Setting Type as Matters Unfold

For those interested in things Anglican, this past week and a half has been without much in the way of new information regarding the unfolding events in the life of the Anglican Communion. This has not prevented all sorts of speculation on what is up with the upcoming South to South Encounter in Egypt later in October, the meaning (or lack of it) concerning the people asked to serve on the Special Commission on The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion and the continuing issues of women bishops in the Church of England.

Still, it is a waiting time. The hunt is on, but no signs yet of a sighting of the fox yet. David Virtue sliced and diced the selection of persons for the Special Committee, and I now have a “revisionist” badge. I find it little consolation, since I don’t consider myself a liberal, revisionist, or any such thing. I did find his article on the prospects of a split interesting, however, if for no other reason than it indicated his own sense of this being a waiting time.

So what shall we do while we wait?

I have been involved in a strangely satisfying spiritual exercise these past few weeks. Over the years I have taken more and more to writing – first poetry, then essays, then a book, now many essays on my blog, in the Witness, and other venues. Words pour forth, almost too easily. As a miserable speller I delight in the computer and its ability to correct me (without attending guilt for being just plain stupid). As someone who thinks and writes at the same time I cannot help but feel that the computer has made the typewriter a second class citizen. All in all the technology has made the words flow…some of them worthwhile, some of them less worthy. But there they are, EASY.

So I got to thinking, what if actually publishing the words was labor intensive, as it was in earlier times when the letter press required setting the type and printing both? Would my words be chosen with more care? Would I use fewer of them? Would I seek out people who would edit with the ideal of brevity? Would it help in the poetry, that strange language where words are most loved by respecting their rare sense?

In answer to this I began to acquire the elements of a letter press shop: a small Kelsey letter press (5x8), a larger Golding Pearl Press (7x11), about twenty drawers of type, various pieces of equipment, inks, rollers, etc. Pictured here is the Golding Pearl Press in the forground and the Kelsey Press in the background.

Now, in one small part of my writing world, and with great care, I am beginning to pull together the plan to publish a short volume of poetry (80 pages). With any luck it will be finished by Easter.

In all the work of these days to understand just what is happening to the Anglican Communion it is perhaps useful to set the hands to work at a task that is labor intensive, but labor loved. It is a reminder that the fabric of our faith is not found in the strange Communion among Provinces, but in the simple communion of words on a page, communicated one to another; words often almost secrete since they go out to so few. Still, they are words most precious, since they are the labor of hands that mind their p’s and q’s, not to mention their u’s and n’s.

All the other issues fall by the wayside in the run up to a 150 page run of the cover of the book, “Voices From Another Room.”

Some weeks are mostly silent, as we wait and set type.


  1. obadiahslope5/10/05 6:54 AM

    i must ask: what fonts. My guesses are caslon or garamond.

  2. Wait... So you're not a liberal? Then I must ask, what are you?

  3. Obadiaslope: the fonts I have are Times Roman, something like Copperplate Gold Bold, a variation on Times Roman which may be Garamond. And one or two I am not sure of and wont be able to understand clearly until I can print out something using type from that font. The drawers are really a mess!

    J-tron: On a good day I hope I am a visionary - by which I don't mean someone who sees the "real" future, but rather one who imagines futures and then thinks about what the Lord might think of those futures. So, for example, I try to "vision" belonging to a church without companions worldwide and then imagine how that would sit with our Lord. (Not very well, I suspect.) In my better moments I also think of myself not as a revisionist, but a visionist... that is one whose heart is set on the goal of the pilgrim's way... life lived in the full presence of God.

    The trouble with liberal is I don't think it fits too well with some of my sensibilities of life in the Church. Sometimes I am very conserving, sometimes wanting to be very freeing. I am sometimes distrustful of people who think themselve progressive, in that often I think what is needed is not progress but a "turning upside down."

    Anyway, the titles revisionist and liberal are not too useful to me.

    In some moments I kind of wish I was identified as radical, but that is not probably to be if for no other reason than it is prideful to think that we are really doing anything but living out who we really are.

    All of this is more than you ever wanted to know, I suspect!

  4. I seems to me that the speed of access we now enjoy with the internet has made the dissemination of opinion a force with which we must reckon. Before, it took quite a bit to get your thoughts published on paper, which had a way of filtering not only the content but also the sheer volume. Add to that having to ship published works, their cost, etc., and the exchange of ideas and opinions took a rather longer time than now. In some ways, I'm not so sure that the time lag between either an event and its reportage or an opinion about a person or their ideas expressed in print was not actually a much better thing. Now, whatever comes to mind, no matter how crazy, mean, not-well thought out, incoherent, etc., gets spewed out onto the world. I am all for the dissemination of ideas, and the instant access to information that we now enjoy. I also have to fast from reading blogs and news sources regularly. Otherwise, I sometimes find myself getting hyped-up, ratcheted-up...especially as concerns our beloved Church and the crisis in which we now find ourselves. I wonder how much of the ill-will and hardened positions can we trace/attribute to some of these dynamics?

  5. Dear Mark,
    Good luck with the "press" of things. As I have found with writing icons, these arts (though printing isn't quite so venerable, still it is hands-on) are deeply satisfying in their own way. Some of the wisdom of Benedict (ora et labora -- when labora really was labora). And don't forget that the art of binding (and loosing!) will soon come to play as well.
    All the best, dear Brother in Christ,


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