1. Sherwin Beach Press (Chicago, Illinois) :
The first table to stop me in my tracks. In particular their limited edition fine press book Poisonous Plants at Table: an artistic compilation of two pre-existing texts and an exclusive third text. It includes selections from a 1901 text called Poisonous Plants in Field and Garden by the Reverend Professor G. Henslow, along with creatively inserted party menus from a previous Poisonous Plants at Table by Dr. E. Coffin (pun intended?), that use the aforementioned poisonous plants in the serving of meals to guests.
Even stopping here, this book absolutely reflects my own dark, Edward Gorey-esque sense of humor. But then there was the exclusive third text written specifically for this book project by the author, illustrator, and book artist, Audrey Niffenegger! This book includes a new short story from Niffenegger called "Prudence: The Cautionary Tale of a Picky Eater," complete with full-color, fold-out illustrations painted by Niffenegger. My jaw dropped. I was in love.
Although I first discovered her after stumbling upon The Time Traveler's Wife (long, long before the movie came out, I assure you), I then dug a bit deeper and found her two previously published "novels in pictures:" The Three Incestuous Sisters and The Adventuress, and then later, The Night Bookmobile. I would describe those first two as also possessing that same Edward Gorey-esque sense of dark whimsy that had me captivated. They were so strange and so beautiful. Have you read them? You must.
Lucky for me, this gorgeous art book from Sherwin Beach Press was already sold out. Otherwise, I would be $1200 in the hole right now. But I now have a new press to keep my eye on.
2. The Lone Oak Press (Petersham, Massachusetts) :
Mimpish Squinnies!!! Another beautiful art book that I have been lusting after that is also long sold out. I did not realize before browsing the exhibition tables that The Lone Oak Press was to be at Oak Knoll Fest. What a wonderful surprise! So even though I could not take a copy home with me, I could see it up close, touch the pages, and look inside at all of the beautiful and odd engravings by Abigail Rorer.
If you are not already familiar with this wonder of the book arts world, allow me to introduce to you: Mimpish Squinnies: Reginald Farrer's Short Guide to Worthless Plants, with engravings by Abigail Rorer (The Lone Oak Press) and introduction by Maureen Sanderson. Are you also noticing a pattern here in my fine press book attractions? Why plants? I cannot tell you, but strange, dangerous, anthropomorphized (even worthless) plants have my undivided attention. I'm sure it also has much to do with the artistry and craftsmanship of these spectacular literary objects.
3. Ladies of Letterpress (Carlisle, Pennsylvania) :
|Kseniya Thomas (and over her right shoulder, Abigail Rorer)|
4. The stuff I bought to take home (Chestertown, Maryland) :
Type was in the air, and I couldn't help but be swept off my feet. My two take-home books? A Typographical Romance from Harsimus Press (Jersey City, New Jersey) and Pantone Love from Bowe House Press, Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Virginia). I also bought a new LoLP T-shirt (charcoal and blue).
This was my first time visiting the famous (and rather prestigious) Oak Knoll Festival, and I will definitely be going to the next one.