I have long loved the small oddities of the publishing world: posters for books, pamphlets, broadsides — ephemera, mostly, though to the collector something much more than that. It’s an interest I share with my friend Robin Sloan, whose Year of the Meteor project has him perpetrating devilish experiments with small fictions and a Risograph. Samuel Pepys, the great English diarist and book collector, was greatly, one might say obsessively, fascinated with such tiny things, especially ballads, usually printed as broadsides.
See a larger image of that passionate defense of top-knots here.
Much of Pepys’s collection may now be found in the Pepys Library of his alma mater, Magdalene College, Cambridge, though in his lifetime he never wanted his collection to be made public. He disdained the “Extensive, Pompous” libraries of the rich and powerful, and said that his own library was meant “for the SELF-ENTERTAINMENT onely of a solitary, unconfined ENQUIRER into BOOKS.”
Apropos of nothing, perhaps, there is another library at Magdalene, the Old Library, which looks like this:
Surely Pepys would have felt at home there.
My friends Jeremy Botts and Richard Gibson, proprietors of Manibus Press in Wheaton, Illinois, have recently made themselves custodians of this old tradition of small-scale printing. I am a devoted admirer of the sermons of the Rev. Canon Jessica Martin, and, remembering that there was once a great tradition in England of printing noteworthy sermons as pamphlets, I asked Jeremy and Rick if they might consider resurrecting that practice. And here’s the result:
Is that not glorious? Alas for you all, this pamphlet is not for sale. But someday, perhaps....