22 March 2012

New Gaspereau Website

Gaspereau Press has just launched a brand new website. The site features a fresh look using Rod McDonald’s Smart Sans poster type for display. It also offers a better interface for searching for authors and titles, as well as a shopping cart system for buying books. There are some areas of the site still under construction (most waiting for me to get around to writing copy), but I think that you’ll find that it’s a great improvement over our old site. Check it out and let us know how it works for you by emailing info@gaspereau.com


21 March 2012

Poetry and other sticky matters

Our spring books are coming along nicely, the one most recently passing through my grippers being Peter Sanger’s new collection of poetry, John Stokes’ Horse. For this book, I hand-printed the jackets on a wonderful mauve paper handmade by our friends at the St. Armand paper mill in Montreal.

I mixed an ink that started with a violet (PMS 2592) but added perhaps 1/5 parts silver. This gave the ink a slight iridescence like the head of a grackle.

Nothing beats the way letterpress printing makes type ‘pop’, especially when printed on a handmade paper.

The above image depicts a bound book before it is trimmed. The horse named in the book’s title is a crudely-carved toy horse depicted in a David Blackwood engraving. We were fortunate to be able to reproduce Blackwood’s engraving as the frontispiece. In that carved horse, Sanger locates an imaginative gesture requiring the suspension of disbelief, for child and adult alike—a winged mount into a world where myth and memory mix. These poems evoke, says Sanger, “imagination’s creative energy, immanent in time and yet timeless, evidence of love, devotion and patience, evidence that by seeing art through its eyes we see more clearly through our own.”

As well as trying to get these books done before I travel to Toronto for the events at Uof T and Massey College, I’m also up to my ears in maple sap. Two neighbours and I have been boiling like mad since the weekend, trying to keep up with what an early spring and unseasonably warm temperatures has caused our maples to flow out of our 100+ taps. It’s so warm that even the honey bees are awake and active, happy as we are for the sweet treat.


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.


14 March 2012

Gaspereau Road Trip

While I rarely range west of the St. John River, from time to time I dust off my travel mug, clean the old gas and chainsaw repair receipts out of the cup holders and point the truck toward the setting sun. To that end, I'll be participating in a couple of events at the University of Toronto and Massey College at the end of the month, where I’ll be talking about printing, the state of literary publishing and the art of fine typography. Wherever I start, I’ll most likely end up talking about ecology, economics and civics too, putting the issues facing ‘the book’ into some sort of historical context. I’m into that kind of thing.

The events are open to the public, and I’d love to meet some of our Toronto readers and authors. If you live in that neck of the woods and are interested in the way we like to roll at Gaspereau Press, please come out to one or both of these events and make sure you take a minute to say hello.


02 March 2012

100 Mile Verses Reading

A few Gaspereau Press authors are participating in a reading next week. The readings will take place on Friday March 9th at 7:30 p.m. at the Al Whittle Theatre, 450 Main Street, Wolfville. The event is hosted by The Association of Literature, Environment & Culture in Canada.