The Song & the Silence: Metal Type & Spacing

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The Song & the Silence: Metal Type & Spacing

Dear Friends,

When I first began my journey into traditional printing, there was much to discover (still is); many “a-ha!” moments of learning and insight into the forms, functions, challenges, and beauties of type, ink, press, & paper.

One of those insights happened very early on as I first stood at a case of type, setting lines of a poem.

With a startle, I realized that the metal type that I was picking up and placing to form words, and the metal spaces that I was picking up and placing between words, were made of the same material: gleaming new “type metal” (an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony).

Each letter, in raised reverse on a “body," was cast from the very same thing as the spaces between words and lines. For a moment, I could visualize the alphabet rising from the once-molten metal to become printable poetry —  one and the same with the space, the silence, from which it came.

Seven years later, I still pause every now and then to marvel: at the beautiful and precise pieces of metal; at the centuries-old technologies and traditions that coalesce all these shiny shards into words, poems, books; and at the weight of language — all that is said and unsaid.

Thanks for joining me on this journey, friends.
All my best to all of you,
Emily

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Women In Printing History:  Elizabeth Yeats

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Women In Printing History: Elizabeth Yeats

Dear Friends,

One of our passions here is learning about the history of printing and book-making, and, in particular, women in this lineage of craft and art. Some weeks ago we shared about one of our heroes, Mary Ann Shadd Cary. Now, here's a little spotlight on another amazing printer and publisher: Elizabeth Yeats.

If the surname sounds familiar, you are right ~ Elizabeth (1868-1940) was the sister of famed Irish poet William Butler Yeats. Here she is alongside her brother, in portraits that were done by their father, John.

While the Yeats family lived in London, Elizabeth learned the craft of book printing at the Women’s Printing Society. Her sister Lily became a talented embroiderer (studying with William Morris' daughter). They eventually moved back to County Dublin, Ireland, and helped to found the Dun Emer Guild & Industries in 1903. Operating as a kind of co-op, the Guild provided occupational training for women in several crafts like needlework and book making, and played a central role in the Irish Arts and Crafts movement.

Elizabeth ran what was first called the Dun Emer Press (in 1908) and then was the Cuala ("Koo-lah") Press.

Elizabeth wanted expressly to “revive the beautiful craft of book printing” in Ireland. She concentrated on publishing new work by many of the day’s famous authors, especially those associated with the Irish Literary Revival, including Ezra Pound and her brother WB. They also printed cards, pamphlets, and a monthly magazine. They had a huge output — some 70 books. The Cuala Press outlived her, and continued publishing books until 1946 (smaller ephemera until 1969).

The Yeats sisters at their press.

Thanks for joining me, friends. We'll have more spotlights on women in printing history in the months to come. If you have a favorite example you'd like to see featured, let me know!

All my best to all of you,
Emily

Emily Hancock
St Brigid Press
Afton, Virginia

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Women In Printing History:  Mary Ann Shadd Cary

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Women In Printing History: Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate and reflect on our nation's Independence this week, I am also thinking about and giving thanks for one of America's cornerstones: the freedom of the Press.

As a printer and publisher, my work is supported ~ is made possible ~ by the long lineage of people who have fought for and exercised their right to freely express themselves through various forms of media.

I'd like to introduce you to one of those people, a hero of mine from 19th century America: Mary Ann Shadd Cary.

Mary Ann Shadd Cary

Mary Ann Shadd Cary (1823-1893) was the first Black female publisher in North America. She grew up well-educated, in a family of free African-Americans in Delaware. Her family was very active in the antislavery movement and in the movement to relocate Blacks to places where slavery had been abolished. One of those relocation areas was what is now Ontario, Canada, and Mary Ann moved there with her brother, first establishing a school and then becoming a journalist and publisher. 

In 1853, Cary founded The Provincial Freeman, a newspaper “Devoted to anti-slavery, temperance, and general literature.” It also supported women’s suffrage, and it served the region’s African-Canadian community for 4 years. She traveled widely, wrote essays about racial and gender equality, and, after the Civil War and the death of her husband, she moved back to the United States and got a law degree from Howard University. Cary was an amazing woman blazing trails in publishing and civil rights in the 19th century. 

From Mary Katharine Goddard, who printed some of the first copies of the Declaration of Independence distributed to the states, to Mary Ann Shadd Cary, to today's smörgåsbord of print and electronic publishers, may we celebrate the freedom of the Press this 4th of July. And may we remain energized to participate and vigilant to preserve it ~ our democracy depends on it.

All my best,
Emily

Emily Hancock
St Brigid Press
Afton, Virginia


BELOW : The University of Virginia's replica of a wooden common press. For more information, see my post about attending a demonstration of this press at UVA with Josef Beery HERE!

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The Tools of the Trade

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The Tools of the Trade

Dear Friends,

Some days, the centuries collapse into a present that is rich with possibility. 

As I worked in the print shop this afternoon, I realized that that particular moment brought together people and their tools across an arc of time that stretched from 1850 to 2019, from Massachusetts to North Carolina, California to Virginia. I paused to let it all sink in.

Pictured here are multiple human tools, each with their own histories, hand-marks, and elegant uses. 

The brand-new shiny metal type in the case was cast for me by printer and type founder Patrick Reagh in Sebastopol, California. The typeface is Goudy Old Style, which Frederic Goudy designed in 1915. 

The text I’m setting is by Henry David Thoreau, from an entry in his journal in July, 1850, about cultivating one’s true work. 

I’m typesetting from that text as displayed on my laptop, which is propped up by the shaft of my great-grandfather’s wooden scythe. The computer is new(ish) and sports a fingerprint-resistant metal case. The scythe is probably close to 150 years old—the wood smoothed by long-use, fissured by sweat and time. 

Both my grandfathers were handcrafters who prized and cared well for the tools of their trades. My father’s father was a land surveyor, wood worker, and front porch whittler. My mother’s father was a carpenter, teacher, and army veteran. Both of them passed down to me a regard for the well-made, the joy and the worth of handwork, and also the pocket knives they each carried. 

The Native American stone blade pictured above with my grandfathers' pocket knives (and my hand) may be a thousand years old or more. As a young girl, I watched it emerge from a red North Carolina clay furrow one afternoon, as my paternal grandfather drove the 1952 tractor down his garden’s rows. Someone had worked this land long, long before my family. Someone who made, used, and cared for their tools, too. 

Now, I have the honor of doing the same.

From centuries-old implements to the latest digital tech, we wield powerful tools, friends. May we use them thoughtfully, and for a common good.

All my best,
Emily

Emily Hancock
St Brigid Press
Afton, Virginia

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New Letterpress Chapbook by Arthur Sze

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New Letterpress Chapbook by Arthur Sze

Every line of poetry is a horizon. It opens worlds, near or far; it's a seam, a beckoning, an edge where everything intersects; a traversal.

Some poets are masters of horizon lines ~ the edges of light, loss, existence. One of those is Arthur Sze. His poetry has opened myriad new vistas for me, both as a reader and as a writer. His use of penetrating, layered, kaleidoscopic imagery shakes me awake, and I open to a vast, intricate world of simultaneous existences, events, emotions. Sze’s poems unfold new visions and meanings with each reading, and I discover something new about the cosmos and my life in it. 

I am deeply honored to work with Arthur Sze to create a new chapbook of his poems called Starlight Behind Daylight—a collection of twelve pieces that resonate singly and collectively, that engage us on the knife-edge of now. Grouped in three sections of four, these poems converse with each other and with us. They bring into focus the simultaneities, the shifting possibilities, of life on earth together. 


Arthur Sze Photo (Gander).jpg
Emily Hancock and I went back and forth discussing the poems that have been assembled in *Starlight Behind Daylight.* They consist of six poems from my latest book, *Sight Lines,* and six new poems that are in deep conversation with them. The process by which they came together was a true and exciting collaboration, and the ensuing poems move between snow and fire, darkness and light, emptiness and fruition.
— Arthur Sze

The limited edition chapbook will be hand-set in Centaur and Arrighi types, letterpress printed, and hand-sewn here at St Brigid Press. (Price TBA.) More information and photos will be forthcoming as the project progresses. To receive our email newsletter with updates, and/or to reserve a chapbook, please email us — info@stbrigidpress.net

Until next time, all best wishes to each of you as you traverse the horizons before you!

Emily

Emily Hancock
St Brigid Press
Afton, Virginia

The header image of the Cat’s Paw Nebula courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/IPAC (https://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA22567)

Photo of Arthur Sze by Forrest Gander.

Text by Emily Hancock and Arthur Sze.

Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

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