July 23rd, 2012
Often, when we think of Artists’ books, we think of a book that is beautifully made and a pleasure to touch. But, Artists’ books can also be a venue that allows artists take on challenging issues and present them in a way that that is eye-catching and provocative. The book’s format draws the reader in and then the images or text allow the story or stories to unfold. Sometimes the stories alert the reader to an issue that he or she was only peripherally aware of. Sometimes the stories are so compelling that they have to be read, but afterward, the reader may wish she didn’t know those stories. She may wish she didn’t have to know how war does horrible things to good people. The library recently purchased such a book: Crossing the Tigris. It is an artists’ book that is a collaboration by three artists: Caren Heft, Jeffrey Morin & Brian Borchardt and three presses in Stevens Point, Wisconsin: Arcadian Press, sailorBOYpress, and Seven Hills Press.
One of the artists, Jeff Morin, describes it this way: “A narrative in three books recounting soldier’s stories from the Iraq War. This is a collaborative project between Jeffrey Morin, Caren Heft, and Brian Borchardt. The collaborators each found stories in the media that recount horrific situations that are inconceivable to those who work regularly with current or former soldiers who happen to be students or artists.”
A statement by the presses about the book: “The container for this collaboration is meant to embody the conundrum of this person who transforms into a beast capable of horrendous acts against innocents. The outside of the container is collaged in the same way that a boy might decorate his hiding place for treasures found. The elements, like currency, targets, or stamps, are in the realm of childhood values. The inside of the container sets the stage for juvenile battle. These are the props for pretend war. When confronted with the grittiness of war, do these ill-prepared young men simply break with realty? Are they taught that they are above the law? Or do they learn to devalue what is not obviously American? Neither the container nor the three books answer the questions posed above. We all know young soldiers who have served or those who could serve. This collaboration is intended to catalyze a conversation about the nature of change that allows potentially decent people to commit indecent acts.”
If you want to see more, or want to study the text, the artists have provided images of every page of all 3 volumes on the sailorBOYpress site. The 3 volume book was published in 2011 in an edition of 60. Jen Library’s Special Collections copy is number 27. Each 36 page book is letterpress printed with collage elements and inclusions. The books utilize handmade paper and hand sewn bindings and are presented in a four sided drop letter fold box, tied with twine.
June 15th, 2012
Recently, we were lucky to find a few more publications by the Ashantilly Press of Darien, Georgia, for sale from rare book vendors and purchase them for the library. That leaves only a few more titles that were either printed by the Ashantilly Press, or designed by Bill Haynes, owner of the press, but printed somewhere else to complete our collection. The press produced some beautiful publications, done more as a labor of love than as a profit making venture. Haynes set the type and carved the woodcuts to illustrate each publication. He also printed publications for organizations such as churches, historical associations, community groups, etc. And he printed invitations and cards for himself and others.
The Ashantilly Press was named after the house, Ashantilly, built in 1820 by Thomas Spalding in Darien, Georgia. It became the property of the Haynes Family in 1918 and they rebuilt the house after a fire in the late 1930s. The press was founded in the mid 1950s. The first project was a broadside of the plan of Fort King George in 1955. His first book project, a reprint of Anchored Yesterdays, came shortly after that. It took him almost a year to design and print the book. The book was entered into the Southern Book Competition and won. Anchored Yesterdays is about the first 100 years of Savannah’s history told in 10 “watches.” This account of the early history of the city from the arrival of the first ship through the rise of importance of Savannah as a port is nicely designed and bound in paper covers. The book does not contain an edition statement, but was published in 1956.
Our Ashantilly Press Collection, MS 029, contains books, broadsides, cards, ephemera and other publication of the Ashantilly Press and other presses. The books were published between 1940 and 1991 and include books that William G. Haynes published at the Ashantilly Press, as well as those he illustrated or designed which were published by other presses. The collection also contains correspondence between William G. Haynes and Dr. Lawrence S. Thompson, former director of libraries at the University of Kentucky. The correspondence dates between 1966 and 1984. Also included is the acceptance speech presented by Haynes on accepting the Rock Howard Award in 1983.
Our three newest books are all poetry and, while they are all nicely done, one in particular is very beautiful: To Dwell in Sound, by Jean Reti. She was an Associate Professor of piano at the University of Georgia. She was married first to Austrian composer and musicologist, Rudolph Reti, and after his death, married artist, W. Stanton Forbes. Her beautifully produced book of poetry is dedicated to the memory of Rudolph Reti. Haynes decorated each part with a beautiful historiated initial in a deep blue. The paper he used was handmade Tovil with a watermark. The book was published in an edition of 100, the library’s copy is 72.
Over a span of several years, the press printed thirty titles, the last in 1991. Haynes died in 2001, leaving the house, Ashantilly, and his printing press to his foundation, the Ashantilly Center, which hosts environmental, cultural, and historic events. The press is being restored and soon will be offering workshops.
November 30th, 2011
Recently, Professor Patricia Butz brought students in to Special Collections to see some books we recently purchased at her request. The books were by Father Edward Catich on calligraphy and handwriting. We are always happy to assist faculty in finding resources for their classes! And, this is an area that we may have been lacking in materials, so it helped our collection, also.
Father Edward Catich was a well known author and artist working in many fields. He was interested in history, liturgical art, photography, music, sculpture and stone cutting, but he is best known as a calligrapher. He was born in Stevensville, Montana. After he and his 3 brothers were orphaned, they were relocated to Illinois. While in an orphanage in Illinois, he undertook a sign-writing apprenticeship with Walter Heberling. He went on to work as a union sign-writer in Chicago and attended the Art Institute of Chicago for three-and-a-half years and then went to St. Ambrose in Iowa. He went on to receive a graduate degree from the University of Iowa, and then went to Rome in 1935 to study at Pontifical Gregorian University and also pursue an interest in paleography and epigraphy. It was there that he observed a relationship between the inscription letter-making of Imperial Rome and the Chicago sign writing he learned in his internship. After ordination, he returned to St. Ambrose College to teach art, music, and math. He founded the Art Department at St. Ambrose and taught there until his death in 1979.
He also founded his own press, the Catfish Press, which operated out of his studio at the University. He published several of his own books at the press. He was a prolific artist in many different formats from stone cutting to painting to calligraphy. St Ambrose University owns 5,000 pieces of the artist’s work and they are available in an online digital archive. Many of his paintings have calligraphic elements. He is also responsible for the designing of two typefaces: Petrarch and Catfish.
He created a number of alphabet stones, some in permanent collections of seven museums. St. Ambrose University house the largest collection of Father Catich’s work, some 5,000 pieces from sketchbooks and drawings to finished works in watercolor, ink, and slates. He also left his manuscripts and correspondence. St. Ambrose has digitized much of the artwork and is available at The Catich Collection: A Digital Archive of the Works of Fr. Edward Catich.
October 17th, 2011
The Codex Seriphinianus has been called the strangest book in the world. It is by Luigi Serafini, and was originally published in 1981 by Franco Maria Ricci, who has dedicated himself to publishing unique, limited edition books by independent artists. Luigi Serafini is an Italian architect and graphic designer. Born in Rome in 1949, he has created scenery, lighting, and set designs, illustrated books, sculptures, and taught graphic design.
The book itself is an encyclopedia of an unknown world. It is written, presumably, in the language of that world, which looks completely alien, yet somewhat familiar. You get the feeling it that if you just looked a little differently, you might decipher some meaning. The illustrations are even more perplexing, filled with familiar elements, but arranged in unfamiliar ways.
The book is arranged into chapters, each dealing with a different element of this very strange world. Some of these include flora and fauna, which have characteristics we know, but they behave in ways we have never seen. The science is explained by truly alien math. The machines seem to have functions outside our ability to guess. Apparently, your sink can fill up quickly with fish. The clothes are very interesting, some more like armor. There is a very interesting deck of cards. My favorite section is the architecture. Parts of this world appear very watery.
If you Google the Codex Seraphinianus, you will find that it is a highly discussed publication. There is a lot of speculation on what it means. Several sites talk about translating the book, referring to subtle and not so subtle keys to the meaning in the book. Serafini, speaking bfore the Oxford University Society of Bibliophiles on May 12, 2009, stated that there is no meaning behind the script he used, that his writing was asemic, which means the writing has no specific semantic content. The interpretation is entirely up to the reader. You can come in to the library to see the book or view it completely on line. There are several sites that host it, here is one: CodexSeraphinianus
If you want to read a little more about the book or perhaps, purchase your own copy, there is a great article with images and a short video at the Abe Books site.