The Press & Letterfoundry of Michael & Winifred Bixler is “devoted to the craft of fine letterpress printing and traditional book typography. Our extensive collection of English Monotype matrices allows us to cast from 8- to 72-point, classic book typefaces including Bembo, Dante, Walbaum, Van Dijck, Joanna, Perpetua, Garamond, Centaur & Arrighi, Ehrhardt, Fournier, Bell, Baskerville, Poliphilus, Plantin, Gill Sans, & Univers. Work is designed, set, printed, & bound in our shop. We use Vandercook & Heidelberg cylinder presses. Fonts are cast on commission & sold by the pound.”
I met with Michael and Winifred recently at their shop in Skaneateles, NY to discuss letterpress printing, and all things Monotype. Please listen here:
On a recent visit to Bath, I was strolling along the river towards Pulteney Bridge when something jogged my memory. It looked very familiar and yet different at the same time. Naturally curious, I did some research and found that this spot has some intriguing literary connections. Built in 1770, the bridge is unusual. Designed by Robert Adam during the town’s period of Georgian splendour, the bridge was designed to link the old town with the new suburb of Bathgate. Unlike most bridges – once on it you cannot see the river! It was deliberately designed to resemble the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, and has shops across the full span on both sides. Only by going behind the bridge or looking at from the river can you appreciate the architecture.
Walking along the little alley leading up to the supermarket, you get a good view of the back of the bridge and see the shops hanging out over the river flowing sedately below. It was this scene, which was recreated by writer and illustrator James Gurnley for his Dinotopia series. Jane Austen lived near here for several months when the family rented a house at No 4 Sydney Place. She had to cross the bridge each day on her way to the shops in Milsom street, or when visiting the Abbey, Pump Room and Assembly Rooms. The former Sydney Hotel located near the bridge was the site of numerous public breakfasts and dances that Jane attended regularly. Her life on this side of the river was her favourite time in Bath, as it gave her access to the open spaces that she loved so much.
Jane would instantly recognise the scene as you cross the bridge. It has not changed much since her day. The shops quickly give way to elegant residential, Georgian buildings leading down to the Holburne Museum and the Sydney Gardens. In a letter to Cassandra, Jane wrote ‘it would be very pleasant to be near Sydney Gardens – we might go into the Labyrinth every day’. Opened to the public in May 1795, the gardens were the place to walk and be seen. The building (now known as the Holburne Museum) had a long room suitable for country dancing and where visitors could stroll in bad weather. Firework displays were a speciality. In 1799, Jane wrote to Cassendra “we did not go till nine and then were in very good time for the Fire-Works which were really beautiful and surpassing my expectations – the illuminations too were very pretty’.
The weir just below the river has a very striking design. Rebuilt in the 1970’s, it has a three tier, stepped crescent design, which creates the appearance of a continuous series of waterfalls along the entire span of the weir. It is this scene which has become familiar to film goers worldwide – yet many will not immediately recognise it.
At the end of the film Les Miserables, Javert is shown perched on a parapet desperately trying to come to terms with conflicting images of justice. He eventually commits suicide by jumping into the River Seine. When the film was shot, the spectacular weir at Pulteney Bridge was used for the scene. Cinematic techniques were used to superimpose the skyline of nineteenth century Paris behind the bridge parapet. The actual filming shot was taken from the wall on the Abbey side of the river where there is a flat, broad parapet overlooking the weir.
I met with David Mason recently to talk about his memoir The Pope’s Bookbinder. As the Biblioasis website wordsmiths have it:
“From his drug-hazy, book-happy years near the Beat Hotel in Paris and throughout his career as antiquarian book dealer, David Mason brings us a storied life. He discovers his love of literature in a bathtub at age eleven, thumbing through stacks of lurid Signet paperbacks. At fifteen he’s expelled from school. For the next decade and a half, he will work odd jobs, buck all authority, buy books more often than food, and float around Europe. He’ll help gild a volume in white morocco for Pope John XXIII. And then, at the age of 30, after returning home to Canada and apprenticing with Joseph Patrick Books, David Mason will find his calling.”
“David Mason boldly campaigns for what he feels is the moral duty of the antiquarian trade: to preserve the history and traditions of all nations, and to assert without compromise that such histories have value. The Pope’s Bookbinder is an engrossing memoir by a giant in the book trade—whose infectious enthusiasm, human insight, commercial shrewdness, and deadpan humour will delight bibliophiles for decades to come. “
View all attractions, events and activities in Pittsburgh on Literary Tourist’s city listings map here
View of downtown Pittsburgh from Sheraton Hotel. 1). To start the day off – Sunday in this case – visit the Harris Grill for a delicious $15 brunch – on the patio, or at the bar -your choice (included: a Bloody Mary, Mimosa or fresh squeezed OJ).2). Make your way over to Oakland and the Caliban Book Shop.Really impressive wide selection of good, interesting books here (picked up a 1st edition of Grove Press’s All that Fall by Samuel Beckett with cover design by Roy Kuhlman [new collecting interest]) at good interesting prices. Pop into the Korean restaurant two doors down for a delicious mango bubble tea.3). Hike around the corner, via the Carnegie Museum of Art’s striking sculpture garden,to the Carnegie Library and the William R. Oliver special collections room on the third floor…but wait. It’s closed on Sundays…but don’t despair, all you need do is call ahead for an appointment during any weekday.4). On your way out, say hello to Shakespeare.5). If you have time, follow writer Michael Dittman’s advice, and head to the nearby Bloomfield neighborhood and The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore & Café, “Your friendly neighborhood radical bookstore” (it hosts readings, events, fair trade food and drinks and free wi-fi). Great place to have a read. Given the enormous impact he had on the city, might we suggest David Nasaw’s excellent biography Andrew Carnegie.6). If crime is more your thing, go to Oakmont just a short drive from downtown and the Mystery Lovers Bookstore, official bookseller to…(7). The Pittsburgh Art & Lecture series and “a destination even for non-whodunit fans, with weekly readings),8.) a huge annual Festival of Mystery that brings genre writers from around the country, and the store’s restroom, painted to look like a prison cell and graffiti’d by visiting writers.”Go for supper somewhere nearby and then check out what9). The Quantum Theatre has on offer. We took in a very intense, engaging performance of Jon Fosse’s Dream of Autumn. Listen here to the Literary Tourist interview with Karla Boos,founder of the company and one of the lead actors in this production. Chase the play with a single malt scotch and call it a night.
Matthew Tree (born December 30, 1958) is a writer in English and Catalan. He has lived in Barcelona since 1984. Apart from publishing both fiction and non-fiction, he is a contributor to various newspapers and magazines such as Catalonia Today,The Times Literary Supplement, Barcelona INK, Altaïr, El Punt Avui and L’Esguard. He has also appeared on various Catalan language radio and TV stations and is current a monthly guest on Catalunya Ràdio’s chat show L’Oracle. In 2005 and 2006 he scripted and presented two series of the infotainment programme Passatgers for TV3 (Catalan Public Television).
His most recent book, a novel in English, is entitled Snug. It’s about a small village in the Isle of Wight which finds itself under siege by Africans who have gone there for that very purpose.
I caught up with Matthew recently, on a blustery afternoon, to talk about cool literary things to do while in Barcelona. Please listen here:
George Tremlett (born 1939)is an English author, bookshop owner, and former politician
According to his own biography, after leaving King Edward VI School Stratford-upon-Avon, he worked for the Coventry Evening Telegraph from 1957 onward as a TV columnist and pop music reviewer. In 1961 he became a freelance rock journalist and in the 1970s wrote a series of paperbacks on pop stars, including The David Bowie Story, the first bio of the musician.
He is a biographer of Dylan Thomas and his wife Caitlin.He interviewed Caitlin at her home in Catania for the book Caitlin: Life with Dylan Thomas.He has argued that Thomas was “the first rock star.” In 1997 he published a book with James Nashold, The Death of Dylan Thomas, which claimed that Thomas’ death was not due to alcohol poisoning but to a mistake by Thomas’ physician in prescribing cortisone, morphine and benzedrine when Thomas was actually in a diabetic coma.
Tremlett runs the Corran Bookshop in Laugharne, Wales “a shrine to the poet”; has since 1982. The shop offers tourist information…and it’s where I met George late last year to have this conversation:
Please buy books listed above via the links in this post to help The Biblio File continue to do the work it does.
Wales is celebrating the centenary of the birth of famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas in 2014. Annie Haden is an experienced tourist guide and a specialist in the life of Thomas. With over 20 years experience in the tourism sector, Anne uses an easy listening story-telling technique which keeps her tours both interesting and informative.
I caught up with Annie late last year at Morgans hotel in Swansea, Thomas’s home town, to talk about poet and place. Please listen here:
Fancy walking in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes? Here are five London locations where you can do this! Go for a drink in the Sherlock Holmes pub or at the Criterion Bar; roam along Baker Street, The Strand or take a boat ride along the Thames.
Sherlock Holmes dominates this street. Leaving the tube station, a bronze statue can be immediately seen. Further down the street is the most iconic location of all – 221B Baker Street. For years the Abbey National Building
Society existed at no 221B and a secretary was employed to answer fan letters. When the Abbey National moved its headquarters in 1990, the local authority allowed the number to be given to the Sherlock Holmes museum, which is situated between 237 & 241 Baker Street. Inside, the first floor study carefully recreates Holmes study as well as lots of items linked to Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. Interestingly, this building did not actually exist when Conan Doyle wrote the books – street numbers only went up to 100!
The banks and wharves of the River Thames are used in countless Sherlock Holmes stories. In The Sign of Four there is a dramatic chase along the river. Although the buildings have now been modernized, the river is still as dominant as it was in Victorian times. Tower Bridge (in its half built state) even featured in Robert Downey Jr’s film version of Sherlock.
The Strand, London
Apart from Baker Street, this is the street that is most associated with Sherlock Holmes. It is mentioned in 8 of the 60 stories written by Conan Doyle. Watson lived for a while in a hotel in the Strand, while Baskerville purchased new boots at a bootmakers. In Resident Patient, Holmes and Watson stroll along the Strand and Simpsons was Sherlock’s favourite restaurant. All the stories were published in The Strand magazine, and the illustration on the front of the magazine showed St Mary Le Strand Church in the distance. Just round the corner from the Strand in Wellington Street, is the Lyceum Theatre where Miss Morston, Holmes and Watson met Thaddeous Sholto in the Sign of Four. It is also where the first notable Sherlock Holmes actor – American William Gillette – played Sherlock Holmes in front of an audience which included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Writing in a Study in Scarlet, Watson recounts “I was standing at the Criterion Bar, when someone tapped me on the shoulder, and turning round I recognised young Stamford, who had been a dresser under me at Bart’s’. During the subsequent conversation, Watson hears that a man named Sherlock Holmes is looking for someone with whom to share a flat. History is made!
Sherlock Holmes Pub, Northumberland Street, London
Originally this pub was a hotel known as the Northumberland Arms. Sir Henry Baskerville stayed here when visiting London to meet Sherlock Holmes. It is also where Holmes identified a mysterious stranger in The Noble Bachelors. The name change came in 1957 following the Festival of Britain. There had been a major display of Sherlock Holmes items in the Festival, and when it ended, they were moved to the Northumberland Arms.
This from the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism:
“Literature lovers take note, Massachusetts has served as the home and inspiration for some of the country’s most beloved writers, from Jack Kerouac to Herman Melville. Today, the lives and work of those writers are commemorated in sites across the state. From Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond in Concord to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, literature comes alive in Massachusetts for bookworms of all ages.
A lesser-known attraction of the John F. Kennedy Library, the Ernest Hemingway collection housed here includes ninety percent of existing Hemingway materials, many handwritten, such as the first draft of The Sun Also Rises. It highlights over a thousand manuscript items and more than 10,000 photographs. While Hemingway and the President never met, Kennedy was a great fan of the writer, once saying, “Few Americans have had a greater impact on the emotions and attitudes of the American people than Ernest Hemingway.”
The Mary Baker Eddy Library (Boston) The Mary Baker Eddy Library honours the founder of Christian Science, a religious movement in the late 19th century. In 1908, Eddy created the Christian Science Monitor, a news organization that remains in operation today. In addition to housing the archived letters and manuscripts of Eddy, the library also boasts the Mapparium, a three-story stained-glass globe visitors can stand inside to view the world of 1935 – while experimenting with the surprising acoustics.
Make Way for Ducklings Statue (Boston) No visit to Boston is complete without a stroll through the Public Garden, and a key attraction is the Make Way for Ducklings statues, depicting a mother and her eight ducklings. The official children’s book of Massachusetts, Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, tells the story of a family of ducks living on an island in the Garden’s pond. Often dressed up for holidays or major Boston sports events, the ducklings are a classic site and perfect photo prop for any family visiting Boston. Spring visitors may even catch the annual Duckling Day Parade, a Mother’s Day tradition.
North of Boston
Walden Pond (Concord) Henry David Thoreau made Walden Pond famous when he penned Walden about his period, 1845-47, living a simple life on the banks of the pond. In addition to his writing, Thoreau is known as an early environmentalist. Visitors may take advantage of a guided tour or educational program, or simply enjoy the beauty of the birthplace of the conservation movement and National Historic Landmark.
Kerouac Park (Lowell) Located in downtown Lowell, Kerouac Park boasts a sculpture garden, inscribed with quotations from the “father of the beatnik movement” and Lowell resident, Jack Kerouac. Best known as the author of On the Road, Kerouac inspired a generation. The annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival in October includes readings, musical performances, tours, and special exhibits.
Louisa May Alcott wrote and set her beloved novel Little Women in Orchard House, her home from 1858-77. A visit to the nearly unchanged house gives visitors a peek inside the family home, as well as an introduction to the Alcott family, upon whom the fictional March family was based. The Orchard House is open year-round for guided tours, with special events happening monthly.
Cape Cod and the Islands
Edward Gorey House (Yarmouth Port) Author, illustrator, playwright, and costume designer Edward Gorey published more than 100 of his own works and illustrated numerous others. The Edward Gorey House – his home from 1979 through his death in 2000 – preserves the legacy of Gorey’s creativity and highlights his commitment to animal welfare. The museum is open April through December with new exhibits annually.
South of Boston
New Bedford Whaling Museum, Herman Melville exhibits (New Bedford) Herman Melville, born in 1819, is most remembered for his novel Moby Dick. New Bedford, once the most prolific and wealthiest whaling port, serves as a setting in the novel. The New Bedford Whaling Museum contains exhibits examining both Moby Dick and Melville himself. Additionally, the Museum’s research library, the Kendall Institute, houses the Melville Society Archive.
Bancroft Tower (Worcester) The Bancroft Tower was erected in 1900 in memory of George Bancroft, author of the 10-volume History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the tower is located in Worcester’s Salisbury Park, which boasts some of the best views of the city. The castle-like tower includes spiral staircases, fireplace chambers, stone benches, and parapets, the perfect spot for a picnic or outdoor gathering.
The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home (Lenox) Edith Wharton wrote 40 books in 40 years, including such classics as The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome. Wharton designed and built The Mount, her first real home, in 1902. Visitors can tour the house and gardens, have lunch at the Terrace Cafe, shop in the bookstore, or enjoy live music on weekend nights throughout the summer. This summer, The Mount partnered with SculptureNow to bring an exhibition of contemporary large-scale outdoor sculptures featuring 25 nationally acclaimed artists to the grounds.
The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Amherst) Best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Eric Carle has captured the imaginations of generations of young readers with his bright illustrations. At the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, visitors can explore works by Carle and other illustrators through galleries, an interactive art studio, a reading library, live events and more.
Emily Dickinson Museum, The Homestead & The Evergreens (Amherst) One of the most prolific American poets, Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst and lived there most of her life. The Emily Dickinson Museum includes the house in which she was born and is dedicated to celebrating her life and work. Guided tours of the museum are available March through December.
"I wanted to thank you for your many generous and intelligent words about my new book How Fiction Works (and other stuff)... I get great pleasure from reading your blog."
Critic, James Wood, The New Yorker.
"You can find very bad writing and sloppy impressionism in literary blogs, but also incisive, fresh, thoughtful criticism from voices unencumbered by the politics of Grub St". I would put your blog in the latter category, which is why I’m responding here… Congratulations on a very fine blog."
Scholar, Dr. Ronan McDonald.
"You ask the most brilliant, thoughtful questions, it's really a pleasure to do an interview where someone actually wants to talk about writing and literature in general."
Novelist Margot Livesey.
"The happy result of all this (the Salon des Refuses experience) from my own perspective was my discovery of the wonderful "Note Bene," which I added to my "favourites" early in the summer and which I have read - and listened to - with great pleasure ever since."
Novelist Jane Urquhart.
"I spent a bit of time last night perusing, as I often do, Nigel Beale's Nota Bene. My suggestion is that you do the same. It is truly a remarkable site."
Litblogger Frank Wilson