on the Sublime
An Avian Alphabet
A co-publication of Barbarian Press & Sperling Printshop
A Flock of Poems on Birds by 15 Canadian Poets, selected by Susan McCaslin,
Early in 2023 we were approached by woodcut artist Edith Krause and poet Susan McCaslin with a ready-made book project in hand for which they needed a printer. It had been many years since we had printed a book for another publisher, and it was a practice we had not planned to renew – especially since we had a considerable list of our own book projects in various stages of planning or production. However, we were struck at once by Edith’s delightful woodcuts of birds, and it seemed to us that the project deserved to be encouraged. We were deeply engrossed in work on Bordering on the Sublime, but Apollonia felt she could find the time to print the book, and Crispin and Jan were able to take a short break from their work to help with initial planning. Crispin consulted on the design of the book (choosing the typeface, devising a page layout, setting a title page, and planning a binding) and Jan and Apollonia devised the imposition of the pages and subsequent details of placement and colour. Jan and Apollonia, Edith and Susan sorted out the logistics of acquiring materials and established the nature of the collaboration, and work began.
The book provides a diverting anthology of poems about birds by sixteen contemporary Canadian poets, some of them well established figures, such as Lorna Crozier, Susan McCaslin, Harold Rhenish, and Bill Richardson, and others younger emerging poets. The result is a rich cross-section ranging from the lyrical to the satirical, the humorous to the elegiac. Edith Krause provides an introduction to the project itself; ornithologist Rob Butler, a thoughtful ecological preface; and wildlife biologist Phil Henderson, a short reflection on the relationship between the poems and the birds in the book.
Since we had no part in commissioning or selecting the poems that form the text we were not prepared to be its sole publishers, but the collaboration model we agreed on allowed the book to be produced as a co-publication. Edith’s 26 woodcuts of birds, each representing a letter of the alphabet, provided the core of the project. In addition she created four further woodcuts to accompany the three prefatory essays and an extra poem, and provided a title page block, a selection of woodcut feathers for the endpapers, and a press device.
The poems and other texts were handset by Apollonia, with help from Kirsten Way and Lea Sanchez Milde, while the lion’s share of the presswork, comprising all the poems and the prose elements, was done by Apollonia. Jan printed the preliminary pages and the second colour title lines.
We decided that we would make a departure with the binding of An Avian Alphabet, and imposed the texts and images so that the pages could be French-folded (i.e. with the fold at the foredge), then stabbed (that is, drilled) and laced into the covers with waxed coloured linen cord in an exposed sewing, and slipcased. A further image of a raven in a signed and numbered edition is included in a folder with the book.
The creation of this project has been a happy partnership, and we believe it will give much pleasure to those who acquire it.
SINGLE STATE: 110 copies. 10 by 6 7/8 inches [254 by 175mm]. 78pp. Text hand-set in Joanna roman and italic and printed in black and blue on Hahnemühle Biblio mouldmade. 30 woodcuts printed from the blocks. The pages are French-folded, stabbed, and laced with waxed linen cord into wraps of Colorplan New Blue cover. Slipcased with a folder containing an editioned proof of a woodcut, signed & numbered by Edith Krause.
PLEASE NOTE: Subscribers to the press are not required to purchase An Avian Alphabet as a condition of fulfilling their subscriptions – but are of course encouraged to do so!
Visit our Ordering page
to place an order for this title.