16 March 2012

Bones and Books

I’ve got to travel to Toronto in about a week’s time, and there’s a lot of work to do before I leave. For a start, I’ve got three Gaspereau poetry book jackets to hand print and score before I go, the first of which was on the press mid-week: Monica Kidd’s new book, Handfuls of Bone.

The skull and skeleton we used on Kidd’s book jacket and title page come from a seventeenth-century book I uprooted with the help of my archivist friends at the Acadia University Library – Adriaan van de Spiegel’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Decem.

The images have an interesting story. They were originally drawn by Odoardo Fialetti (1573–1638), a student of Titian, and engraved on copper plates by Francesco Valesio. They were commissioned to accompany an anatomical atlas begun in 1600 by Giulio Cesare Casseri, Chair in Surgery and Anatomy at the University of Padua. Some of them are nothing short of creepy, depicting the subject holding open his flesh to reveal his inner workings.

Giulio Cesare Casseri’s death in 1616 left the project incomplete and unpublished. The engravings went unused. His successor at the university was one of his students, Adriaan van de Spiegel (1578–1625), who likewise left an anatomical text unpublished at the time of his death, De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Decem. But unlike Cesseri, Spiegel left his book in the care of an able colleague, the German physician Daniel Buretius, who edited and published the work with a Frankfurt printer in 1632. To accompany Spiegel’s text, Buretius purchased Fialetti & Valesio’s stranded illustrations from Casseri’s heirs, commissioning twenty new illustrations from the pair as well.

I selected a couple of images and edited them for use in the book. The jacket was printed in black and warm red (traditional printer’s colours).

I set Kidd’s book in Garamont, a revival of a metal typeface designed by the French Protestant punchcutter Jean Jannon in the early 1600s. Jannon’s type was seized by the French Crown in 1641 when he was accused of illicit, non-Catholic printing. Rediscovered in the collection of the Imprimerie Nationale, Paris, several centuries later, his work was misattributed to an earlier craftsman, Claude Garamont (sometimes spelled Garamond), and named accordingly. Baroque in form and flavour, Jannon’s letterforms bear little resemblance to the High Renaissance types made by Garamont, but the commercial success of their twentieth-century relaunch disinclined manufacturers toward messing with the brand; the name stuck. Regardless, Jannon’s design has passed down to us through capable hands: The Lanston Monotype version, issued in 1921, was adapted for the Monotype casters by the legendary American type designer Frederic W. Goudy (1865–1947); the Lanston version was in turn digitized and released by the intrepid Canadian type designer Jim Rimmer (1934–2010) in 2004; further refinements have been undertaken at Gaspereau Press.

Kidd’s book will be launched at The Rocket Room in St. John’s, Newfoundland on Wednesday 11 April at 7:30 p.m. She will be reading with Basma Kavanagh (whose new book Distillō is also on our presses right now) and Don McKay.


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