Benjamin Franklin was a printer by trade and if he indeed said the words that many attribute to him (“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”), he probably would have been a big fan of the Feast of St. Augustine, which comes today, this 28th day of August, for St. Augustine is a patron saint of printers and of brewers, too. Ah, but the attribution, we know, is false, and there is some evidence that Mr. Franklin was not terribly fond of beer in printshops, anyway. He was known, when he was a London printshop apprentice, to have been more interested in water than beer, much to the astonishment of his fellow typesetters and printers, many of whom would down a few pints over the course of a workday.
Be that as it may, this closing week of August each year is a big one for us printers. Well, for book artists in general. And for brewers. We began the week with St. Bartholomew’s Day on the 24th, bringing with it the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, the biggest printshop party in town. And now, four days later, comes St. Augustine’s Day. I always imagine it being not the best of weeks to bring a delicate print job to your local printer, just in case there’s been a healthy measure of imbibing going on. Best save your print jobs for the first week of September.
St. Augustine of Hippo is not just a patron saint of printers and of brewers, but also of Aviles, the city in Spain that was home to explorer Pedro Menéndez, who sailed to the New World in 1565. The day his ships arrived here at this continent also happened to be St. Augustine’s Day, the 28th of August. He and his crew sailed into the area around Matanzas Bay, up in the northeast corner of La Florida, and he named the new Spanish settlement there San Agustín, in honor of the day he first spotted land and in honor of his hometown’s patron saint. That town is St. Augustine, the oldest continuously occupied settlement of European origin in the United States.
As for St. Augustine himself, he was born in Northern Africa, in what is now Tunisia, in 354, the son of St. Monica. 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 prayed for his conversion. Eventually he did convert and the time he spent drinking earlier on he now devoted to writing. He was long considered a Doctor of the Church and was canonized at the turn of the 14th century, about 150 years before Johannes Gutenberg perfected the idea of moveable type and ushered in the information and literacy revolution that came with the proliferation of printing. It is said that on a wall of his room St. Augustine had written these words, in large letters: “Here we do not speak evil of anyone.” Words of wisdom, worthy of writing on our walls or printing on our presses or sending to our elected officials, and words to live by in this week of celebrations print and book related––this week of Bartlemas Wayzgooses and related celebrations of papermaking, printing, bookbinding, brewing. All crafts of the human hand and heart, all––in their way and in proper doses––portals bridging earth and heaven, assisting us mere mortals to attain that graceful state of happiness in flow. I’ll take that.
Speaking of Bartlemas Wayzgooses: now that the hustle and hubbub of the premiere of our own Bartlemas Wayzgoose has passed, we welcome you to watch it anytime, from wherever you are in the world. This video experience is posted now and for posterity at the Vimeo Channel of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. (Actually, I’ll include the video right here below… but be warned, at 90-minutes, this Bartlemas Wayzgoose is an experience, one that is best with some proper Wayzgoose fare and libation.) I think you’ll really enjoy my interview with printer Ben Blount and the beautiful Wayzgoose concert by Jay Ungar & Molly Mason. There are even a couple of songs to singalong to. All this would go very well with the work of your local small brewery, especially tonight, for St. Augustine. Cheers and huzzah!
At our online shop, our Summer High Five Sale continues: All summer long, use discount code HIGH5 at checkout for $5 off your purchase of $35 on everything in the shop. Take it to $50 and earn free domestic shipping, too. Click here to shop! We’ve lowered the price on our popular embroidered face masks from Chiapas. I’m actually sad to report that the masks are once again a hot item. Still, they’re now just $10 each. Perhaps the family who makes them was a little too optimistic when they decided last spring to stop making masks. Our favorite new thing in the shop? Millie’s Tea Towels, embroidered by hand by my mom Millie, under our new Linens & Textiles category.
Image: “Franklin the Printer.” Reproduction of a Charles Mills painting by Detroit Publishing Company, circa 1914 [Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons].