I AM SETTLED ON THE SOFA, over-sized hardcover book weighing heavy upon my lap as I wade through the massive volume.
Slowly I turn each page, studying the fonts, the colors, the graphics, the details that have me giddy as a kid flipping through the J.C. Penny or Sears Christmas catalogs.
Except I’m not wishing for something. I already have my gift, this 10 x 12-inch, one-inch thick book, this 1953 Stevens-Nelson Paper Corporation Specimens Catalogue found on the basement floor at an estate sale and immediately tucked into my arms and clamped against my chest.
I’ve never seen anything like this collected sample of fine printing and handmade, or handmade with mould machines, art paper. Ragged-edged paper that is so fine and rich feeling that I can’t stop brushing my fingers across the surfaces.
Letterpress and lithograph. Well-known designers and printers, American and foreign.
In my hands, I am holding art and history.
The program cover from Dwight Eisenhower’s installation as 13th President of Columbia University, printed on paper that can be cleaned with water or kerosene. A Picasso lithograph printed on handmade SHOGUN heavy weight paper suitable for letterpress and silkscreen. Colorful art by Fernand Leger created for the Container Corporation of America.
My favorite—a block print of trees celebrating Pine Acres Farm’s 30 years of tree farming in Hampton, Connecticut. James L. Goodwin, one of America’s first professional foresters, started the farm in 1913, eventually gifting the property to the State of Connecticut in 1964.
I rapid-clap my hands with untethered excitement.
I inhale the smells of time, wood and ink bound within the pages of this book once carted from place to place by a 1950s paper salesman from Minnesota.
A Leonardo da Vinci catalog cover and the cover of the White Swan Hotel’s wine list. Neiman-Marcus fashion awards for 1949. An illustration of George Bernard Shaw. A die-stamped Christian Dior letterhead. And so much more. All here, in this catalogue.
I wonder if I should be handling such finery, such opulence, with white gloves.
This is my kind of book, one which combines my love of the printed word with the art of printing it. I care about paper and fonts and graphics. Clean lines and simplicity.
Art flows beneath my fingertips as I turn page after page, examining the specimens once showcased by a Minnesota paper salesman.
© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling