found a few frontispieces in ProQuest., list under a title and interspersed with the articles/chapters.

The complete title of George Cruikshank’s satirical print seen above is Princely piety, or the worshippers at Wanstead. Here is the complete hand colored print in the British Museum:

One other option is offer, below, but is no better than the first.

 

So as not to only complain, here is a success story:

One example of beautifully handled folding plates comes from Princeton’s digital imaging studio, managed by Roel Munoz, whose staff captured this French costume book for the Graphic Arts Collection with great success: http://pudl.princeton.edu/boundart.php?obj=v118rf94k

Scott Printing Machine Works, Plainfield, New Jersey

525 South Avenue, Plainfield, New Jersey, in 2020.

 

Scott Printing Press Co.’s Works, Plainfield, N.J., Industrial Area, side view of the factory along with the water tank. Plainfield Public Library. https://plainfieldlibrarynj.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p17109coll3

In 1884, Walter Scott (1844-1907) moved his printing press manufacturing business from Chicago to Plainfield, New Jersey, taking over the lot previously used by New Jersey’s Central Baseball Club. By 1903, Walter Scott & Company covered five acres of downtown Plainfield. “The buildings are of brick, contain a floor space of upwards of 115,000 square feet and are connected with each other by a narrow-gauge railroad, 2,300 feet in length, which runs through the buildings.” —Newspaperdom 10 (January 1, 1903).

Scott operated the largest printing press manufacturing firm in the United States (claimed to be the largest in the world), known especially for high-speed presses and folding machines used by newspapers. In 1893, the New York World installed the first color press in America adapted to newspaper printing, which was built by Scott’s Company in Plainfield. Known as a brilliant inventor, he received his first patent in 1874 and by 1903, held 200 patents. When he died 1907, his widow, Isabella Scott, operated the business until her death in 1931.

Google maps overview of the factory buildings still standing in 2020. The New Jersey Transit Raritan line still runs along the rear of the buildings.

 

Advertisements: The Inland printer. v.3 (1885/86) and American Printer and Lithographer 31 (1900).

 

A biographical sketch of Scott was published in The Inland Printer that begins “It is with pleasure that we are enabled to place before our readers the portrait of a gentleman whose name is familiar to every printer in the United States, Mr. Walter Scott. Blessed with great genius, tireless energy, indomitable perseverance, and administrative ability, he has succeeded in building up what is now the largest and most progressive printing press manufacturing establishment in the world.” It continues:

“Mr. Scott was born in Scotland on May 22, 1844. He was educated at the Ayr Academy, studied theoretical and applied mechanics, and learned the machinist trade. He came to the United States in 1869 and settled in Chicago. He was employed in several printing offices, and was for many years foreman of the pressrooms of the Inter Ocean. In 1872 he commenced to make inventions in printing machinery. His mechanical skill and thorough knowledge of the requirements of the printing office enabled him to produce economical and labor-saving machinery which was eagerly sought after by the appreciative printer. Among his inventions at that time was the printing from a web, pasting, cutting and folding, so as to produce a newspaper with the leaves cut in book from at one operation; also a new rotary web printing and folding machine which produced 30,000 copies per hour.

The demand for Mr. Scott’s improved machines became so great … that in 1884 it was found necessary to erect extensive and commodious works at Plainfield, New Jersey, a cut and description of which will be found below. Messrs. Walter Scott & Co. now makes no less than 117 different kinds and sizes of printing machines, ranging from a small cylinder press to a large book and newspaper machine costing $40,000 and capable of printing, pasting, cutting, and folding 96,000 eight-page papers per hour; besides many other machine and appliances connected with printing.

…This extensive manufactory is situated on South Avenue, between Richmond and Berckman Streets, and adjacent to the central Railroad of New Jersey, in the city of Plainfield. The works occupy five acres, are connected with the central Railroad by a siding and 1,700 feet of rails are laid through the yard to the various building. … The area of floor space is over 78,000 square feet. The buildings are beautifully lighted up by 25 arc and 400 incandescent electric lights, the dynamos of which are placed in the engine room.

…The factory and its equipment are the most complete of anything we have ever seen in this line of manufacture, and we understand it is the largest exclusively devoted to the manufacture of printing and kindred machinery in the United States, over one hundred and fifty machines being in process of construction at one time.– The Inland Printer, American Lithographer 7 (1889/1890): 564-66

See also:
Frederick W. Hamilton, Type and presses in America, a brief historical sketch of the development of type casting and press building in the United States ([Chicago] Pub. by the Committee on education, United typothetae of America, 1918). Graphic Arts Collection 2006-1856N

Herbert L. Baker, Cylinder printing machines, being a study of the mechanism and operation of the principal types of cylinder printing machines ([Chicago] Pub. by the Committee on education, United typothetae of America, 1918). Graphic Arts Collection 2007-0021N

 

 

A Born Classic

Mark Argetsinger, A Grammar of Typography: Classical Book Design in the Digital Age (Boston: David R. Godine, 2020). 528 pages; 8.5 x 12 inches; illustrated with over 425 images, many in full color.

The arrival of Mark Argetsinger’s new book, A Grammar of Typography, sent me running to a thesaurus in search of a word larger than comprehensive. Should we describe it as thorough? Inclusive? Far-reaching, in-depth, sweeping, or simply grand?

The publisher’s material begins: “A Grammar of Typography is a comprehensive guide to traditional book design that is both practical and historical. Interspersed with discussions of digital typesetting and page layout are broad historical views of the tradition of the book along with specific reference to the printer’s grammar or manual, the industry’s own codification of its usage, from Joseph Moxon in the seventeenth century through Theodore Low De Vinne in the nineteenth. In addition, there are chapters on house style, proof-reading, copy-editing, paper, binding, and appendices on typographical ornaments and Greek type. The book ends with an annotated bibliography and an index.”

How can you not love a book with an introduction titled “The Hidden Soul of Harmony: The Classical Tradition. A Practice in Search of a Theory”? Although Argetsinger claims “this is primarily a practical manual, not a scholarly treatise,” one would be hard-pressed to find a more philosophical look at “marks of quotation,” “font editing,” or “horizontal space.”

There is also biography and chronology. “In addition, Aldus was the first to cast in type the humanist’s running or cursive hand, known as the Italic. The busy work of the humanist, who daily, it seemed, uncovered new works of the Ancients, lying long neglected in the monastic or royal libraries of Europe, had required an efficient script to match the urgent copying of new texts.”

In his preface, Argetsinger writes, “This book intends to provide a historical context to the enterprise of book-making. The term grammar appears in its title both in reference to the historical phenomenon of ‘grammars’ of printing, regarding which much will be said along the way, as well as in reference to a certain graphical literacy that is requisite for the intelligent use of design and production tools in the digital age. Historical context is important both from the point of view of tracking evolving trends in the composition and display of printed matter, as well as from the point of view of preserving the traditions of its best practices.”

Open it anywhere and start reading.

 

 

“After the first necessities of life, nothing is more precious to us than books. The Art of Typography, which produces them, provides essential services to society and secures incalculable benefits. …Thus one could rightly call it par excellence the art of all arts and the science of all sciences.” –Pierre-Simon Fournier, le jeune, Manuel Typographique, Book 1 (1764).

 

 

A classical book designer, Argetsinger also embraces 21st-century technology, writing:
“There is something wonderful about working out the proportion of the page on screen, precisely mapping out its structure with the (by turns visible or invisible) grid and and page line; setting up one’s font with a complement of sorts so vast, even Christopher Plantin would feel a twinge of envy; readily changing size, font, color, position; and arraying, say, a two-volume, 800-page book heavy with illustrations and then placing its entire content on a digital thumb-drive….”

[Forgive my poor photography, the book itself is perfect.]

Colophon: “A Grammar of Typography set in DTL’s Fleischmann and printed on 115 Gem Munken print cream. All printing and binding by PBtisk Printing Company in the Czech Republic. This first edition consists of 1,875 hardcover trade copies as well as a deluxe slipcased edition of 125 copies signed and numbered by the author and only available directly from the publisher. Designed and composed by Mark Argetsinger, Holyoke, Massachusetts.”

 

A PostScript: My favorite Argetsinger design, proof he can do it all.

Arcola Pettway’s “Lazy Gals Variation”


Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber recently announced that our 2020 “pre-read” is This America: The Case for the Nation by historian Jill Lepore. https://princeton.overdrive.com/media/4618070 Each year Princeton’s incoming class collectively explores one text, this year focusing on the concept of the nation, American civil ideals, and historical truth-seeking.

Published by W.W. Norton & Company in 2019, the book’s cover features the image of a quilt in the shape of an American flag. The work was created in 1976 by Arcola Pettway (1934-1994), titled Lazy Gals Variation, as a Bicentennial quilt composed of brightly colored strips of corduroy fabric. “Lazy Gal” refers to the quilting pattern of irregular bars, one of a variety of traditional patterns used by Pettway and other quilters who are part of the Gee’s Bend collective. The quilt pictured above is owned by the High Museum, a purchase and gift of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation from the William S. Arnett Collection.

Pettway and the other quilters are the descendants of enslaved people from rural Gee’s Bend, Alabama. They first came to national attention with the Freedom Quilting Bee, a cooperative arising from the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, and their quilts were sold in New York City at Bloomingdale’s and Sak’s, providing income for the women.

In the 1990s, art collector William Arnett and his family, rediscovered them and, together with curators, patrons and others with a large respect for African-American culture, a touring exhibition was organized by the Museum of Fine Art, Houston.

According to the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, “Arcola Young was raised by her mother, Deborah Young, and her grandfather, Reverend Paul S. Pettway. Her mother also raised Young’s cousin, Leola Pettway. Leola described their childhood as being full of play and adventure, like fishing, singing in church choirs, and inventing games. Young married Joseph Pettway, brother of Lucy T. Pettway, and together they had 12 children. They farmed together and Young was a part of a gospel singing group, the Golden Angels.”– For more information on the women of Gee’s Bend, see https://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers


In 2017, three etchings after the quilts of Loretta Pettway and Mary Lee Bendolph, members of the Gee’s Bend quilters, were acquired by the Graphic Arts Collection and installed in Firestone Library’s African American Studies Room (B floor) thanks to a joint initiative between the Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton University Library, and the Department of African American Studies. https://graphicarts.princeton.edu/2017/04/10/gees-bend-prints-acquired/

 

Glad Syttende Mai

To honor the Norwegian Constitution Day, May 17th, or Syttende mai, here is a post for my favorite Norwegian author Kjersti A. Skomsvold. Seen above is her first and perhaps, still most compelling novel The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am (Firestone Library PT8952.29.K65 J613 2011).

Happily last summer “Two Month Review” chose to feature Skomsvold’s Monsterhuman, translated from the Norwegian by Becky L. Crook, for their discussion and deep read. Note in this episode the discussion on the book does not begin until about 23.40.

“Marius Hjeldnes from Cappelen Damm joins Chad and Brian to provide a bit of background on Skomsvold, on trends in Norwegian literature, on that whole “dice” thing, and much more. They cover the first three sections of the book, laying out the main themes and ideas that set-up this novel about a young woman suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, trying to rebuild her sense of self by becoming a writer. An incredibly interesting, episodic novel that you should be able to dive into, even if you don’t read every page.”

Other podcasts of the Two Month Review can be found online. “Each “season” they highlight a new work of world literature, reading it slowly over the course of eight to nine episodes. Featuring a rotating set of literary guests—from authors to booksellers, critics, and translators—each episode recaps a short section of the book and uses that as a springboard for a fun (and often irreverent) discussion about literature in a general sense, pop culture, reading approaches, and much more.”


The English language edition of Jo fortere jeg går, jo mindre er jeg (The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am) has a cover designed by the American artist Richard McGuire. In 2014, the Morgan Library and Museum mounted an exhibition of the artist’s work titled From Here to Here: Richard McGuire Makes a Book; https://www.themorgan.org/exhibitions/From-Here-to-Here . Many of us got to know him originally through RAW magazine, the comics journal edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly, and then the book of Here strips. (https://web.archive.org/web/20100814190317/http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~jbass/courses/402/402_mcguire_here.htm)

Luc Sante, writing for the New York Times in 2015, commented, “No one who saw that story ever forgot it: a chronicle of a life, running from 1957 to 2027, as situated in one room, with kaleidoscopic intrusions from various pasts and a wisp of a future — the house burns in 2029 and is torn down in 2030…” https://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/18/books/review/richard-mcguires-here.html

See more of McGuire here https://www.richard-mcguire.com/new-page-4 and get other Skomsvold novels at your local bookshop.