Jessica and I are back from Asheville, with fresh memories of hazy heat and sweltering summer on our minds. Back home in Washington, however, we’re having the kind of chilly summer that demands a cozy sweater, a cup of tea and time spent curled up with a good book (and thanks to our sojourn in the South, we want to do that curling up in a rocking chair!). The news of bankrupt corporate bookstores and dire warnings of an electronic apocalypse swirl around us as we read. Yet the world contained between a pair of unassuming cloth covers begs to differ. The e-readers and tech gadgets of the world are carving out their niche—but we breathe a contented sigh at the simple truth that books are here to stay. In honor of the tactile power of fresh ink and crisp pages, we’ve shared our composing stick with a fellow letterpress printer, the celebrated English author Virginia Woolf:
Books are the mirrors of the soul.
Paper Chase is teeming with letterpress references and the tools of Virginia’s trade. A type case helps sort the problem of minding one’s Ps and Qs, while an inked-up chase (an inside joke for our fellow printers) is locked and loaded and ready to print. Above that is a staple of any writer: a messy bookshelf overflowing with stacked volumes.
Reflected in the mirror of Virginia’s work is the beauty—and sadness—that veils her prose. Ghostly silver ink floats like a lingering afterimage, and an ethereal garden blooms from spectral soil. Lilacs and lilies, thistles and honeysuckles take root—each planting a seed of meaning from the Victorian tome The Language of Flowers. Do a little digging and discover layers of rich symbolism that reveal the woman behind the words.
And for those of you who are into historical printers like we are, there’s an extra little goody hidden in the hand mirrors: a nod to another great Victorian printer and Renaissance-person, William Morris. And if you know your floral national emblems (hint: look for the rose!), you’ll discover a link to both Virginia’s and William’s homeland.
We’ll be donating a portion of our proceeds to the Independent Publishing Resource Center in Portland, Oregon, a non-profit organization that provides individual access to the resources and tools required for the creation of self-published media and art. The IPRC offers workshops, digital technology for writing and design, a research library, and even a letterpress print shop and bindery to aid in the publication of original work.
We think Virginia—and anyone else who loves making an impression—would be proud.
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Paper Chase: No. 13 in the Dead Feminists series
Edition size: 129
Poster size: 10 x 18 inches
Printed on an antique Vandercook Universal One press, on archival, 100% rag paper. Each piece is numbered and signed by both artists.
Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941), born Adeline Virginia Stephen, grew up with a steady stream of notable authors visiting her London home. While Virginia and her sister Vanessa had unlimited access to their father’s extensive library, their brothers were sent to Cambridge. This inequality and other Victorian double standards figured prominently in Virginia’s writing. In 1915, she married Leonard Woolf and moved to Hogarth House. There they established the Hogarth Press, publishing the work of T.S. Eliot, E.M. Forster, Vita Sackville-West, the first translations of Sigmund Freud as well as Virginia’s own novels. As editor, typesetter and binder, Virginia had the freedom to control not just the content but the physicality of letterforms and space on a page, declaring herself “the only woman in England free to write what I like.” With Leonard as printer and Vanessa a frequent illustrator, the Hogarth Press published more than 500 books, many far too experimental to be considered by mainstream publishers.
Virginia’s life-long struggle with depression began with a breakdown at age 13 following her mother’s death, and ended after multiple attempts at suicide when she walked into a river with pocketfuls of stones.
Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, with roots firmly planted in ink-and-paper soil, and souls bound to bloom.
UPDATE: poster is sold out. Reproduction postcards available in the Dead Feminists shop!