Tonight’s the Big Night! August 24 brings a great celebration with an odd name: it’s the Bartlemas Wayzgoose, and I’ll be hosting the online, virtual Library Wayzgoose Festival for the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at Florida Atlantic University Libraries. The World Premiere is this evening: Tuesday August 24 at 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time at www.jaffecollection.org, and also at a special link I’ll provide for you below. (Readers in Europe and the UK and Australia: I’m looking out for you!*)
This virtual Bartlemas Wayzgoose is a video event full of good stories and great music. My featured guest is activist letterpress printer Ben Blount of Evanston, Illinois. And, we’ve got a special Wayzgoose Concert by the wonderful Jay Ungar & Molly Mason, the Grammy Award winning musicians famous for their song “Ashokan Farewell” from the Ken Buns documentary The Civil War. Jay and Molly have been described as “the heart and soul of American Roots Music,” and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. They have a way of tapping into the spirit of the Hudson River Valley they call home, much like Washington Irving did. In fact, one of my favorite Jay & Molly projects was the soundtrack they recorded for the Rabbit Ears Radio production of Rip Van Winkle. The music they composed and played for that story is a complete immersion into autumn in the Catskill Mountains.
Fittingly enough, the Bartlemas Wayzgoose is an old printers’ celebration that has a hint of autumn about it. It comes about every 24th of August and it marks, in its way, the passage of time in the wheel of the year through an acknowledgement of the waning summer and diminishing daylight as we continue on our way toward the autumnal equinox.
Here’s the trailer I created for the Wayzgoose last week. It took me six hours to make this 2-minute trailer, an amount of time that is in direct proportion to the fact that the full video production of this Wayzgoose has taken me pretty much all summer. I think the trailer came out pretty darn good:
I think the finished Wayzgoose video came out even better than the trailer. If you tune in for the Wayzgoose, you’ll get to meet Ben Blount, who is an all around great guy doing honorable work, and you’ll experience the exquisite music of Jay Ungar and Molly Mason (and even sing along with them on a couple of tunes). And, I’ll tell you the story behind why we celebrate a good old Wayzgoose on this day. Or, you can read it here:
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 it is the printers who really know how to celebrate St. Bartholomew’s Day, for along with the papering of the windows at Bartlemas came the necessity of illuminating the print shop with lanterns and candles, and 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 gather our stores for the coming winter, it is traditional, too, to bring in the honey crop on his feast day.
Finally, here’s another bit of Bartlemas Wayzgoose lore that I love: 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. Hence, the Black Art. It is our distinct honor, as printers, to be part of this long tradition, and we welcome all of you to celebrate this special day with us through this special event.
*Friends in the UK, Europe, and Australia:
Need to watch earlier? While I’d really love to have you join us at precisely 7 PM Eastern on Tuesday evening in order to build a big global push of positive print energy, I know there are lots of Convivio Book of Days readers in Europe and the UK and Australia, and for you, if you’re going to celebrate a proper Bartlemas Wayzgoose, you’ll need to watch earlier. At this late hour, as I write this Book of Days chapter as the 23rd of August becomes the 24th, I’ve got a direct link to the 2021 Wayzgoose for you at the Vimeo Channel of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Click here and you’ll get to watch the Wayzgoose anytime!
Though the Bartlemas Wayzgoose acknowledges that summer is waning, 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.