You Intoxicate My Soul with Your Eyes

Last Wednesday’s Book Arts 101 broadcast that I did for the Jaffe Center for Book Arts was intended to be a valentine of the non-sappy sort, and though it mostly was, I think we together discovered that it’s hard to avoid all sappiness when it comes to Valentine’s Day. It’s just a given. It was my valentine to the viewers of Book Arts 101, and today I’m making it my valentine to all of you Convivio Book of Days readers, too.

If you decide to watch, you’ll learn a bit about the groundbreaking Marlene Dietrich, see some truly amazing artists’ books, and you’ll be privy to knowledge of my newest celebrity crush. (I’d describe him as a minor celebrity who could probably wear a tux as handsomely as Ms. Dietrich.) Haden the Convivio Shop Cat makes an unexpected appearance, too. Think of this broadcast of Book Arts 101 as my sweet little something to you––one that is perhaps a little savory and most definitely not terribly sweet. But just a little sweet. Just because.

The tradition of giving sweet little somethings on Valentine’s Day goes back a long long time. The day is named for a saint, even though we rarely use that “saintly” descriptor nowadays, but there is no real connection between St. Valentine and these gifts. There have been two St. Valentines in history, and no one is quite sure which of the two is celebrated today. Our celebration, as it’s evolved through the centuries, is most likely a combination of them both. There was a Roman priest named Valentine who was martyred on February 14, 269, for giving aid to persecuted Christians before becoming a Christian himself, but there was another Christian martyr named Valentine who scratched a message on the wall of his prison cell before his death. The message was to his beloved, and he signed it “Your Valentine,” and perhaps this is where the romance of Valentine’s Day comes in.

In country lore, the day itself has long been considered the day that birds choose their mates for the year. Our old reliable Book of Days poet Robert Herrick alludes to this belief in this poem from 1648:

Oft have I heard both youths and virgins say
Birds choose their mates and couple, too, today
But by their flight I never can divine
When I shall couple with my Valentine.

Ah, but already we’re getting sappy. See! I told you: it’s impossible to avoid. Roll your eyes if you must, then just give in. You may as well make the best of it.

Image: Marlene Dietrich in the 1930 film Morocco.


8 thoughts on “You Intoxicate My Soul with Your Eyes

  1. Dixie says:

    What an unexpected Valentine’s Day surprise! I’ll be watching your Book Arts 101 video after I finish my chores. It’s a good day to be inside by the fire, so I’ll make a second pot of coffee, warm up a muffin, and enjoy your presentation. Thank you!

  2. Dee says:

    Thank you! I enjoyed watching your video this morning.
    I especially enjoyed seeing the pop up books. My late husband, Jerry, was a talented bookbinder and we owned a book bindery. It’s costly to rebind books. Most people won’t bother to have it done, unless the book is rare, it is valuable or it is an especially beloved book. Rebinding a pop up book is very detailed, difficult work. Children’s pop up books often arrived in pieces and what a puzzle it was to put them back together. We enjoyed doing the work and especially liked seeing the reactions we saw when we returned the finished books.
    I enjoyed these memories this morning, what a good thing to do on Valentine’s Day!

    • John Cutrone says:

      How sweet, Dee. I didn’t know this book connection about you. That conservation and rebinding is a task indeed. I’ve done just a bit of it, in grad school. It requires great patience, which I can rarely find these days. Maybe when I’m older. We have a stack of historic pop-ups at the Jaffe that require repairs and unfortunately no conservator on staff. Here at home, I really need to rebind my two volumes of the Chambers Bros. Book of Days.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the broadcast!

  3. Thanks for including “Little Red” among these wonderful Valentine’s offerings, John. I’ve posted a link to your video from my FaceBook page. The offerings from Convivio Bookworks and the Jaffe Center are so helpful in these difficult times. Keep them coming!

  4. Guy Icangelo says:

    Needed this today!!! A beautiful sentiment –

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