Calligraphy: A Scribe's Notes Art Blog
I get some pretty unusual and interesting calligraphy jobs. This one in particular is the numbering of 200 limited edition books. The 750 pounds of text blocks were shipped to a paper marbler for the fly leaves and edge marbling and that's where I come in. Chena River Marblers is a couple, Dan and Regina St.John in Amherst MA that has been producing some of the finest marbled papers and fabrics, for decades. The first two books were numbered by someone who was no longer available, so the publisher asked Regina and Dan if they knew anyone who could do the job. How handy, I'm in the next town.
This book is the third in a series of five. The first two books were numbered in black Copperplate and they wanted the rest of the books to follow suit. I suggested color this time to match the leather binding and they thought that was fine.
I started work on the books in Dan and Regina's studio, since 750 pounds of books is hard to get from place to place. It was June when I started and the weather immediately turned hot and humid. Raining almost every day, the humidity made writing a very difficult task. I made adjustments to the color matched gouache, but it would have non of it. Work suspended for a week or two to dry things out and when I resumed it became hot and humid again. The lettering was coming out alright but it was a struggle, taking three times longer than it should have. Then Regina had an idea. They would bring the books to my house in batches of 50. Once done they would pick them up and bring me another 50. I think they really wanted me out of their studio, but that system worked great. My studio is on the third floor of my house and air conditioned. It took me and Alex working as a team to get them up there. These things are heavy!
I started by making a template for the line positions since each book had to be uniform. Putting a lined sheet beneath the page was not an option. I lightly penciled 25 books at a time (because it's boring). The words "Limited Edition" and "of Two Hundred" were a constant but the individual numbers had to be worked out for length so everything would center. I mixed enough gouache to last the whole job, adding glair to harden the paint when dry; to prevent it transferring onto the facing page when opened and closed.
I started work with my favorite Brause EF66 nib but I soon realized that the nib was part of the struggle as well. I switched to a Mitchell copperplate; it was much smoother and gave finer lines on this particular paper.
I won't brag that I've only ruined two so far because I have 50 books to go and anything can happen. Thankfully there are 18 spares. My neck is getting stiff but I am truly enjoying this work. Some would find it tedious but for me it's a meditation.
Chena River Marbler's web site is now under construction. I will post the link when it's available