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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

March 2015



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TGR, Gutenberg, Rubric

An Unexpected Gift

We arrived in Minneapolis on the afternoon of Sept 4, pretty tired after 1700 miles in 4 days, but still pumping adrenalin in the excitement of being at the first stop on my author tour. We went directly to my in-law’s condo and visited for an hour, picking up my sister-in-law who also just arrived in town. Then we headed for the Taylor’s where I fixed a great Umbrian pasta sauce for dinner for  7 of us and told stories about the development of The Gutenberg Rubric and repeated my tour schedule to each person. Seemed to be the first question each person asked when she arrived.

The unexpected gift, however, came while visiting with my father-in-law in his condo. Now, Bob is 94 and many of his stories begin with where he was in World War II, but this one started off with where his wife was as an administrator for the Navy handling the conclusion of war contracts. Her boss gave her a gift. Bob pulled a book that he had carefully wrapped in a couple of sandwich bags and handed it to me.

I recognized the style and era of the book immediately. If you’ve been following me for long, you might remember a post I did in April titled “The Origin of My Love Affair with Books.” In it I posted pictures of 19th century editions of poetry books that were bound in soft leather covers and thin paper. The book my father-in-law was showing me was obviously of the same era. Aucassin & Nicolete, a French love story translated by Andrew Lang, was published in this edition by Roycrofters in 1898. Roycroft Press was the self-publishing arm of Elbert Hubbard, founded in 1895. It specialized in creating these beautiful book art examples. By 1915, over 500 people worked at Roycroft producing these hand-tooled works of art. I’m fortunate to have two or three, including Hubbard’s Little Journeys in my collection.

But the real treasure of this book was on the flyleaf. The book was signed with a dedication by the famous Indiana poet James Whitcomb Riley. The pencil inscription praises Roycrofters for their chamois bindings and artistry. I haven’t been able to decipher the exact words yet, but you can click on the image at the left to see it in a much larger size. The addition of James Whitcomb Riley’s signature probably triples the value of an already prized collector item. You can read about the Roycrofters at The Webpage of the Roycrofters.

The real surprise was yet to come, however. When I had appropriately oohed and aahed over the beautiful work and borrowed a pair of readers so I could read as much of the inscription as possible and verify the date, Bob announced that it was mine. A gift that will be cherished for many years.

Seeing the book tucked in its plastic sandwich bags, however, was a severe reminder to me that works like this need some special care. As soon as I get it home, I intend to make some archival boxes for some of my rarest books so they escape any further deterioration. Several of my older bindings have been damaged by being shelved upright, crushing the soft leather edges and flattening the deckle of the pages. One of the most precious has a 50-year-old coffee cup ring on the front cover. I’d like to keep these in better condition, and I hope to share them with members of the Seattle Center for Book Arts (SCBA) in a presentation next year. SCBA is a beneficiary of the sales of The Gutenberg Rubric and I intend to lean on the talents of some of my fellow board members to help me restore and preserve these books.

Day Four Stats:

Left Jamestown, ND at 7:00 a.m.

Arrived Minneapolis, MN @12:45 p.m. (Central Time).

Miles driven today: 351

Total miles driven: 1705

Quote of the day: Sister-in-law said of the house they lived in as children which had changed hands several times in the past couple of decades: “That house is a serial divorce!”

Read the full daily log and see The Gutenberg Rubric event schedule at The Rubricant.


Gorgeous book! What a lovely gift.