Category Archives: Copperman’s Day

Count Your Blessings While You May

Last week, in the late evening quiet of Wednesday night, I finished the final print run of our 2024 Copperman’s Day print. This year’s print is inspired by a lovely concert recorded for the CBC on December 2, 1993, at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto, featuring vocalists Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkins, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Siberry, and Victoria Williams in an ensemble setting accompanied by Tim Ray on piano. The concert recording takes its name from the opening song: “Count Your Blessings,” which is something we try our best to remember to do. There are days, of course, when we forget this simple act, but coming back to counting our blessings is always the goal.

Copperman’s Day, for us, is an extension of the Christmas season, falling as it does on the First Monday after Epiphany, and Christmas 2023 was a Christmas where we keenly felt the absence of Haden, the Convivio Shopcat. She’d been with us since Labor Day Weekend, 2005, and on the 15th of September, 2023, we had to say our goodbyes. All these weeks and months later, we still miss her terribly. 18 years is a long time, and yet still not long enough. “Count your blessings” were words that went along with Haden. We appreciated every moment we had with her, and Christmas this year has been a bit, or a lot, melancholy, without her striped orange presence. She seemed to love Christmas as much as we do: she loved the tree, she loved perching atop the presents, and she even seemed to love the music (except, perhaps, the CD of Scandinavian and Siberian music we play each Midwinter solstice night… the stomping and whooping would make Haden’s ears twitch a lot and we could often discern a bit of a scowl on her face as the music filled her house).

The “Count Your Blessings” CD was one she liked, and so it felt only right to make this our Copperman’s Day print. The song was written by Edith Temple and Richard Morgan in 1946, and these are the particular lyrics by Edith Temple that pull at the heartstrings each time I hear them:

Count your blessings while you may, For we are here, with little time to stay.

We’ve dedicated this year’s print to our beloved little pal, Haden, who would visit me each time I printed in the print shop, just to see what was going on, or to let me know it was time to eat, as was the case here, when she came to visit me whilst I printed the Copperman’s Day print for 2023:

More than once, she’d get into the ink on the press: sometimes subtly––like, we’d look at her and think, “She looks different today,” and then one of us would realize there was a faint streak of darkness on her orange fur, where, in hindsight, she had obviously passed a little too closely to the inked rollers (inked most likely with black) while I was not in attendance at the press. And then there was the time I was printing a project that required magenta ink, and I had cleaned everything just so at the end of the day and followed all post-press procedures to the T… except for one thing: I had failed to secure the lid firmly on the can of Van Son Rubber Base ink. It was during the overnight hours when Haden often did her explorations of the house, and that night, she managed to tip over the can of ink and the lid fell off and I awoke the next morning to a mostly magenta cat and to a trail of magenta kitty paw prints in every room of the house. This particular adventure required a trip to the emergency vet but all is well that ends well, right? Still to this day, ten years later, I find wisps of magenta on the maple doors of the kitchen cabinets, on the terra cotta tiles in the pantry, on the old oak floor boards in the living room. But now, every one of those magenta marks is a blessing I count, a reminder of our pal who has left a huge hole in our hearts with her absence.

As for Copperman’s Day: it is an old Dutch printer’s holiday, falling on the First Monday after Epiphany each January. It was traditional on this day for printers’ apprentices in the Netherlands to receive the day off to work on their own projects––usually small printed keepsakes that they’d sell for a copper.

And as for Seth and me: we do the best we can each day. Christmas was just not the same without Haden. I know she wouldn’t want it this way, but there was much less music in the house, and what little there was was very contemplative. Lots of piano (Jacqueline Schwab), lots of nuns (The Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles), and not a whole lot of Revels. We just didn’t have it in us. And just once: Holly Cole, Rebecca Jenkins, Mary Margaret O’Hara, Jane Siberry, and Victoria Williams, accompanied by Tim Ray on piano, singing “Count Your Blessings.”

N.B.: Clicking on each photo in this post makes the images larger (which is the case with all Convivio Book of Days chapters), so you may get a better view.


You’ll find this newest Copperman’s Day print and all our Copperman’s Day prints now at our our online catalog when you CLICK HERE. Order 5 or more of any of our mini prints (Copperman’s Day prints, B Mine Valentines, and our famous Keep Lake Worth Quirky prints) and use the code COPPERMAN when you check out; we’ll take $5 off your order to help balance out our flat rate domestic shipping charge of $9.50.

If you’re doing more serious shopping (and we do have lots to offer if you are), you may instead use discount code LOVEHANDMADE to save $10 on your $85 purchase, plus get free domestic shipping, too. That’s a total savings of $19.50. Spend less than $85 and our flat rate shipping fee of $9.50 applies. Newest arrivals: Letterpress printed Valentine cards in the Valentine section, and check our Specialty Foods section for some incredibly delicious chocolate we found from Iceland, including a particularly Icelandic blend of milk chocolate and licorice. If you love both these things, well… Icelanders long ago discovered that covering black licorice in milk chocolate, then dusting the result in licorice powder, is just amazing. (Trust me: we’re on our third bag so far.)  CLICK HERE to shop; you know we appreciate your support immensely. (We count you amongst our blessings, too.)


Bid Christmas Sport Good Night

January 7

Even as the Twelve Days of Christmas end, Christmas, in its way, lingers: The season has such a grand presence that even what follows is informed by it or comes about as a result of it. And so it goes with today, the Seventh of January, when we celebrate St. Distaff’s Day, which is the first of two Back to Work holidays that come about after the Twelve Days. This one is for the women. The next Back to Work holiday is for the men. It’s called Plough Monday, and it comes on the Monday after Epiphany, which this year is on the Eighth, but, depending on the day of the week on which Epiphany falls, could be up to six days later than St. Distaff’s Day. This suggests to me that it was the men who made the rules here. Be that as it may, it is Robert Herrick, our wonderfully convivial 17th century British poet, who gives us our best description of the day (and some very good advice in the first two lines):

Saint Distaff’s Day, or the Morrow after Twelfth Day
by Robert Herrick, 1648

Partly worke and partly play
Ye must on St. Distaff’s Day:
From the Plough soone free your team;
Then come home and fother them.
If the Maides a-spinning goe,
Burne the flax, and fire the tow:
Scorch their plackets, but beware
That ye singe no maiden-haire.
Let the maides bewash the men.
Give St. Distaff all the right,
Then bid Christmas sport good night;
And next morrow, every one
To his owne vocation.

Women have always had a lot of domestic tasks to handle, but during the Twelve Days of Christmas, one of those tasks would be paused: the spinning of fiber to make cloth. And if she had a spinning wheel in her home, on the afternoon of Christmas Eve each year, when greenery from nature would be brought in to decorate the home, one of the key items to be decorated was the spinning wheel: greenery would be wound through all the spokes and over the wheel and it would be beautiful of course but also, as a result, unusable. Which was the whole point. No work was to be done for the Twelve Days of Christmas––though we can be sure that the women had plenty of other work to do during the holiday. And on this day each year, January 7, the day following Epiphany, it was back to the spinning for the women, and it was St. Distaff who led the way.

Oh but wait! This saint is no saint at all. Saints were real people like you and me before they were named saints, but St. Distaff is fictional. The English have a long history of creating saints’ days for saints that never existed at all. St. Monday was the name given to the long weekends sometimes taken by shoemakers, and St. Tibb was often used as a metaphor for never, as in, “Hey, I lent you a shilling last week; when will I get my money back?” “Worry not, I’ll be sure to have it back to you by St. Tibb’s Day.” Which is all well and good until the lender realizes that there is no St. Tibb’s Day. Neither St. Tibb nor St. Monday ever existed; nor did St. Distaff. The distaff, however, was a central tool to what was considered in those days “Women’s Work”: the spinning of wool or flax to make fiber for weaving into cloth. The distaff and spindle were the tools that preceded the spinning wheel, and rare it would have been to find a woman who knew not how to use them. We get the word spinster from this, which was once a recognized legal term in England to describe an unmarried woman, and the terms spear side and distaff side were also legal terms to distinguish the inheritances of male from female children.

And so the women returned to their spinning each Seventh of January, this “morrow after Twelfth Day.” Meanwhile, the men were still underfoot in the house. Their job on St. Distaff’s Day was one of mischief, with the goal usually being to set fire to the flax the women were spinning. The women were wise to this custom, though, and typically kept several buckets of water nearby. Very often, it was the men who got the worst of it: to have a bucket of water dumped on you in the cold of January (that’s the “bewash the men” part)… for sure, St. Distaff’s Day lent a bit of excitement to the sport of returning to ordinary time. Meanwhile, the men had customs of their own to attend to, preparing for their day.

First Monday after Epiphany, which this year will be Monday January 8

The men got a moveable date for their traditional Back to Work day. The men’s work focused on the farm, and on this Plough Monday it would be not at all unusual to see a gaggle of men parading through the village with a finely decorated plough. The men themselves would be finely decorated, too, in all manner of foolish costumes, hearkening the Feast of Fools aspect of the Twelve Days of Christmas that have just passed. One man will be dressed as the Bessy, an old woman, and there she is again: the personification of the old hag of winter, the goddess in her crone stage. There would be mysterious old dances and a good deal of noise in the banging of drums and the blowing of horns, and perhaps the performance of an old mummers play, and, certainly, there would be a collection box passed around to help pay for the sport (as well as a few rounds at the tavern). There would be a ceremonial ploughing of the ground, too, very often through the dirt road that ran through the center of town. Those who were too stingy to contribute risked having the path from the road to their door ploughed, as well. Best, then, to contribute a few pennies to the men’s sport.

There is another old tradition in the Netherlands for this First Monday after Epiphany, little known, but important to those in the print trade (and to us here at Convivio Bookworks, for we are, at heart, a print shop): It is Copperman’s Day, a traditional Dutch printer’s holiday in which the printshop apprentices would be given the day off so they could work on a project of their own. The small prints that were a result of the day were typically sold for a copper apiece. I’ve been a printshop apprentice many times in my life: before, during, and after grad school, while I was earning my MFA in the Book Arts from the University of Alabama, I would go to Maine each summer to apprentice with various printshops there: once with David Wolfe at Wolfe Editions in Portland, and twice with Brother Arnold Hadd at the Shaker Press at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community in New Gloucester… which began our long friendships with both wonderful guys, but especially with the Shakers, who by now are like a second family to us.

I make a Copperman’s Day print most years… but, as with everything else here at Convivio Bookworks, I tend to be a little slow about it, and though I’ll begin on Copperman’s Day, or maybe even on St. Distaff’s Day, it will be pretty amazing if I finish by the time Copperman’s Day is done. When this year’s print is done, though, I will let you know here on the blog, and perhaps even show you some progress on our Instagram page (@conviviobookworks). Meanwhile, CLICK HERE to see all of our previous Copperman’s Day prints. Just like St. Distaff’s Day and Plough Monday, you’ll find our Copperman’s Day prints are also informed by a lingering Christmas spirit. This year’s will be no different.

And so: Back to work, back to the workaday world. In this house we are holding on to our Christmas greenery and music all through January, until Candlemas, as is our custom… but even with these trappings of Christmastime still in the house, we are back to earning a living again, and earning our daily bread, and back to regular routines.


Today’s two images, like bookends on this chapter, are taken from the Chambers Bros. Book of Days, published in Edinburgh, 1869. The top one illustrates their chapter on St. Distaff’s Day; the bottom one, Plough Monday. You may click on each to make the images larger.

Cast Sorrow Away

It’s the 22nd of February, and in Ancient Rome, this day would bring each year the Feast of Concordia: a feast of goodwill and harmony. It is perhaps a sign of our times (or of our natures) that the word concord does not get used very much these days, and even accord is a word we hear rarely; yet we are all too familiar with the word discord. Concord is agreement, harmony, unanimity… and discord? Well, we all know about that.

The concept behind Concordia is simple: gather family and friends for a meal and at that meal, settle all disputes. It is a day to make amends for wrongs done, a day to reconcile differences. To put discord to rest and to nurture concord. To do this over bread and wine is a simple, humble act.

If there is discord in your life, perhaps this is the ritual needed to turn that into concord, to activate peace and harmony. To be sure, the concord involves a willingness from both parties, and someone, of course, must have the courage to take the first step. But being willing to let go of bitterness and to activate concord is a dramatic change, and even if you find the other party unwilling, you have given yourself a great gift in releasing the power the discord has over you. That is the gift of this day, the gift of Concordia. And so we wish you harmony and goodwill. And perhaps it is auspicious that our annual Copperman’s Day print is finally ready, for the message, I think, has some relation to all this: there is no joy in discord, but there is plenty of sorrow to be found there. This year’s Copperman’s Day message is simple: Set sorrows aside. The text is from a song recorded by the Boston Camerata for their collection, An American Christmas, which was in heavy rotation here at Convivio Bookworks while this letterpress project was in the works. The song, called “A Virgin Unspotted,” is found in Wyeth’s Repository of Sacred Music, Part Second (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1820). There are two repeating, alternating choruses:

Then let us be merry, cast sorrow away:
Our Saviour Christ Jesus was born on this day.

Aye and therefore be merry, set sorrows aside:
Christ Jesus our Saviour was born on this ‘tide.

Though rooted in a religious text and song, our Copperman’s Day print message is truly universal and non-denominational. As for Copperman’s Day: it is an old Dutch printer’s holiday, falling on the First Monday after Epiphany each January. It was traditional on this day for printers’ apprentices in Holland to receive the day off to work on their own projects––usually small printed keepsakes that they’d sell for a copper. And though we began our print on Copperman’s Day, I didn’t finish the printing until a week or so ago, and the cutting was just done on Friday. We are belated for almost everything these days.

If you sent us a Christmas card, this print will soon be on its way to you in exchange. And if you’d like to purchase some of these or any of our other Copperman’s Day prints that we’ve made through the years, click here to shop. This is the seventh in almost as many years (I couldn’t quite muster the energy to create one in 2018 and 2019). These miniprints happen to be standard postcard size. Each is printed by hand from historic wood and metal types in multiple, separate print runs on the Vandercook 4 printing press in our Lake Worth studio on recycled French Speckletone papers.

SPECIAL DEAL! Order 3 or more of our mini prints (Copperman’s Day prints, B Mine Valentines, and our famous Keep Lake Worth Quirky prints) and use the code COPPERMAN when you check out; we’ll take $5 off your domestic order to help balance out our flat rate shipping charge of $9.50. Of course, you can spend $60 or more in our shop and earn free shipping, too! Click here to shop Copperman’s Day… and here’s to concord and to casting sorrow away!