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James (Jim) Arthur Rainer, May 19, 1932 – February 2, 2018

Everyone in The Alcuin Society feels a great sense of loss over the passing of an exceptional leader and an even more exceptional friend in the person of Jim Rainer who served as the Society’s chairperson for ten years. We plan to publish a series of memories in a future issue of Amphora but wanted to share the obituary prepared by members of his family with members of the Society.

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Old movie posters

Early movie theaters had to design and produce their own advertising and promotion. All they got from Hollywood was the films themselves. These posters from two theaters in Haverhill, Massachusetts are among the better examples of what was done in those days (the late 20s and early 30s) by local artists and printers. Probably these were done by a local sign painter whose main business was painting shop signs and decorating trucks. Only a sign painter would have all the type styles shown on these posters at his disposal, as they are similar to those found in books of the time that were used by sign painters. These posters are excellent examples of a type of 1930s graphic design that introduced the public to the earliest “talking” pictures. And what pictures—what stars! Continue Reading…

Howard Greaves, 1941 – 2018

It is with great sadness that we learned that Howard Greaves died January 23, 2018. Howard had a talent for bringing people together, a generosity of spirit that brought so much to our community, and enthusiasm that enriched the book arts in Canada.

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Notgeld

Out of the darkest days in Germany during World War I came NOTGELD, the bright, utterly charming and exquisite accomplishment of German graphic art that will never be seen again. The days were indeed dark, as the Allies had blockaded Germany and vital materièl was in short supply—especially silver, nickel, and copper used to mint coins. Being in such short supply, German towns, cities, and states soon started issuing paper notes to replace the small denominations usually found in metal coinage.

Since “Notgeld” means Emergency Money, it was a singularly apt term and the paper notes proliferated from 1915 to1922 until 63,000 different notes had been issued by 3,600 sources. In the end, notes were produced by companies, steamship lines, shopkeepers, and even Prisoner-of-War camps. Continue Reading…

Paper in the Making: MARLENE CHAN investigates a proud family tradition at Montreal’s Papeterie Saint-Armand, steps from the historic Lachine Canal.

This article was published in Amphora no. 173, Summer 2016. See a scanned copy of the printed version here.

A HEAVY METAL door painted bright yellow marks the entrance to La Papeterie Saint-Armand, the legendary Montreal paper mill that David Carruthers launched in 1979. Situated in the heart of what was one of Canada’s primary manufacturing centres from the mid-19th century until the end of the Second World War, the mill faces rue Saint-Patrick and the historic Lachine Canal.

Opened in 1825, the canal linked the Old Port of Montreal with Lake Saint Louis and played a critical role in the industrial development of this part of Montreal. It was an essential link in the network that allowed ships to make their way to the heart of the continent before 1959, when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened. The rapids that made locks necessary for the passage of ships also provided a source of hydraulic power for local factories, including the Dominion Oil Cloth & Linoleum Co.—premises where Saint-Armand now occupies 15,000 square feet. Continue Reading…

Railroad postage stamps

I started collecting model trains in the early 1970s in Montreal, and became a dedicated train buff from then on. Subsequently I amassed a goodly collection of Canadian, American, British and French locomotives and rolling stock, mostly steam but some diesel. So when I started collecting postage stamps in New Haven , it was natural that I should include a special collection of the many stamps covering railroads. I was totally surprised to find so many currently being published by post offices around the world—many more than those on ships and airplanes. Which just goes to prove that trains still hold a special place in the hearts of mankind. Indeed, so special that they are having a resurgence of building all new lines as a sign of “progress.” And in Western countries there are a rash of short-run scenic railroads run by railroad buffs using equipment they have taken great pains to restore. Terry and I even got a book together about the ones in North America and had it published in New York by E.P. Dutton. Continue Reading…

Bernard Berenson

Working in Italy with the highly respected connoisseur of Florentine paintings and drawings, Bernard Berenson, immediately after Oxford (an ambition he had held since his high-school days at Winchester), provided the powerful springboard for Kenneth Clark’s astonishingly rapid career-path through the art world of the U.K. from the 20s to the 70s. Continue Reading…

Playing cards

Although playing cards were invented in 9th century China, with the idea spreading throughout the world to Persia, Egypt and India, it was not until the invention of printing that the playing cards we know could be possible. They were printed from woodcuts and coloured by hand at first, and later the colours were stenciled on before colour printing took over. The idea of four “suits” was invented in Europe, along with “Kings” and other royalty by the late 14th century, so that placks of 56 cards contained a King, Queen, Knight and Knave in each suit. The King was the highest value card until the late 15th century, when the “Ace” replaced it, being adapted from Dicing. Cards with their value printed in the corners grew from 1700 on and in English packs the “Knave” became known as the “Jack.” Then it was found that square corners became tattered and could give away particular cards, so round corners were adapted, along with backs printed with designs to hide wear and tear and to discourage tell-tale writing on the backs. Jokers are a recent addition to a pack of cards and have no standardized appearance, so each publisher tends to design them separately from the other cards, adding their own variety of illustration, so that Jokers have themselves turned into collectible items. Continue Reading…

In memoriam — Geoffrey Spencer

Editor’s note: this memorial for Geoffrey Spenser was created in March 2015 when he passed away. Geoffrey was survived by his wife Elizabeth. Continue Reading…