Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion

I have an old dictionary that I found in the basement of a house I once owned. The book sat packed away by a previous owner, at the back of what had once been the coal room of the house. Being of curious mind and not especially wanting to live with some one's left over junk, I took it upon myself to clean out the space; sorting through boxes of old letters, canceled checks, candles still in their yellowed, cellophane sleeves, a stack of old greeting cards, carefully torn so that only their fronts remained, and boxes of books. Books with great titles such as 'The Dictionary of Poisons'. {which now sits on my coffee table} , 'Sex & Marriage' {which sits on a book shelf in my bedroom, of course} and "A Child's Canadian Alphabet" - which is another post in itself.
Among the books was the 'Webster's New Standard Dictionary', with a 1911 copyright. It's yellowed pages,with their marbled edges, is fragile and well used. The broken spine holds the dark and mildewed cover together by tenuous threads; however within the battered cover, is a collection of gorgeous, fine-line engravings that are scientific and naive in a curious but visually compelling way.
When I first discovered this film, of John M. Carrera's story, I was awestruck that someone else {and it seems a lot of 'someone else's' } was drawn to these Victorian artifacts. The following film is an incredible documentary based on Carrera's story of creating a limited amount of, fine press editions, of The Pictorial Webster's Dictionary. The final product, complete with gold leaf engraving and hand sewn spines, is
if anything, an incredible look at the art of book making - it's mind blowing.

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.

Fortunately, Chronicle books is selling an affordable version of the effort at a mere $35.00
In celebration of the book's release, Chronicle books is giving away a fine press edition of the book. Enter to win here.


Sparkie said...

Wow. That video was something! That dictionary looks familiar - I must have grown up with a later version. The pictures were fascinating and it was all I could do not to cut them out. I didn't, and that well-used book is still kicking around here somewhere - unfortunately a victim of the mixed blessing of the internet. I'm going to peek at this book next time I'm in Chronicle Books.

Jennie Horn said...

just entered the contest! i'm sure i'll get lots of spam now! the people in that old house sound pretty cool.

susan said so said...

I love old books, too - I visited THE most amazing used bookshop in Inverness, Scotland this summer. Check out this post:


It was incredible. I could have spent several days there, if the Highlands hadn't been calling...

Thanks for the link to the contest!



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