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Literary Broadsides from Fine Presses

The Book Arts Collection housed in the UVM Libraries’ Special Collections department includes numerous literary broadsides designed and printed by fine presses.  Broadsides are printed only on one side of a sheet, often to make announcements or proclamations but also to share poems and prose.

Although the broadsides collected in libraries are carefully stored in drawers waiting for viewers, broadsides are intended to be hung and displayed. For this exhibit, Special Collections librarians selected literary broadsides that celebrate or meditate on the natural world and our place in it to complement the exhibit of Long Trail photographs on the other side of the lobby.

Text and illustration are frequently combined on literary broadsides to create a visual representation of the text.  Some of the broadsides are the results of collaborations between artists and authors, such as “Brockport Sunflowers.” Others are commemorative, like “Wild Wool,” which celebrates John Muir’s 150th birthday. The broadside featuring Josephine Miles’ poem “Paths” was commissioned from Enid Mark at ELM Press for the Miles House at the University of California.

The limited edition broadsides are frequently finely printed using letter press on handmade paper.  Here, Walter Hamady’s mauve Shadwell rag paper is ideally suited for Diane Wakoski’s poem, “Purple Finch Song.” Galway Kinnell’s “The Geese” is printed on a paper pulp painting from the Janus Press that features what one observer has called “a goose’s-eye view of the land” for the birds migrating north up the Connecticut River valley.  For the quote from Thoreau’s essay “Walking,” Carolee Campbell employed an unconventional arrangement of the words that challenges the viewer to interact with what may be a familiar text in a new way.

The selection of broadsides in these cases include examples from notable printers and their presses, including Walter Hamady’s Perishable Press in Wisconsin, the Brighton Press and  Carolee Campbell’s Ninja Press in California, Michael McCurdy’s Penmaen Press in Massachusetts, and Claire Van Vliet’s Janus Press in northeastern Vermont.  Visit Special Collections to see additional broadsides and books from these presses and to learn more about the artists and their works.

Brockport Sunflowers

Brockport Sunflowers.  Poem by William Heyen; relief cut by Peter Schumann.  Edition of 160. Printed by Janus Press for William B. Ewert Publisher, 1986.


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