Saturday, January 10, 2009

Sing, O Muse!

Inspiration comes in obscure and not always immediate ways. I dug up this artifact from my past the other day and thought I would post it. I've always been interested in history, which I get from both my parents. Growing up in the 60's and 70's, family vacations consisted in driving to the Adironadacks, southeastern Penna., and New England where we spent much of our time touring places like Forts George and Ticonderoga, Gettysburg, Sharpsburg and Harper's Ferry, Plymouth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village. Local places nearer home were not neglected and I've always been an avid reader. You get the idea.

After getting out of the army in 1983 after 7 years, which included 3 years in Germany, I returned home to upstate New York near Buffalo. A couple years later my Mom and I paid a visit to the Genesee Country Village, a restored village of the early 19th century much like Old Sturbridge Village in Mass. I've always had an interest in the printed word and had seen a number of restored print shops at many of the places we visited. Always having been interested in crafts (I built models and cobbled together various things as a boy), in a basic and mostly untrained way (I had some experience printing in 7th grade in shop class) I was always intrigued by the process of printing. History; crafts; printing. You can see where this will ultimately lead.

While at the village that day we of course visited the print shop. They had a Washington hand press and the printer was in the process of turning out handbills for visitors, one of which I received "hot off the press". I really paid attention to the process and was fascinated as I held the freshly printed work in my hands. I took it home and hung it on the wall of my woodworking shop. While nothing happened regarding moving my interests actively towards printing, this visit stayed with me and the paper followed me round as I moved here and there over the years. It took a long time but two years ago the seed firmly planted that day and that had lain dormant began to grow. So for me this old piece of paper is something of a touchstone with regard to my current pursuit of the printer's craft. I also have one of the business cards we printed in 7th grade and the rubber stamp we made from that form, and I treasure them, but they didn't have the impact the trip to the village and this handbill did.

Interestingly, while the staining and holes are the result of the passage of more than 20 years of handling and storage they also make it look like an original document. Except of course for the unfortunate choice of at least one typeface.

I still have a dream of owning a Washington or other type of hand press...

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