Friday, July 30

Checkerboard Jewish New Year Cards!

Hello and happy Friday folks, today I wanted to remind you that eInvite is offering free printed return addresses on all Checkerboard Jewish New Year Cards. This promotion is currently running until the second of August but will be extended through to the 16th! Woohoo.

Of all of the beautiful Jewish New Year designs that Checkerboard has to offer, these are just a few of my favorites. If you would like to see the full selection, be sure to check them out here! There are plenty of wonderful designs to choose from…so, enjoy and happy shopping!

Monday, July 26

Nautical Inspiration

I love Erin's post on anchors and nautical inspiration! Elle Decor's recent feature on nautical interiors and accessories tempted me to post more on this fresh and relaxed style.

~ images from Elle Decor
~ invitation by Checkerboard on

Monday, July 19

Renaissance Paper Mills

There are a handful of paper manufacturers in the western world that have a history dating to the Renaissance. A manufacturer that has lasted for centuries has a rich history and culture that is intrinsic to their paper-making. It's incredible to think that some of these mills predate the western development of the moveable type press, in 1436.

Two in particular are Cartiere Magnani and Richard de Bas. Cartiere Magnani began production in 1404. Moulin Richard de Bas began in the 15th century as well. Cartiere Magnani still offers mould-made paper amongst its wide portfolio, while Richard de Bas makes paper, in mould, by hand, at a rate of only 200 sheets per day.

Both houses enjoy a fantastic history of use. Moulin Richard de Bas was used for the Constitution of the 5th French Republic in 1958. They have also made the papers for the issuance of the degrees of the Nobel Prize. Cartiere Magnani provided paper to Picasso and was the paper of choice for Napleon's wedding invitations.

So, what makes these papers so valuable that they would be used for the most extraordinary events of western culture? Their history, of course, contributes to their desirability. However, I think that what makes them truly luxurious is that they are often made from cotton, and mould-made, meaning that the paper slurry is dried by hand in a sheet mold, rather than in a long conveyor in web (a long roll of paper stretching from slurry to the dried product). Some of the de Bas papers have floral inclusions (floral material mixed into the cotton). Both mills produce sheets that have four deckled edges (a "deckled edge" is the unfinished edge that is a result and proof of a hand-laid paper, either in a mould or loose on a screen).

In the end, however, I believe that their desirability is tied to their unique manufacture. These paper stocks look and feel like nothing else. Their stability is exceptional. They are anything but ordinary.

So, what motivated me to mention this? Recent use of one of my own favorite manufacturers, a bit more current at a mere 400 years old, rather than 600 years, Hahnemühle. After looking at the extraordinary texture and quality, I felt compelled to look at some of the more ancient stocks, and all of this has inspired me not just to pass it along to you, but to undertake making my own hand-laid stock. So look forward, hopefully, to a post in the near future where we'll make paper ourselves!

Sunday, July 11

The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts - 1648

Ryan's post about the printing of the Declaration piqued my memory about printing and ancient (by American commonwealth government’ standards) texts. As a result, I’ve written an article about a book I recently picked up, an effort that required quite a bit of research. We hope you enjoy it.

Two weeks ago, in one of my favorite rare and used book stores, I happened across a reprint of The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts from 1648. The reprint was set in the best possible reproduction of the original typeface and retained the grammar, spelling, and ligatures. More importantly, this book codified the first set of rights in New England and served as a foundation for all future U.S. law. Some of the content taken verbatim from the Liberties exists to this day, like the oath taken before giving evidence at trial, “I solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.”

The content is fascinating; colonial Massachusetts was a strict and harsh place. The "Capital Laws" were numerous and you could be executed for just about any offense you can imagine, no matter how frivolous (by today's standards). I knew very little of publishing in that period, nor did I know anything of the book’s own history.

Cover of the Laws and Liberties, Stinehour Edition

The edition of my book was printed by Stinehour Press, in Vermont, on Finch Vanilla Opaque Text, using a redrawn version of Caslon to come close to the original Leyden Roman style. Sadly, Stinehour Press, a well-known artisan printer has since gone out of business. The book is a beautiful reproduction. The history of the original text is far more complex.

The Massachusetts colony, according to some reports, only had about four printers in the 17th century and even this is not clear. The last remaining intact copy of the Liberties was purchased in 1911 by Henry E. Huntington whose library was responsible for providing the original to the Harvard University Press for its facsimile publication in 1929.

The original edition was published during a fascinating time for print and the early European immigration to the Americas. Before we go on, we must take note of the technology and migratory timelines involved in our story. Our book, The Lauus and Libertyes of Massachusetts, was printed in 1648. The Mayflower had arrived only twenty eight years earlier, in 1620. Shakespeare had died a mere four years before that, in 1616. The printing press had been mechanized by Joannes Gutenberg two hundred years earlier. The American Revolution would not occur for another one hundred twenty seven years.

Much has been been written about the difficulties of life in the early Massachusetts Bay Colony, a history of hardship that is responsible for the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Goods brought to the colonies used precious cargo space on the small ships that endured a treacherous journey across the violent and fickle Atlantic ocean. In the first year of settlement, nearly half the colonists died. This new wilderness spurned many myths and popularized the adventures of the pilgrims in England, particularly through the publication of a pamphlet called Mourt’s Relation.

Frontispiece of Mourt's Relation, via

It was in this environment that a minister, the Rev. Joseph Glover, from Surrey, decided to leave his post in England and embark with his family on a journey to the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Unfortunately for the Reverend, the journey had grown no less dangerous in the two decades since the original settlement, and in attempting to cross the ocean in 1638, he fell ill and died. In the histories written by his family, he brought along with him, besides his family, a printing press intended for Harvard College in Cambridge, Stephen Daye whom was a “printer” and three servants who were bound to work the press. This press was destined to be the first printing press in America.

The Cambridge Press was established in 1639, using the “Daye Press,” the press operated by Stephen Daye thanks to the shipping of the (then deceased) Rev. Glover. Our story becomes more curious as Stephen Daye was not a particularly good press superintendent, though he was said to be a descendant of the typographer John Day. His spelling, punctuation, and typography were generally poor. His first work, the Freeman’s Oath, was purportedly less than impressive as a work of art, but served as the foundation for the entire history of American printing. Unfortunately, that original broadsheet, printed in 1639, has long been lost to recorded history (though the oath remains).

This brings us to three questions: who published The Lauus and Libertyes of Massachusetts, who printed it, and what press was it printed on?

Records indicate that given the timeline, production in 1647 for the Cambridge press was done by Samuel Green, under the authority of Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard University (then Harvard College). The Daye press, the one established by Daye in honor of Rev. Glover, was apparently still the only press in use. So, we can answer the three questions definitively but one curiousity remains: what did the Daye press actually look like? The Laws and Liberties are set with a complex number of glyphs, strange ligatures, and tildes that dot the text, as do beautiful scrollwork and rules. The collection of type was clearly sophisticated.

The "Capital Laws" Section of the Liberties

According to a citation of the Cambridge Historical Society, this is an image of the press itself:

Image of the Daye Press, attributed to the Cambridge Historical Society

It’s hard to imagine the experience that these individuals undertook in the name of print. The colonies were difficult frontier to trespass, a place where no luxury was permitted. It is in this place, with no more than 2000 colonists, that the foundations of the modern press and the world of publication were poured. Rev. Glover died in his attempt to ferry a press to the new world, his debtor Stephen Daye carried forth the press and tradition without him, and under the authority of the General Court of Massachusetts, the first set of rights were published in New England.

Through time these ideals and documents were carried and in 2010, three hundred sixty two years after its publication, I bought a beautifully printed edition of The Laws and Liberties of Massachusetts for ten dollars in a used bookstore. If this doesn’t underscore the legacy of print and the fundamentals of communication in America, nothing does. As book publishing and print wane in our new digital age, it will be easy to forget the centuries of history, blood, and ink that make up our very social fabric. At the least, the next time I use my iPhone, I’ll think of Stephen Daye and Rev. Glover, without whom our modern communication conveniences might never have existed.

Saturday, July 3

The Printed Declaration

With July 4 just a day away, I thought I’d also present some Independence Day musings. While the fourth has long been about gathering friends and family for barbecues and festive parades, as you know the holiday commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Visually speaking, I think most folks are familiar with the original, hand-penned version of the document, as represented in the engraved facsimile in the lowest layer of the image above.

A wonderful read is available from the National Archives website, entitled “The Declaration of Independence: A History.”

Through this essay I was intrigued to learn that the document’s successful dissemination was not only due to its revolutionary ideas, but thanks to the craft of two American printers whose efforts assured its propagation.

The first of these printers was John Dunlap of Philadelphia. From the National Archives essay:

“Although Congress had adopted the Declaration submitted by the Committee of Five, the committee's task was not yet completed. Congress had also directed that the committee supervise the printing of the adopted document. The first printed copies of the Declaration of Independence were turned out from the shop of John Dunlap, official printer to the Congress. After the Declaration had been adopted, the committee took to Dunlap the manuscript document, possibly Jefferson's 'fair copy' of his rough draft. On the morning of July 5, copies were dispatched by members of Congress to various assemblies, conventions, and committees of safety as well as to the commanders of Continental troops. Also on July 5, a copy of the printed version of the approved Declaration was inserted into the 'rough journal' of the Continental Congress for July 4. The text was followed by the words 'Signed by Order and in Behalf of the Congress, John Hancock, President. Attest. Charles Thomson, Secretary.' It is not known how many copies John Dunlap printed on his busy night of July 4. There are 26 copies known to exist of what is commonly referred to as "the Dunlap broadside.”

The second printer of the Declaration was Mary Katherine Goddard from Baltimore. Again, from the National Archives Essay:

“On January 18, 1777, while the Declaration was still in Baltimore, Congress, bolstered by military successes at Trenton and Princeton, ordered the second official printing of the document. The July 4 printing had included only the names of John Hancock and Charles Thomson, and even though the first printing had been promptly circulated to the states, the names of subsequent signers were kept secret for a time because of fear of British reprisals. By its order of January 18, however, Congress required that 'an authentic copy of the Declaration of Independency, with the names of the members of Congress subscribing to the same, be sent to each of the United States, and that they be desired to have the same put upon record.' The "authentic copy" was duly printed, complete with signers' names, by Mary Katherine Goddard in Baltimore.”

I highly recommend you take a look at the various versions of the Declaration, both for their historical value, but also for their value as urgently produced typographic artifacts; they each have their own aesthetic character.

Image of the original copy of the Declaration sourced from:
The Charters of Freedom (digital exhibit) at the National Archives

The Dunlap Image sourced from:
The Digital collection of the Yale University Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library:

Goddard Broadside image from:
Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 1

Unveiled by Checkerboard: Solstice

{images: boutonnieres, cute couple, bouquet, flower girl by michele m. waite photography, cake: something sweet by michelle, carpathian mountains by michelle may}

This invitation suite sneak peak, called Solstice by Checkerboard features an embossed folder and rich ribbon presented in a luxury Swiss Flap Envelope. The liner, called Aeronautica is imported from Italy, and features antique sketches of old world hot air balloons. It was made in a mill that was built in the 1400's outside of Florence. There is actually a town in Italy named Montisi, known for hot air ballooning.

All items from Unveiled by Checkerboard are coming soon...stay tuned!