Friday, April 12, 2013

Plat, Plot, Survey, Chart

A hand-drawn map of Meriden.
Meriden, New Hampshire
Who doesn’t love a map? There is something about the ability to see objects laid out in relationship to each other; that broad overview of things we normally only see from our grounded vantage point necessitated by laws of gravity. Even in an age when you can view the world from satellite in photographic reality, old maps can still amaze. They give us insight into a previous world, roads that no longer exist, buildings that have moved. So it is with these hand-drawn maps by Dr. Elias Frost of Meriden, New Hampshire.

A hand-drawn map of Uxbridge.
Uxbridge, Massachusetts
Frost, who was born in Milford, Massachusetts and later moved to Uxbridge and then to Meriden, drew a series of maps, from memory, of each of the towns he lived in as part of his manuscript titled the Chronicle of the Frost Family. It is hard not to be drawn into these maps with their careful, folk-art renderings of the buildings accompanied by notes about changes, inhabitants or moments in his life related to a particular place. Relationships and scale can tell us other things about the creator. For instance, it is clear that the church in Meriden was a large and important part of Dr. Frost’s life since it dwarfs the structures around it.

To enjoy Dr. Frost’s maps in person, or read the chronicle of his family, ask for: Rauner Codex: 853310.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Getting Back to Knopf

A typed letter.
Imagine establishing yourself in business in rural Vermont as a commercial printer dedicated to impeccable design and the craft of book making and getting a letter like this. Alfred Knopf, at the time the most distinguished publisher in America, and a man who revolutionized the look and feel of trade books, personally taking the time to scold you for failing to follow through after a meeting with his production manager.  But Roderick "Rocky" Stinehour '50, managed to make the most of the situation. His reply convinced Knopf to send a job his way.

It is always a bit of a shock to learn about a small company obsessive over a pursuit that seems like something out of the past—a craftsperson's obsession—that is able to turn a profit and keep up to forty people gainfully employed at any given time. Stinehour Press evolved out of a small commercial printing operation that served a community. After Rocky's introduction to printing he came to Dartmouth and trained in design. His great contribution was an unfailing belief that good design and attention to detail could be done economically and that good design did not need to be sacrificed for profit. Alfred Knopf had expressed a similar idea years earlier, when he said that a well-printed and well-designed book could be produced almost as inexpensively as most commercial books. The Stinehour Press carried that theory through five decades of quality printing and design including this work for Knopf.

A black and white photograph of a small group of people.
To learn more about Rocky and his legacy, come hear David Godine '66, on Thursday, April 11 at 4:00 in Baker Library.  There is also an exhibit in the Baker Library Main Hall, Designed and Printed at Stinehour Press, that is on display through May 31st.