12 September 2013

A Harvest of Books

The fall books have started to tumble off the press and into shipping boxes, not uncharacteristically ahead of the catalogue (details …).

We’re really excited to launch “Diaries of the Acadian Deportations,” a new series of history books aimed at attentive readers of Canadian history. The first instalment in the series is Jeremiah Bancroft at Fort Beauséjour and Grand-Pré, edited and annotated by Jonathan Fowler & Earle Lockerby. Jeremiah Bancroft enlisted to fight against the French Empire in North America in 1755. His journal preserves an eyewitness account of the deportation of the Acadians in the Grand-Pré area, offering readers a day-by-day account of one of the most dramatic events in Canadian history.

Our intention is to maintain a uniform approach to design throughout the series. I decided that the jackets should use colour and typography only.

Sometimes publishers underestimate readers and dumb down a text in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience. The first thing to go is usually the footnotes, because to most people they scream ‘Hey, this book is for experts!’ At best, they bury them in the back where only people who read with two bookmarks ever follow along. In this series, we wanted to stress that the editor’s annotations and explanations of Bancroft’s diary were central to the book, so I designed the book with Bancroft’s text on the recto pages and the notes on the facing verso pages. The main text of the book is set in two different Caslon types (Adobe’s Caslon for the text and Matthew Carter’s Big Caslon for display), with the notes set in Scala Sans for compactness and contrast. If you are interested in colonial military history, in first-person historical narratives or in the history of the Acadians, I highly recommend that you check out the first volume in this series and stay tuned for the forthcoming volumes.

Here are some pictures of Susan Haley’s new novel Petitot which I described in an earlier post. The inner cover is a detail from a sketch that was made by Émile Petitot, the historical person on whose life the book is roughly based. We inverted the image and then printed it in silver ink on black cover stock.

This is the jacket, unfolded. It was printed offset in three colours and uses an enlarged version of Petitot’s signature for the title text.

This is the title page from one of Petitot’s books about his time up north, Quinze Ans sous le Cercle Polaire, published in Paris in 1889. Turns out, most of it is as much fiction as Haley’s book about him.

As you can see, we borrowed some elements from the 1880s Paris edition for Haley’s title page, without trying to simply mimic it. Haley’s book is set Fournier, based on the rationalist French types of Pierre-Simon Fournier (1712–68), originally revived by the Monotype Corporation in 1925 for use on their casters.

Also due to start shipping to stores this week is Sean Johnston’s fabulous new novel Listen All You Bullets, his second novel with Gaspereau Press. The novel focuses on a young boy named Billy who is trapped on a hardscrabble North Dakota ranch with his lonely mother and his wheelchair-bound father. But Billy isn’t just any boy stuck on any ranch: Billy and his family are the creations of Jack Schaefer’s popular 1949 Western novel, Shane. Long after that novel’s action has concluded and its plot and characters have seemingly solidified into popular myth, Sean Johnston sets out to explore the possibilities of a story’s resistance to its own arrested afterlife. Here’s a video clip of the jacket being run through our Heidelberg KORD offset press this morning as we printed the final of three colours on a ginger-toned paper stock.

Interesting fact: Quite coincidentally, both Haley and Johnston have a character named Nicamos in their books. It is a Cree word which means sweetheart.


06 September 2013

Susan Haley’s Novel about Émile Petitot

We’ve been busy in the shop this week printing, sewing and binding Susan Haley’s new novel, Petitot, in advance of her September reading tour in the west and in the north.

In the novel, Susan Haley explores the troubled life and dubious claims of Father Émile Petitot, a controversial nineteenth-century missionary Oblate priest, linguist and ‘explorer’ whose fifteen years beneath the Arctic Circle were punctuated by scandal, delusional behaviour and episodes of outright madness and paranoia These problems caused him to be shuffled from mission to mission, temporarily excommunicated and even forcibly hospitalized by the bishop. Petitot’s story is framed by the contemporary story of Marcus, a young man who, fresh out of college and reeling from the failure of a marriage that had barely even begun, takes a teaching job in a tiny northern-Canadian native community. While struggling to grasp his own predicament, he finds himself entangled in much larger community tragedies – the suicide of an aging priest and the death of two young students from exposure. But it is his discovery of the writings of Émile Petitot which finally threatens to unhinge Marcus, launching him on an obsessive quest for answers.

Susan of course lived up north in Fort Norman for a number of years, where she ran a charter airline with her partner. In what I believe is the most northerly-sweeping Gaspereau Press tour ever, Susan will read in Edmonton, Yellowknife, Calgary and Saskatoon though mid-September. (At the Calgary and Saskatoon events she will be reading with Sean Johnston, who also has a novel out with Gaspereau this fall.) You can find up-to-the-moment details on our website.

As well as maps drawn by Jack McMaster, Petitot includes reproductions of some of Émile Petitot’s own sketches. This one is on the jacket.

Below is a short video clip of Connie sewing signatures for Susan’s book on the sometimes cantankerous Smyth sewing machine in our bindery. A signature is what we call a press sheet after we have folded it three times, resulting in a 16 page section of the book. A book comprised of a bunch of signatures which were made by folding a press sheet three times is called an octavo or 8vo book (octo for the eight pages printed on each side of the press sheet). The term signature originates from the marks printers often put at the foot of the top page of each section of the book to indicate which order the sections were to be gathered in. Signature one is pages 1 to 16, signature two is pages 17 to 32, etc.
One side of an imposed 8vo press sheet for Don McKay’s Muskwa Assemblage.

In the video, Connie is placing signatures (which have already been gathered in order) onto a conveyer. They travel to the anvil where they are flipped up and sewn together into a book block. After the book blocks are crushed in a clamp for a while to compress the threads into the spine, they are ready for binding.


04 September 2013

Divino Jure Typographus

A mysterious envelope with a Detroit return address on it appeared on my desk today. Opening it, I discovered a moving poster from my friend and sometimes co-conspirator Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. The poster was printed on a run-of-th-mill map of Amos’s longtime state of residence, Alabama, highlighting the importance of voting in general and the suppression of the Black vote in particular.

Coincidentally, Nova Scotians presently await a provincial election call, expected early this fall. There is much speculation about whether the incumbent New Democratic government will be returned by the people. But there is also much concern about declining voter turnout, especially among younger voters. Vote! Vote!

Also expected this fall, at least in this jurisdiction, is the Gaspereau Press wayzgoose, at which Amos will be among our featured guest printers. (The wayzgoose also features the well-haberdashed printmaker George Walker and Greenboathouse Press’s Jason Dewinetz.) The last time Amos was here in Kentville, he told the late Canadian typographer Glenn Goluska that all the wood type in the world actually belonged to him, but that he generously permitted other printers to make us of it, at his pleasure. Glenn’s extensive collection of wood type is now a part of the Gaspereau Press holdings, and I can only imagine Amos continues to assert his claim to Divino Jure Typographus Kennedy over the world’s supply of wood type. We’ll have to watch our p’s and q’s while his highness is in town.

Our wayzgoose and open house will be on Saturday October 26th. Events will be taking place all day long and into the evening. It is free and open to the public.