Monthly Archives: August 2023

Bartlemas Wayzgoose: First Shift toward Fall

If you are longing for cooler weather, here’s a celebration you’ll be pleased about: It’s Bartlemas today, St. Bartholomew’s Day, and his feast day is one that provides a nod of acknowledgment to the subtly shifting wheel of the year and, in particular, of summer beginning to yield to autumn. St. Bartholomew also happens to be a fellow of high importance to book artists like myself: he has his hands in all the major aspects of the Book Arts, these being hand papermaking, letterpress printing, and bookbinding. And it is through these crafts that St. Bart brings his reminder of summer’s waning. If it sounds like the makings of a good story, I’d say you’re right, and how I love a good story! Let’s delve into it, shall we? (I also have an invitation for the locals to an actual St. Bartholomew’s Day Wayzgoose (just a few days after his feast day) at the end, so do read on.)

First of all, St. Bartholomew is one of the patron saints of bookbinders. 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.

And then there is the connexion to papermaking, and for this, we need to go back to the days before glazed glass windows. Back then it was only the wealthiest people who could afford glass windows, while the rest of us, and I’m sure my ancestors are firmly planted in this group, simply had openings in the walls and shutters, perhaps, so that all summer long the shutters would be open, letting in the cool nighttime breezes. As we approach the end of August, though, you’d certainly be thinking about preparing for the chillier days to come in fall and winter, and it was the local papermakers who came to your rescue: they began making special waxed paper this time of year and it was this paper, heavily infused with beeswax, that you would install inside your shutters, to help keep the elements out and the warmth in, and the day to do this task was traditionally today: Bartlemas. Waxed paper windows: they didn’t offer much in terms of warmth, but certainly they were a better alternative than nothing at all. Once this St. Bartholomew’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.

And now for those printers: It’s the printers who really made a big deal of Bartlemas, especially in England, for it became a day of great celebration. (I might add: no surprise there. I’ve worked with hand papermakers, I’ve worked with bookbinders, and I’ve worked with letterpress printers, and it’s the printers who generally seem most ready to raise a glass with you.) For along with those waxed paper windows came the reality of less natural light. Suddenly it was time again to work by the light of candles and lanterns, and there was no more potent reminder, perhaps, that summer was waning and winter was on its way. And so, all good print shop proprietors would make a celebration of the day, and this celebration came to be known as a “Wayzgoose.” The reason for the name is, sadly, lost to time. But 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.

My favorite bit of Bartlemas Wayzgoose lore is this: 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 and why we have personnel in print shops with names like Printer’s Devil. Here’s the story: Johannes Fust, Gutenberg’s business partner, took several of the printed bibles from Mainz, Germany, which is where Gutenberg had his shop, to France, where he sold them, 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. This story always fascinates me!

Prior to the printing press, we mostly got our news through rumors: travelers bringing tales from far off places, neighbors discussing things, embellishing where they saw fit. It was the printing press, though, that ushered in an age of knowledge and literacy and enlightenment, kicking off what came to be called in European history the Renaissance. In the last few decades, we’ve moved beyond the printing press in terms of the dissemination of information and well… progress brings its own set of problems. Now we spread rumors through social media––especially people who hold positions of power––and trusted news sources are overridden, or deemed “fake,” and we find ourselves, nearly 570 years post-Gutenberg, 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. My suggested toast: “Free the books!” We don’t need Big Government––and our Florida government is as big as it gets, folks: school kids here can’t even have nicknames now without their parents’ written consent on file with the School Board (yes, this is state law)––deciding what we should or should not be reading. A free press and the freedom to read and discuss what we see fit: More than ever, the Black Art might just be more important than we think.

If you’re here in South Florida, I hope this Sunday you’ll join us at our local Wayzgoose: It’s Florida Atlantic University’s LIBRARY WAYZGOOSE FESTIVAL in Boca Raton, happening from 12 noon to 6 PM 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. Free admission, free parking. There will be print demos all day with Ellen Knudson of Crooked Letter Press, live music all day (Abasi Hanif and Livin’ the Rhythm drum circle from 12:30 to 2, followed by bluegrass and folk with The Lubben Brothers from 2:30 to close), and the Wayzgoose Makers Marketplace (we’ll be there offering some of our wares–– we’re thinking a shift to autumn in our offerings might be nice, too). There will also be a free paper moon photo booth, a telegraph office, an Exquisite Corpse story project inside a quilted contemplation tent, and doughnuts and coffee and tea. No ale or mead, sorry. CLICK HERE for full details and come see us Sunday!

While we’re on the subject of shifting toward fall, our next big event currently on the books after this Sunday’s Wayzgoose is Oktoberfest! This year, we are participating in OKTOBERFEST MIAMI at one of our favorite places: the German American Social Club in Miami. Two full weekends of fun: October 13 through 15 and October 20 through 22. We were there last December for their Christmas Market and everyone was so nice to us and we had such a lovely time, we decided to spend Octoberfest with them, too. (The fact that this is an indoor/outdoor Oktoberfest and that our Convivio Bookworks boutique will be located indoors, in air conditioned comfort, is an added perk.) It’s the longest continuously-running Oktoberfest in the country and the largest German cultural event in South Florida, and we’ll be there with tons (perhaps literally, and if not, it’ll certainly feel like it) of our traditional German handicrafts and specialty foods, plus my mom’s Millie’s Tea Towels. You also happen to have just 7 days left to purchase tickets at the reduced pre-sale price: CLICK HERE for details! I think it’s going to be grand!

Happy Bartlemas, everyone!



Feast of the Assumption

I’ve been reading A Poem for Every Night of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri, since the year began and doing just that: reading one poem, each night of the year, just before I shut the last illuminated lamp, before I say goodnight to all the people in the photographs on the bookcases and bureaus on my way to bed. My nightly ritual. It’s a big thick book, hardcover, lovely dust jacket, and as I sat there in my corner chair in the close and holy darkness late last night and read, it struck me that I am most definitely more than halfway through the book, and that the year is more than half done, and that even though summer here in this strange green land goes on and on, it will eventually be packing its bags, headed off to more southerly climes on the other side of the equator. We still have a lot more to get through, but the facts are plain: the Dog Days have passed (they ended on the 11th of August when Sirius, the Dog Star, ceased rising each morning with the sun), and in Italy, Ferragosto has begun. It is the height of the summer holidays, and most Italians will take off from work or close up shop and head someplace cool for a few days: to the sea, or to the mountains. It is annual pilgrimage that has its roots in Ancient Rome.

Most people in Catholic Europe will be off today, anyway: It is the Feast of the Assumption on this Fifteenth of August, so why not take a few extra summer days off, too? It’s the day my grandmother was born, in 1898, and so her parents called her Assunta. How lovely: to be named for a holiday, no? I think so, anyway. Most years, Grandma’s birthday meal would be the traditional Ferragosto supper of cuccuzza longa––an Italian edible gourd very much like zucchini––simmered with egg and parmesan and parsley with a hint of tomatoes. It can be made with zucchini, too. Perhaps you’d like to give it a try (especially at this annual time of zucchini abundance): Click here for the recipe. Have a nice summery wine on hand, like a crisp vinho verde from Portugal, and a crusty loaf, and you’ve got a summer meal that’s fit for a king (even if originated with the hearty peasantry).

I’m thinking of going to church at noon for Grandma’s birthday and for the Assumption. I’ve not been for a long while, and it’ll be time spent with Grandma and with everyone else who has come and gone in my life, and I’ll get to sing along with other folks in the congregation singing Schubert’s “Ave Maria“, and there are worse ways to pass an hour on an afternoon in late summer.

Images: Two photographs we took at the shore of Lake Maggiore in Arona, Italy, when we visited there in the summer of 2019 with my cousin Fabio, who lives in nearby Oleggio. Lake Maggiore would be an excellent Ferragosto destination!


We’ll be at the LIBRARY WAYZGOOSE FESTIVAL at Florida Atlantic University Libraries’ Jaffe Center for Book Arts on Sunday afternoon, August 27, from 12 to 6. Print activities, a paper moon photo booth, and live music all day. Free admission, free parking, and we’re supplying the doughnuts, which will also be free. I’ll tell you more about it soon, for the 24th of August (St. Bartholomew’s Day) is the traditional date for a Wayzgoose, but in the meantime, mark your calendars if you’re local and come have a good Wayzgoose time!


Two Moons, & Lammas

August this year brings two full moons: one tonight, this First of August, which is called the Sturgeon Moon, and the second, a Blue Moon, at the end of the month on the 30th. Both are super moons––full moons that coincide with perigee, which is when the Moon is in closest proximity to the Earth in its elliptical orbit. Both full moons of August will appear larger than usual, because the Moon is indeed closer to us than it usually is. All of this Moon Magic inspired me to give you a moon-focused Convivio Book of Days calendar for the month of August. Cover star: “Summer Night Moon” by Eero Järnefelt. Click here for your free calendar: it is, as usual, a printable PDF, and a fine companion to this Book of Days.

This Sturgeon Moon happens to illuminate an ancient agrarian celebration called Lammas, which falls each First of August. It is one of the old cross quarter days that fall between the solstices and equinoxes, and with Lammas we come to the midpoint between the June solstice and the September equinox. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it is high summer, but with Lammas comes the acknowledgment of a perspective shift and the understanding that summer’s growth is mostly done and the focus of the things of this world begins to shift now toward ripening, and harvest and gathering.

Indeed, Lammas is the celebration of the first grain harvest. Where Lammas is well celebrated and where it was more widely acknowledged in our agrarian past, this was a time to bake loaves of bread from the new grain. One loaf would be brought to church to be blessed, and some loaves would be shaped into ornamental loaves called corn dollies, “corn” being a general word describing grain (and not necessarily the cornmeal Americans might think of upon hearing the word). Translating these traditions to the contemporary world, it is a very good day, I think, to bake a crusty loaf, or to gather one from your local baker, and to savor each delectable crumb. You might take a wee dram, as well, of whisky: one of the other gifts of grain. The bread is acknowledged in the very name of Lammas, which descends from the Old English hlafmaesse, or “loaf mass.” John Barleycorn is a name you may hear this time of summer: he is the grain, personified. As the old song goes, John Barleycorn must die: Summer is waning, autumn is coming, and with Lammas, as summer’s hues begin to shift from green to golden, we begin to turn our thoughts toward gathering in. John Barleycorn brings a bit of melancholy but a bit of warmth as well––warmth in his crusty bread, warmth in his spirits, warmth in the ones we gather with to celebrate. Happy Lammastide.


At our online shop, enjoy $5 off your order of $35 or more when you use discount code HIGH5 at checkout. Take it to $75 and you’ll earn free domestic shipping, too. Use the deal on anything in the shop. Click here to shop! Years ago, when I was a printing intern at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in Maine, I wrote a short summery tale called Sturgeon Moon. It was August, and the well was running dry. Before I left the Shakers to go back to grad school, I printed the story from handset type in Brother Arnold’s printshop and made it into a miniature book that is illustrated with a pop-up sheep flying over a barn. You can even use the HIGH5 discount code for $5 off the book!

Top Image: “Summer Night Moon” by Eero Järenefelt. Oil on canvas, 1889. Kansallisgalleria (Finnish National Gallery). [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons. Bottom image: My mom, Millie, in a fishing boat on a lake in Brooklyn, circa 1950.