19 October 2013

Tramping in Toronto and Kentucky

In early October I took a little drive to attend a couple of events in Toronto. While I was in town I was lucky enough to be able to make Massey College (at the University of Toronto) my base of operations, spending most of my days in its printshop and bibliographic room. This is a photo of the dining room and the bell tower at night as seen from the quad.

Massey College is a residential community for graduate students at the university of Toronto. It was established in 1963 by Vincent Massey, a former Governor General of Canada. The building, one of Canada’s architectural gems, was designed by Ron Thom. My late friend Douglas Lochhead was its founding librarian and was instrumental in establishing Massey’s letterpress printshop. Above is the photo of the small suite I stayed in, a room once used by the college’s founding Master, Robertson Davies.

One the focal points of Massey is its spectacular dinning room. I was delighted to see a blow-up of the new Canada Post stamp of the college’s founding master hung over the head table. The stamp was designed by my friend and colleague Steven Slipp of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

Another shot of the dining room at Massey.

As well as hanging around with Nelson (the college printer) and PJ (the college librarian) in the printshop, I spent a lot of time discussing typography, printing and the archiving of wood type with Chelsea, the Massey’s Curator of the Printing Collections (pictured on the right). Every time I stop at Massey, the place seems to be very busy with visitors, though that may be partly the result of my inviting people to come visit me while I’m there. On the left in this photo is Will Rueter from the Aliquando Press in Dundas, Ontario.

One of the other motivations for my visit was that I wanted to attend the annual Alcuin Society awards dinner at the Arts & Letters Club (where the Group of Seven was founded). Pictured above are Brian Maloney, Will Rueter, and Devil’s Artisan editor Don McLeod (with the camera).

The lovely and talented Linda Gustafson, book designer and one of the evening’s organizers, snapped this picture of me at the dinner.

On the following evening I was back to the Arts & Letters Club again, this time for the launch of the Porcupine’s Quill’s trade edition of George Walker’s wordless biography (told in wood engravings) of Conrad Black. Lord Black, unfortunately, declined to attend the launch but was otherwise generous and cooperative throughout George’s project. George is pictured here with the hunting knife that he seemed a little surprised to find that I was carrying in my coat pocket (you can take the boy out of the backwoods, but …). I have seen versions of this photo before, so I suspect that it is not unusual to find George hamming it up at the bar of the Arts & Letters Club. The mirthful woman is Michelle Walker. George and Michelle arrive in Kentville next weekend for the Gaspereau Press wayzgoose; we’re not expecting Lord Black, but I will likely be packing my hunting knife.

Not that it was all carousing and knifeplay! I actually managed to teach a workshop to a dozen undergraduate students using original type specimens produced by William Caslon and John Baskerville, housed in the Massey collection. I was aided in this by the wonderful and talented (and well-shod) calligrapher and type designer Kevin King, who illustrated baroque and neoclassical letterforms as I talked. And I did a lot of exploring in the collection. One interesting discovery (pointed out to me by Chelsea) was a folder of early nineteenth-century print samples from the Gitton printshop in Bridgnorth, England. Mostly broadsides, notices and posters, many of the items had handwritten annotations citing the date the work was printed and the length of the press run. They were also often punctured in the middle, suggesting they had been ‘spiked’ and were likely used in the firm’s billing procedure. Above are two examples, though they do not include those features.

One of the strengths of the Massey collection is its range of type specimens. Here is a sample of some twentieth-century material from the Monotype Corporation.

After four busy days in Toronto, I swung down to Kentucky on my way home to visit Gray Zeitz at Larkspur Press. I was only in Kentucky for a day and spent most of it just talking with Gray about printing and binding. I did manage to photograph some Larkspur ephemera, including these two bumper stickers. I didn’t just drive down there to drink Gray’s bourbon, either. If all works out, Gaspereau Press and Larkspur Press intend to co-publish a book celebrating the 40th anniversary of Larkspur Press in 2014 (though we’ve not nailed down a release date yet).

Dawn in Kentucky as I head for home.

Less than a week to go before our Wayzgoose (Saturday October 26th)! If you are anywhere near Kentville this weekend (near like Toronto is near Kentucky) be sure to swing in and join in the inky fun.