Drive Down Day, or Your September Book of Days

Hurricane Dorian kicked us a bit out of sync as we transitioned from August to September, but here, finally, is your printable Convivio Book of Days calendar for September. We are fine here in Lake Worth, though that is not the case with our neighbors in the Bahamas. Just 75 miles east of us is the western point of Grand Bahama Island, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve scanned the horizon at the coast when I was a boy, looking for the Bahamas because they’re right there, but 75 miles is a distance sometimes. Enough of a distance to see no sign of land from here, and enough of a distance for us to emerge unharmed by Dorian’s course.

That’s how I got to Maine the first time I went to that fair state. I was going to Penland, North Carolina, but I had some artwork to bring to a gallery in Vermont––my first non-academic art show––and, on the map, at least, Vermont seemed to be just a little further away. Why not bring the artwork there myself? And if I was going to Vermont, I figured, certainly I should go to Maine. This is the way my mind works. You can see how someone like me would be looking out over the Atlantic, hoping to see Grand Bahama from my tiny strand of sand.

Way over in Switzerland, it’s the time of year the cows come home from the Alpine meadows. They were there last July when Seth and I were driving along the Splügen Pass on the way from Austria to Italy, high in Alps, their bells ringing through the mountain air as we drove, and now that winter is setting in, it’s time for them to come down to the valleys. Typically this happens now, in early September, and especially on the 8th of September, which is the day we celebrate the Nativity of Mary, which is known as Drive Down Day in some parts of Switzerland. The return of the cows is not without some pomp and ceremony: they’re dressed up and decorated and so are their human companions. It’s a sight, I’m sure, but it’s the bells I love best. If you’ve never heard them, well… it’s the most peaceful sound. One of those bell-wearing Swiss bovines is the cover star of your September Book of Days… and while we’re at it, here’s a video we took when we were in Switzerland of the cows and their bells, not long before we reached the top of the Splügen Pass:

Across the border in Italy the folks like to eat blueberries today: blue, the color of Mary’s cloak, at least in Italian Renaissance paintings. Lights are illuminated in windows, and bonfires blaze. In France, Mary is celebrated today, in the midst of the grapes ripening on the vine, as Our Lady of the Grape Harvest. Bunches of grapes are brought to churches for the priests to bless and you’ll find lots of grapes this day in the hands of statues of Mary, placed there by Marian devotees and by lovers of wine and by traditionalists like me. This is September, the first of the “Ember” months. Seth and I, we wish you a fine one.

 

COME SEE US!
We’re popping up at Hatch 1121 in Lake Worth on Saturday for the big “Catrinas: The Festival” event and I’m teaching a workshop at the Armory later this month.

CATRINAS: THE FESTIVAL
Saturday September 14 from 4 to 9 PM
Hatch 1121 (the old Lake Worth Shuffle Board Courts)
at 1121 Lucerne Ave in Downtown Lake Worth’s West Village
Our favorite time of year is fast approaching! Here, to kick things off, Lake Worth meets L.A. in a unique festival that revolves around an exhibition featuring works by Lake Worth artist José R. Mendez and Los Angeles photographer Gus Mejia. Admission is free and plentiful parking is nearby. In the Hatch courtyard, live mariachi, food, crafts, and low riders… and we’ll be there in our usual spot with a preview of this year’s Convivio Bookworks Dia de Muertos collection. You’ll find your old favorites plus lots of new items not yet in our online catalog, all of them made by hand by artisans in Mexico. It’s all about authenticity.

WORKSHOP: INTRO TO BOOK ARTS
Saturday September 21 from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM
The Armory
at 811 Park Place in West Palm Beach
Printing and bookbinding are at the core of the Book Arts, and in this one day workshop, you’ll get a foundation in both. Learn a bit of letterpress plus the techniques behind a range of handmade book structures that you can create anywhere on your own without special bindery equipment. We’ll print one of our book covers from handset type, and you won’t just leave with blank books: one of the books you’ll bind is a letterpress limited edition story that was printed by your Convivio Bookworks boys in years past, and you’ll get to bind your very own copy.

 

Huzzah & Cheers!

Fast on the heels of the Bartlemas Wayzgoose on this 28th of August comes the feast day of St. Augustine, a patron saint of printers and of brewers. Two celebrations in one week? That’s a lot for anyone, but we printers have been managing this lot cast upon us for centuries now. Good old St. Augustine of Hippo was born in Northern Africa, in what is now Tunisia, in 354. He became a patron saint of printers thanks to his prolific writing. Books like his Confessions probably kept a lot of early printers in business. The confessions were easy to come by for Augustine: he was a fellow who liked a good time, at least early on in life, and this is the root of his patronage for brewers. His mother, who is also canonized as a saint (St. Monica) prayed for his conversion. Eventually he did convert and when he did, he began to write. He was canonized at the turn of the 14th century, about 150 years before Johannes Gutenberg perfected the idea of moveable type. He is also a patron saint of people with sore eyes… which perhaps comes from reading too many books. Be that as it may, today we lift our glasses and toast a hearty Huzzah and Cheers! to the brewers and the printers.

Image: “Typesetter at Enschede Haarlem” by Charles Frederick Ulrich. Oil on panel. 1884 [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. We don’t know what’s in the typesetter’s cup… but back then, beer was probably safer than water.

 

Wayzgoose Day

Bartlemas approaches. That’s another name for St. Bartholomew’s Day, which falls on the 24th of August each year. His feast day is celebrated not so much in churches as it is amongst practitioners of the Book Arts. St. Bartholomew is a patron saint of bookbinders, but his day is just as important to the other two branches of our craft: papermaking and printing––the one sometimes called the Black Art. St. Bartholomew’s Day brings the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, a particularly English celebration that comes out of the shifting of the seasons––the recognition that summer is waning.

Not much is known about St. Bartholomew himself. He was one of the Twelve Disciples. He is thought to have traveled to India, but tradition says that he met his end in Armenia in the first century. His martyrdom was a gruesome one––one that by association made St. Bartholomew a patron saint of butchers (a common trade amongst my paternal ancestors) and of tanners and of bookbinders, who very often bind books in leather. I’ll leave the method of his martyrdom, based on those associations, to your imagination, but early bookbinders found it a worthy connexion, hence his patronage of their craft.

For papermakers, the connexion goes back to the days before glazed glass windows. Back then, it was waxed paper that was used to keep out the elements, and the arrival of Bartlemas was the signal that it was time to paper the windows in preparation for winter. Once this St. Bart’s window paper was made, the papermakers went back to making paper for the printers, clearing out the vats and recharging them with new pulp made from rags that had been retting all summer long.

But trust me: it’s the printers who really know how to celebrate St. Bartholomew’s Day. Bartlemas, being a full eight weeks past the summer solstice, brings with it each year a certain reality: Sunlight, like summer, is waning, and the days are growing darker and darker. Along with the papering of the windows at Bartlemas came the necessity of illuminating the print shop with lanterns and candles. A good print shop proprietor would make a celebration of the day. Randall Holme, in 1688, gave us this description of the Bartlemas Wayzgoose:  “It is customary for all journeymen to make every year, new paper windows about Bartholomew-tide, at which time the master printer makes them a feast called a Wayzgoose, to which is invited the corrector, founder, smith, ink-maker, &c. who all open their purses and give to the workmen to spend in the tavern or ale-house after the feast. From which time they begin to work by candle light.”

To be sure, there was a good quantity of ale consumed as part of the Wayzgoose. In some places, mead, the delightful intoxicating beverage made from honey, was the beverage of choice. Especially in Cornwall, where a Blessing of the Mead ceremony takes place even today at this time of year. Continuing the road of connexions, our friend St. Bartholomew is also a patron saint of beekeepers, and as we continue to gather our stores for the coming winter, it is traditional, too, to bring in the honey crop on his feast day.

If you’re here in South Florida, I hope this Saturday you’ll join us at our local Wayzgoose: It’s Florida Atlantic University’s Library Wayzgoose Festival in Boca Raton, happening from 10:30 to 5:30 at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts and throughout the 3rd Floor East of FAU’s Wimberly Library, which is the Jaffe’s home base. There will be print demos all day with Val Lucas of Bowerbox Press, live music all day, and the Wayzgoose Makers Marketplace (we’ll be there offering some of our wares as well as pottery by Seth’s Royal River Pottery company). You’ll also get to make your own paper printer’s cap, participate in telegraph demos and an exquisite corpse story project, play corn hole, and there are two gallery talks through the day, and a White Elephant Sale, and there will be artisan breads for sale (baked and donated by Louie Bossi’s) and amazing doughnuts for sale, too (we’re donating the doughnuts, but we’re not making them!). If it all sounds like a pretty wonderful day, I’d say you were right. So please come!

Finally, here’s another bit of Bartlemas Wayzgoose lore that I love, something I’ve mentioned before, but still have not been able to find further information on. Be that as it may, it was on August 27, 2010, that the Jerusalem Post reported that Johannes Gutenberg’s 42-Line Bible, the first book printed from moveable type, was completed on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1454. Some claim, too, that that first printed book explains why printing has a history of being called the Black Art. They say that Johannes Fust, Gutenberg’s business partner, sold several of the printed bibles in France without explaining how they were made. When it was discovered that the books were identical copies of each other, Fust was accused of witchcraft and was briefly imprisoned for that crime. It was a different world back then, with information spread by rumors. It was the printing press, though, that ushered in an age of knowledge and literacy and enlightenment. Some would say, too, that we have reverted back to those medieval ways: there are those who claim time and time again that the printed word is not to be trusted, calling trusted information sources “fake news,” feeding us their own brand of misinformation through social media, which, when you get right down to it, is just the 21st century equivalent of medieval rumor. 565 years after Gutenberg, we find ourselves again no wiser than Johannes Fust’s accusers.

One thing is certain: if you are a book artist or if you are a book enthusiast, St. Bartholomew’s Day is a very auspicious day for you. For this Bartlemas Wayzgoose, then, certainly we have cause to celebrate books and the people who make them: the papermakers, the printers, the bookbinders, the book artists. This Bartlemas, let us raise our glasses to St. Bart and to all of these good artisans… and to celebrate the printed word and make a pledge to value its importance to good living and to good citizenship. The Black Art might just be more important than we think.

If you’re coming to our local Wayzgoose, just look for the blue and white MAKERS MARKETPLACE signs that will be posted on FAU campus roads. See you there… I’ll be wearing a paper printer’s cap. Here’s a link to the Facebook invitation, too. (I’m not on Facebook for the news; just for the events!)

 

 

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