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.
June 7th, 2012
A couple of years ago, we ordered an interesting artists’ book by a cooperative of Mayan men and women in Chiapas, Mexico, called The Portable Mayan Altar. In a box shaped like a Mayan thatched roof hut with its blend of art, poetry, magic, and culture, it was an instant hit. The vendor’s information mentioned that the cooperative was called Taller Leñateros, and it was founded by Ambar Past. A little research on the internet helped us to find that Ambar Past was an American who went to Mexico as a teacher of natural dye techniques for the National Indian Institute. She traveled to remote areas, eventually making her home in San Cristóbal de Las Casas in the highlands of Chiapas. There she founded a graphic arts collective, Taller Leñateros, which makes paper and books.
Part of her work for the past 30 years has been collecting, recording, and translating Tzotsil poetry and music, and collaborating on bilingual anthologies published by Taller Leñateros. The collective recycles a variety of materials to make handmade paper, some of which is sculpted into various sculptural shapes as book covers. They also silk-screen the illustrations for the books, then print and bind the books.
We decided to further explore the publications of this seemingly unlikely publisher of artists books and recently purchased two more. Here is a little about each of them:
Incantations by Mayan Women, Fathermothers of the Book: Ámbar Past with Xun Okotz and Xpetra Ernándes.
OVER A HUNDRED AND FIFTY PEOPLE COLLABORATED to write, illustrate, and create this book, among them singers, seers, witchwives, washer women, sugar beer brewers, conjurers, native bearers, prayer makers, soothsayers, sorceresses, dyers, diviners, hired mourners, spinners, shepherdesses, babysitters, millers, maids, bookbinders, spellbinders, cornharvesters, great-grandmothers, sharecroppers, necromancers, exorcists, coffee pickers, potters, crazy women, midwives, planters, woodlanders, bonesetters, troublemakers, spiritualists, mothers-in-law, peddlers, gravediggers, fireworks makers, drinkers, hags, beggars, bakers, basket weavers, shamanesses, liars, computers, comagres, sculptresses, muses, and even men. We have made this book “as we make our children,” in the words of Petú Xantis, “with the strength of our flesh and the birds of our heart.
From “Notes on the Creators” essay in the book. The three-dimensional cover is modeled after the face of Kaxail, Mayan goddess of the wilderness, and made of recycled cardboard mixed with corn silk and coffee. The book itself is in several parts. The incantations are in English and in Tzotzil. There are over 70 pages of original silkscreen illustrations by Mayan painters and it is estimated that the book took 30 years to create.
Portable Mayan altar: pocket books of Mayan spells, translation from Tzotzil to English by Ámbar Past.
A box shaped like a traditional Mayan house, holds the altar and its accessories: candles, candleholders, incense and burner, and three books. The books, Hex to Kill the Unfaithful Man, Mayan Love Charms, and Magic for a Long Life, are excerpted from Incantations by Mayan Women.
The books, small and bound in paper covered boards, have beautifully marbled end leaves and silk screened illustrations. The spells and charms are in both English and Tzotzil. Each book has a ribbon bookmark attached to aid in finding your favorite spell, like the spell to keep the dog from barking at your boyfriend.
Bolom Chon, [translation and texts in English, Ámbar Past with Sara Miranda and Tom Slingsby ; texts in Tzotzil Maya [by] Maria Tzu, Rominka Vet and Maruch Méndes Péres].
This vibrant book about the jaguar is marketed as a children’s book, but it is really for anyone. The text in both English and Tzotzil, is inspired by the song, Bolom Chon, about a magical creature. It has original silkscreened illustrations by Mayan artists and a jaguar with maguey fiber whiskers pop-up centerfold. Included is a CD recording of Tzotzil children singing with their grandmother. The cover, printed on an 1895 era letterpress, is made from recycled cardboard mixed with coffee. According to the Taller Leñateros: “The cover was stepped on by the Bolom Chon so its footprints remained as a testimony of its passing through the world.” It comes housed in a colorful jaguar case.