26 April 2014

Gaspereau Wins Awards for Book Design

Gaspereau Press had another incredibly successful year at Canada’s national competition for excellence in book design, The Alcuin Awards. This was the 32nd year that the competition was held, and this year’s awards were adjudicated by Susan Colberg, Seth (the single-named cartoonist), and Jessica Sullivan. They awarded 37 prizes in eight categories. Books I designed for Gaspereau Press took first prize in two of those categories, and I won five prizes in total.

You can find the official press release and a full list of winners at the Alcuin Society website.

Here’s a list of the Gaspereau Press books that won:

The Deer Yard, by Allan Cooper & Harry Thurston
Ocean, by Sue Goyette
Jeremiah Bancroft at Fort Beauséjour and Grand-Pré,
 by Jonathan Fowler, Earle Lockerby
Petitot, by Susan Haley
Someone Somewhere, by Dana Mills

Here are photos of the books and a few comments on their design.

I was surprised at the selection of The Deer Yard for first in the poetry collection, but it only goes to show that you can’t predict a jury’s taste. The jacket is quite simple on this one, with an unusual salmon-coloured paper from the Saint Armand mill in Montreal. The type (Goudy’s Deepdene) is printed letterpress from photopolymer plates, but the image on each jacket is handprinted from an original wood engraving by Wesley Bates. I always worry about printing longer blocks of text in anything other than black ink, but the judges didn’t seem to mind. That oak leaf ornament is part of a suite of decorations designed by local calligrapher and illustrator Jack McMaster for the exclusive use of Gaspereau Press.

The Deer Yard is a collection of poems written by Harry Thurston on the west coast (where he was doing a residency) back home to Allan Cooper on the east coast. Allan’s poems (set in italic), in essence, echo and respond to Harry’s (set in roman). The design of the book echoes the intimate sensibilities of this poetic conversation; it’s a small format, a slight book, and uses lots of white space to express the silences between the poems.

Sue Goyette’s Ocean took third place in the poetry category, but I think it’s actually a better realized design than that of The Deer Yard. It again has a letterpress printed jacket using a ‘Canal’ paper from the Saint Armand paper mill. This book is presently shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize.

We tend to bind our trade paperbacks into a black cover stock and then enfold them in a letterpress printed jacket. Here is the wave motif repeated again from the jacket. The pattern comes from a suite of borders called Alexia designed by Philip Bouwsma and distributed by Canada Type.

George Elliott Clarke observed in a review published in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, “Ocean is muted in tone — like sea-buffed glass, with a cover texture like soft sandpaper; the title page artwork recalls that of Ralph Gustafson’s collection, Rivers Among Rocks (1960).” Well, yeah. I indeed was thinking about Frank Newfeld’s playful design of Rivers Among Rocks when I was working on this book.

The text of Ocean is set in Canadian designer Ross Mills’ Huronia type, distributed by Rosetta Type in the Czech Republic. The display type, Dokument, was designed by the late Jim Rimmer and is soon to be re-released in a completely remastered form by Canada Type. One of the things that I talked the author into dropping all page numbering from the book and instead numbering the poems. This worked wonderfully.

I was particularly pleased to see the Bancroft diaries get an award. This is the first in a series of historical journals we hope to publish in the coming years under the editorship of Fowler and Lockerby. The cover (no jacket) is clean and simple and (hopefully) has enough flexibility to serve the requirements of the various volumes in the series. The types are Adobe Caslon and Matthew Carter’s Big Caslon.

A book of this sort poses many interesting elements to be worked out by the designer, including footnotes, captions and maps.

The main event in this book is the diary. Be produced the text of the diary on recto pages with the corresponding annotations on the facing versos. This way, the editors’ intensive work elucidating the text was immediately accessible to the reader, stressing its value and importance to the experience of reading the primary text. The notes are set in Martin Majoor’s Scala Sans. This book posed many interesting design problems and it was a lot of fun to work out their solutions. This book is also shortlisted for an Atlantic Book Award.

The jacket of Susan Haley’s novel Petitot – because it was based on the story of a real-life Catholic missionary in northern Canada – used a sketch made by the real-life Petitot and transformed his actual signature into the title.

Because this missionary had published books about his time in the north, I borrowed from the aesthetic of those nineteenth-centry French books when thinking about the typography.

The type I selected for this book was Fournier, a digital revival based on the French neoclassical types of the Pierre-Simon Fournier (1712–1768).

And last but not least, Dana Mills’ Someone Somewhere was also selected by the Alcuin jury. I’ll have to add a post for this one later as I have not yet made photographs of that book and I don’t have a copy of it in hand (I’m posting this while I am away from the office and don’t tend to travel with the complete Gaspereau Press catalogue in my suitcase).