Category Archives: Wayzgoose

Print Culture, or Your August Book of Days

This month, we’re giving you a little glimpse into the Convivio Bookworks printshop––the heart of Convivio Bookworks. The presses, the movable type: letterpress and books are the core aspects of our business, and we’re celebrating them in this month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar. For in the wheel of the year, come late summer, one of August’s traditional celebrations is the Bartlemas Wayzgoose. It comes each August 24th with St. Bartholomew’s Day: a bittersweet day, reminding us of summer’s waning, for it is a celebration influenced entirely by the sun. Come Bartlemas each August, printers in England would begin bringing lanterns back into the printshop, as the sun alone no longer provided enough light. As sunlight wanes, so does the summer season.

Ah but that celebration comes on the 24th, and I will send you an invitation to our online Library Wayzgoose Festival at the Jaffe Center for Book Arts. Save the date, in fact: Monday August 24 at 7 PM Eastern Daylight Time. We’ll be posting a link on Vimeo and on Facebook, where Convivio Bookworks will be hosting a watch party. And if you can’t make it then, worry not, the video will be available afterwards, too, anytime, from wherever you are. We may not be able this year to gather together for the Library Wayzgoose Festival, but the good news is this year you can join us from anywhere.

As August begins, though, it’s time for another old celebration: Lammas. It is a cross quarter celebration, an old festival of the first harvest, also based in that same idea that summer is ripening, slowly giving way to fall. The Celts called the day Lughnasadh (LOO-na-sa). We find ourselves now at the midpoint between the midsummer solstice of June and the autumnal equinox of September. A freshly baked loaf of bread is a traditional part of the celebration. Indeed, the name Lammas descends from the Old English hlafmaesse, or “loaf mass.”

This Lammas, we wish you good health, we wish you glad tidings. We have our challenges here in Florida right now. Those of us who feel quarantining is best in the current situation, or who at least see benefits to wearing masks, see no end in sight to our isolation. It’s frustrating, and small family businesses like ours are affected disproportionately than corporate businesses. Friends of ours who own small restaurants are afraid to open. For us, pop-up shops are our livelihood, and these are not an option now, and won’t be anytime soon––not in a state that sees over 10,000 new cases of Covid-19 each day. But we stay at home and we know others who do, too, and we know that eventually, we will get through this. And, as we always do, we do the best we can. The Library Wayzgoose Festival on the 24th of August is a fine example of this, and I am so excited to share that special event with you. Mark the day. This month’s Convivio Book of Days calendar, by the way, is, as usual, a printable PDF document… and a good companion to this blog. See you on the 24th? Good.

 

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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