All posts in book design

The School of Sophisticated Drinking (Greystone, 2015)

Reading the Alcuin Winners: The School of Sophisticated Drinking

This post is the first in an occasional series that takes a deeper look at some of our Alcuin book design award winners. I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I’ve come to depend on the Alcuin awards list as a dependable source of good books to read over the year.

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Tailored to Fit:
 On the Importance of Bespoke Ebooks

The Porcupine’s Quill has always been known for creating beautiful print books. For over forty years we have offered handsome editions of Canadian literature whose quality in design and craftsmanship harkens back to 19th-century letterpress volumes. Needless to say, the recent boom in electronic reading, with its emphasis on reflowable ebooks often hastily and imperfectly rendered, is not easily reconciled to the ethos of our press. Continue Reading…


On Gaspereau Press’ “Glenn Goluska in Toronto” by Andrew Steeves


In 2011, Glenn Goluska received the Robert R. Reid Award for his lifetime of distinguished contributions to the book arts in Canada. Sadly he died that year. It is hard to believe that it is five years since Glenn left us – that makes the Gaspereau Press publication Glenn Goluska in Toronto especially welcome. In 2011, Andrew Steeves visited Glenn and recorded him speaking about his early years as a designer and printer. One of these occasions was the afternoon of the day that Glenn was presented with the Robert R. Reid Award and medal in Montreal.

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Book design winners + graphic novelists in one big evening

On September 22 we’ll be celebrating the winners of the Alcuin Society’s Canada-wide design competition for books published in 2015 – and then hearing artists Nick Bantock, Sarah Leavitt and Johnnie Christmas discuss graphic storytelling.

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Scan 10

The Book that Saved a City

(Editor’s note: The book discussed here is Living Past of Montreal: Passe Vivant de Montreal, by R.D. Wilson and Eric McLean. Here is the original review from the Ottawa Citizen, and here are some listings for sale via AbeBooks.)

In 1963, when I came to Montreal, the historic part of the city, called “Old Montreal,” was decaying and in danger of demolition. So much so that Dick Wilson, the art director of a local pharmaceutical company, set himself the task of spending weekends drawing various buildings before they were torn down. Graham Warrington, a Vancouver friend who was living in Montreal at the time, noticed him drawing and told me about what he was doing. Continue Reading…


Book collecting: Edward Gorey’s Doubleday Anchor paperbacks


In the 1950s, the Anchor imprint began publishing sturdy pocketbooks for an American literary and academic audience, eschewing the lurid and glossy style that dominated the mass-market for subtler, matte covers that had sensitive and artistic interpretations of the texts. Well-known visual artists Leo Lionni, Ben Shahn, and Antonio Frasconi provided brilliant and distinctive graphics, but the most prolific and memorable designer on payroll was certainly Edward Gorey, whose illustrations of either exquisite loneliness or apartness, usually against expansive skyscapes, captured a magical existential moodiness then disrupted by flashes of pink and yellow detail. The uniform lettering of title, price (U.S. and then slightly higher in Canadian dollars), serial number, and publisher lends a holistic feel to the composition (how jarring when you encounter a later printing, where the price has risen and Gorey’s hand-lettering is replaced by a soul-less numeral, as in Henry Green’s Loving). Continue Reading…


World War II Front Pages

Douglas & McIntyre published a book of mine called The Front Page Story of World War II. It consisted of Vancouver newspapers I had collected during the war when I was going to Kitsilano High School. I loved the FINAL editions that came out at 4 p.m. because of their large and colourful woodtype headlines. Sometimes I would go down after school to the Sun and Province press rooms and watch them printing the “Finals” on the giant, roaring presses. The News-Herald “Final” came out in the morning and was printed on green newsprint with large headlines of the latest disasters. Continue Reading…

Bill Reid cover

The British Columbia Library Quarterly

Librarians are a civilized lot, so it was a great pleasure for me produce their quarterly journal for four years before I left Vancouver. I printed it in my basement printing shop in my home in Burnaby, and had a totally free hand with the design of both the text pages and the ad pages (including Duthie Books ads, for example). The Covers are outstanding because I got my students at the Art School, where I was teaching, to do woodcuts and linocuts for me to print on the covers. George Kuthan also contributed mightily to the covers, as can be seen by the wonderful series or wild flowers that he did for us. Continue Reading…


The Sunday Coloured Comics

The great weekly thrill of the 1930s and 40s was the coloured comics section of the weekend paper, with the unfolding of the never-ending adventures of the larger-than-life characters that inhabited them, and who became staples of our common culture. Continue Reading…