St Brigid Press has just finished its first commission -- this letterpress-printed frontispiece that opens the donor appreciation book for the Waynesboro Public Library. The Library just completed some major renovations, and the Friends of the Library put together this book to tell the story of the branch's history and to thank the folks who made the construction possible. An acquaintance (and Friends-member) asked if I could letterpress-print an inspiring quote to go in the front of the book. The Friends committee chose a wonderful quote by Carl Rowan, one of the most important American journalists of the 20th century:
"The library is the temple of learning, and learning has liberated more people than all the wars in history."
The theme of the library's capital campaign was "The Giving Tree"/"Branching Out." Tree images and Rowan's wisdom combined to inspire a design that would highlight both learning and leaves, growth and inner light. I first set the text (24 point Garamond Italic) and printed it on 100% cotton paper with a soft fawn tint.
Next came experimentation with printing the leaves. I had read about such a technique in John Ryder's wonderful 1955 book "Printing for Pleasure." So, one bright morning I grabbed a basket and went for a long walk around the beautiful 10 acres where I live. This piece of Virginia Blue Ridge valley is a mixture of woods and field, and has a surprising variety of trees. This, in conjunction with an early and robust Spring, gifted me with many young leaves to work with. The night before my excursion we'd had a sturdy windstorm, so I did not have to look further than the ground at my feet for specimens. I gathered a good sampling from oaks, pines, poplars, etc, and brought them back to the shop. After mixing and rolling out a warm-brown oil-based ink, I carefully placed each little leaf on the ink, pressed lightly, then transferred the leaf to the press. Placed ink-side-up, each leaf was then cranked through the press and printed on light tan cotton paper.
The detail possible with this technique was amazing. Each tiny vein and stem and curve was imaged. The character of each species was reflected in almost radiographic quality -- when I practiced using black ink, it looked similar to an x-ray. What an incredible way to experience the miracle of trees!
The last part of the project was to typeset and print the colophon: the "note or the finishing stroke in a book usually found on the final [page] and giving details of the author, printer, date and place where printed" (John Ryder's definition).
This was a wonderful project to work on, and I'm very grateful to Latane Long and the Friends of the Waynesboro Library for giving me the opportunity. I had a lot of fun, learned a great deal, and was very glad to contribute to our library.