Episode 11: Fake News(papers)!

Hello, welcome to Books in the Wild, the podcast about exploring books. I’m Keri Schroeder. It’s been awhile since our last episode; I have been busy with other projects and unfortunately I’ve been neglecting this podcast a bit, so thank you for hanging in there. I have a few updates before we talk about today’s topic, which is all about fake newspapers and prop printing.

If you have listened to this podcast before, you probably know that I’m a bookmaker and artist, a.k.a. “book artist”, and this podcast is about book arts. And if you haven’t listened before, then now you also know that information. I make books and prints and things under the name Coyote Bones Press, and recently I inherited some amazing equipment to add to the studio a.k.a. my garage, a.k.a. I park my car outside on the street now. Some of the highlights are a cabinet full of metal type for letterpress printing, a guillotine paper cutter which is a ginormous overkill of a contraption used for cutting stacks of paper, and my new sweet little baby a Poco Proof press which is a small press that was used to make proofs before you actually printed it, it basically works the same as any cylinder press, but the form needs to be hand-inked and there isn’t really any way to register for multicolor printing, although I have found some people online that have come up with inventive registration systems and create some nice multicolor prints from it. Fixing up the press and trying to work in the studio has been taking up a lot of my time lately, if you would like to hear more I have written a blog post about it on the Inklings blog over at editions.studio

Editions is a book arts co-working space and gallery in Seattle, but it’s also a worldwide community of book artists. The editions.studio website has a blog of all things Book Arts, and the forums are a great place to connect with other book artists, ask for advice, share techniques, and find collaborators. The Editions store has lots of paraphernalia, and you can sign up for classes both in Seattle and online to learn more about book arts, and about the business of book arts. You can learn more at editions.studio.

Another cool thing that may interest you bookmakers and printers is The Paper Carnival’s limited edition book art enamel pins, which you can find at thepapercarnival.com and use coupon code BOOKSINTHEWILD for 15% off your order. The Paper Carnival is a side project from myself and Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press where we make book art related collectibles that aren’t actual books. Right now we have six different book art tool pins, like a nipping press, Vandercook, and pica pole with more to come.

Then on Saturday April 21, 2018 in San Jose, Coyote Bones Press and The Paper Carnival will be at the S.F. Bay Area Printers’ Fair & Wayzgoose. Print enthusiasts, students, educators, graphic designers, typophiles, artists, and printers new or old will enjoy the demonstrations, tours, and array of vendors and exhibitors. All ages are welcome! So come by and say hi and buy some pins and prints! The S.F. Bay Area Printer’s Fair and Wayzgoose will be at San Jose’s History Park April 21st. For more information visit printersguild.wordpress.com or SJ printers guild on Facebook.

There are links to all these in the show notes, and at booksinthewild.com

And now let’s talk about some fake news!

If you’ve watched any television shows or films in the past hundred years or so, you may have seen characters reading newspapers that seem somewhat familiar but somewhat off with titles like the Los Angeles Tribune or The New York World. One particular newspaper that appears in dozens of shows features a woman with dark hair and the caption, "She’s 3rd Brightest But Hard ‘Gal' to See", or a full-color front page image of space titled “Comet Show Leaves Nation Speechless” or ads for Brenner’s Black Cat Brew or M essence perfume.

In the sitcom Married With Children, Ed O’Neil’s character Al Bundy sat down on his mustard yellow floral couch nearly every episode and read the exact same newspaper from 1986 to 1997.

This same newspaper makes appearances in Scrubs, Modern Family, No Country for Old Men, Everyone Hates Chris, Back to the Future, Desperate Housewives, Charmed, That 70’s Show, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and classics like Citizen Cane and Cincinnati Kid… and many many more. There have been several online compilations made with images of various movie characters reading this same newspaper.

So why does this mysterious newspaper keep showing up in all these programs for decades? Well, in 1957 there was a paper shortage caused by rare pulp-eating critters called wigglemorts, from the French meaning “cellulose death worms”. After a particularly bad infestation at the Foghorn Paper Mill in Cincinnati, the government declared a state of paper emergency and banned the production of nonessential paper products. And for the next fifty odd years, Hollywood had only one newspaper in its possession to use as a film prop which was passed from set to set accompanied by an armed guard.

No, I’m just kidding. That was fake news! I don’t know French. See how easy it is?

Check. Your. Sources.

So why does this newspaper really keep showing up on film? Well, it is fictional newspaper created as a film prop, that much is true. And if you’ve never noticed these identical newspapers before, it’s because film props are meant to blend into the background. Just like some would say about typography, it usually only gets noticed if it’s bad or feels out of place. Even people who claim to know nothing about design would think it’s weird to see an obituary written in comic sans, and also would probably notice if an ancient Roman soldier were wearing a digital wristwatch on film.

This particular prop newspaper is simply a stock item prop available for $15 each originating from the Hollywood prop printshop known as Earl Hays Press. Over the years, the newspaper has become a bit of an easter egg for film buffs, and like the Wilhelm scream stock sound effect, filmmakers continue to include it in their films as a wink and a nod to film history.

The stock newspaper is just one of the over 25,000 different printed products that the Earl Hays Press produces. They specializes in custom props and period accurate printing. Let’s say you need a historically accurate newspaper from June 14, 1947. Earl Hays Press can do that for you. They make sure every detail is accurate, and copyright free, so you don’t have to worry about it.

An avid traveler in the early twentieth century, Earl Hays would sketch the license plates and collect newspapers and ephemera from all over the world. He collected famous issues like the London Times announcing George Washington's death, or the sinking of the Titanic.

When he founded the press in 1915, Hays used this collection as reference material to print accurate props for filmmakers. Soon, Earl Hays Press became known for their masterful recreations of printed matter and believable fictional product brands. Today, Earl Hays Press is still family-owned and operated although Early Hays himself has long passed. However, current owner Robert Hernandez Sr. has been dedicated to ensuring the same accuracy and attention to details at the press since the 1960’s. Now semi-retired, Mr. Hernandez’s family and small staff share the workload.

Earl Hays Press are experts at recreating not only newspapers and magazines, but also have made fake brand food and drink packaging, signage for fictional businesses, license plates, passports and state IDs, police and government official badges, and even money. Anything and everything where it might not behoove the filmmakers to have the “real thing” in their movie.  They have a large selection of period specific graphics and typefaces, along with practically a museum’s worth of historical references.

Film production companies use fictional brand props because it’s usually cheaper, and much much simpler than all the legal headache of gaining clearance and licensing, or dealing with product placement fees. So instead, they can pay Earl Hays Press to create products like Morley Cigarettes the preferred brand of the Cigarette Smoking Man from The X-Files. Or they create brands that sound familiar enough to be accepted, but not so familiar that you could get in trouble for it - brands like Teb Soda, Cola-Cola, Captain Sugar or Fudgie Flakes cereal. Altering a trademark logo into something unreadable but still reminiscent of the original is a process called Greeking. The complication lies in that prop masters need their items to be believable, to sell the illusion set in the film, but not so recognizable that it conflicts with the “likelihood of confusion” trademark regulations. The goal is for the audience to glance at the item, recognize it as soda or cereal or whatever it is meant to be, and then move on and not linger. Too many or too few details, or inaccurate details results in breaking audience immersion.

Earl Hays Press owner, Robert Hernandez recalls seeing a performance of Annie, which is set in the 1930’s. During a scene where a man runs onstage presenting a telegram, Hernandez saw that the paper was a modern-day telegram design, with a big bar from the State Department on top. He was so disturbed by the discrepancy that he called the prop man the next day and sold him a dozen telegram blanks from the correct time period.

It seems innocuous, but someone will notice. It reminds me when some friends and I saw an advertisement for bookbinding that showed a paperback book being squished inside a nipping press, and we laughed and laughed.

What sets Earl Hays apart from their competition isn’t necessarily the printed products themselves, but their authentic feel, largely due to their impressive collection of reference material. They have an archive of all kinds of printed materials throughout history, with font and paper samples to match. Though some of the processes are digital these days, many clients want the props to feel as authentic as possible, and so Hays often still prints from their old presses with period type, woodcuts, and plates. As owner Hernandez mentions in an interview, most of the time is spent on research and planning; the actual printing is the easy part.

To recreate a newspaper, one would need to be familiar with the history of newspapers. Though there were bills posted with news on them dating back to ancient Roman times, the newspaper as we know it, an inexpensive widely distributed periodical of contemporary happenings and announcements started in the early 1600’s in Germany, about 100 years after the development of movable type which made printing more accessible. From there, the printing of newspapers developed and spread, with most major cities having their own newspaper (and even sometimes multiple competing newspapers) by the 19th century. Then as now, publishers raced to have the most up-to-date news faster than the competition, resulting in the daily newspaper by the mid-19th century, which because typesetting was still all done by hand meant that compositors would work overnights setting type to be ready to print before morning. The development of Linotype machines in the late 19th century, lead to even faster printing and laid off a lot of type compositors. The linotype machines were attached to a keyboard that composed text, casting type, and redistributing the type molds. The linotype operator used the keyboard to assemble molds, or matrices of letters of sequential letters, then molten lead was put into the mold creating a line of type, linotype, to be printed. Sometimes the metal type was still hot as it was pressed into the paper, spawning the term “hot off the press”.

To make a newspaper, first a blank form is created with sections divided to be filled with news stories, ads, and headlines. This blank form is called a dummy. Then all the articles need to be have the appropriate size and style of font and spacing (called leading and kerning in typography) to fit into the allotted spaces. This process is called typesetting, because it literally used to require setting individual pieces of type into a form to be printed. Now most typesetting is done electronically, at least in the newspaper world.

Once the typesetting is complete, the digital page is then transferred to film via laser. I should mention that what I am describing is how they make newspapers now, as we didn’t really have this laser photo imaging technology in the early days of newspapers. So after the laser does its work, the film is processed into negatives, which are then used to make printing plates. Then these printing plates are used to print newspapers. This is usually done with an offset press, where the plates transfer the image onto large cylinders, which the paper is run through and the image is off-set onto the paper. Today, some commercial offset presses can be ginormous, two stories high and can print up to 60,000 copies per hour.  

Most prop masters don’t usually need newspapers in such quantities, so smaller presses are typically used. But the typesetting, layout and printing process is more or less the same. The difference being that many newspapers in films are entirely fictional, and rather than editors focusing on accuracy of facts, they focus on the believability of the contents.

But prop masters don’t necessarily choose to use fictional newspapers because it’s difficult to get real newspapers’ approval. Many well-known papers such as The New York Times or Los Angeles Times, will gladly allow for their papers to shown on film, provided that they are recreated exactly as the originals. Exactly, down to the typeface and layout, every advertisement and headline and ornament. When Earl Hays Press was tasked with printing replica newspapers for the montage scene in The Godfather, they had to find the original papers from the 1950’s, recreate the design to a t, and print new old copies, which then need to be cleared by the publisher. 

One really fantastic resource for old newspapers is The Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” archive of historic American newspapers at https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov
This site lets you browse and search a fully digitized archive of newspapers from all across the country. It is a very cool site to get lost in, if you’re into reading old news and advertisements, or are looking for reference material to recreate a particular era of print design.

Earl Hays doesn’t only make props for films. They have made fake ID’s and badges for undercover police, FBI, and Homeland Security for sting operations and drug busts.  In exchange, Earl Hays’ work with law enforcement has allowed them access to items like badges, warrants, and other official documents that aren’t easily accessible to the general public.

One of the more complicated items for prop companies to make is money, because you have to walk that fine line of believability and authenticity, and this is illegal currency and you’re going to jail.

All reproductions of U.S. currency were banned in the Civil War era, but starting in 1958, certain black-and-white illustrations were permitted "for philatelic, numismatic, educational . . . or newsworthy purposes." So in older movies, prop money didn’t try too hard for realism because the rules were so strict. By the mid-1980’s currency reproduction laws became a little more lax when Time Inc. challenged the federal government’s definition of “educational or newsworthy” after they got into hot water for featuring a photo of cash stuffed into a basketball net on the cover of their magazine. This led to the 1992 counterfeit detection act, which states that:

The Code of Federal Regulations permits the printing, publishing or importation, or the making or importation of the necessary plates or items for such printing or publication, of color illustrations of U.S. currency provided that:

The illustration must be of a size less 75% or more than 150% the size of a real bill, in linear dimension, of each part of any matter so illustrated;

The illustration must be one sided; and

All negatives, plates, digitized storage medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices, and any other thing used in the making of the illustration that contain an image of the illustration or any part thereof shall be destroyed and or deleted or erased after their final use in accordance with this section.

Black and White Reproductions
Title 18, United States Code, Section 504 permits black and white reproductions of currency and other obligations, provided such reproductions meet the size requirement.

So how does the film industry work around these restrictions? Very very carefully. One trick that filmmakers use is to glue a real bill onto a stack of blank paper, because contrary to popular belief you can use real money in movies, it’s just that in scenes where you have millions in cash on the screen, one usually doesn’t want to carry and transport millions in cash to a set where dozens of people are coming and going. Small changes will be made to text, like “For Motion Picture Use Only” instead of “United States of America”, using pictures of David Crosby instead of Benjamin Franklin, and nowhere can the bill claim to have been issued by the US Treasury.

One source for money in early films was old Mexican pesos rendered obsolete after the revolution in 1920, and many films over the next few decades featured these bills. However, as film quality and clarity advanced, it became easier for the audience to point out phony props, and so prop designers had to step up their game when it came to details and believability. Now thanks to High-definition television and 4K, images are so clear that you can see every minute detail, images look so clear and so real that they look fake. In addition to seeing every hair and every pore on an actor’s face, you will also be able to see things like make-up and prosthetics, and any minuscule mistake on a prop will stick out.

Prop makers need to make the money look real enough to be believed on film, but not so real that it can be considered counterfeiting. But even after following all the rules, it’s almost inevitable that trouble can arise when dealing in the phony money biz. In a scene from the film Rush Hour 2, an explosion causes thousands of bills to rain down in a casino in Las Vegas. This fake money found its way into a few anonymous extras and onlookers pockets and were passed off as the real thing in more than a few transactions on the Vegas strip. The makers of the dubious currency, California-based prop company called Independent Studio Services received a cease and desist to end production on their fake currency, and were ordered to turn over all their digital files and inventory. Although ISS still maintains that they followed all of the rules for printing the money – there were at least 28 differences, different size, and did not claim to be issued by the US Treasury, the props were deemed too realistic. The Secret Service confiscated and destroyed approximately $200 million dollars in prop money from ISS, a loss of about $160 thousand dollars in real money.

The Earl Hays Press is so careful when dealing with printing prop ls that each printing plate is sent to the Secret Service for pre-approval, and then destroyed after the print run. But even with these precautions, Earl Hays ran into for the 1965 film The Cincinnati Kid, where the 1930’s era prop money from Steve McQueen’s poker game looked a little too real. Hernandez recalled the incident in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek “The whole thing is a stud poker game, so for an hour and a half money is going to be flowing all over that table. “So we did artwork on the money. The law says you cannot use any part of a real bill. So we did everything phony, the numbers, everything was original art, all the way through. But it looked amazingly good, even though nothing was from an original bill.” But then the money showed up in bars and clubs in New Orleans, and Earl Hays Press got a knock on their door from the Secret Service.

Then again in 2000, a metal band filming a music video in Florida threw prop bills into the crowd, and some of it didn’t make it back and ended up later being spent by some of the audience members. The props were approved, but then trouble arose when the fake bills started showing up in shops and banks across the country, and were traced back to the creator, Earl Hays Press. The Secret Service came to the press and collected the plates, then they had the printers burn their remaining paper bills in the lot behind the press while they supervised. After over 100 thousand dollars of fake money was burned, the Secret Service then even confiscated the ashes.

The moral of the story? Be careful when printing fake money and fake news? I guess?

I hope this mini dive into prop printing piqued your interest. If you would like to learn more about Earl Hays Press, or how newspapers are made, or what not to do when printing fake money, I have posted links to all my sources in the show notes.

For more information about Books in the Wild podcast, you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @ Books in the Wild Podcast, or visit booksinthewild.com. I can also be reached at booksinthewildpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for listening.



www.booksinthewild.com – Books in the Wild podcast site
www.coyotebonespress.com – Keri Schroeder artwork
www.thepapercarnival.com – book art ephemera by Keri Schroeder and Julie Chen
printersguild.wordpress.com – S.F. Bay Area Print Fair & Wayzgoose April 21, 2018 in San Jose
editions.studio – book art co op in Seattle

Articles/Links about Prop Newspapers and Prop Money:


Episode 10: Unreadable Books

Hello and welcome to Books in the Wild, the podcast about exploring books. I'm Keri Schroeder.

Today’s episode is all about unreadable books. What does it mean to read? How do we garner read meaning from text written in a language that we do not understand? Today We will talk about the process of reading, and I have some fun historical and contemporary examples of indecipherable books.

But first, I want to announce a momentous occasion: Books in the Wild has reached its tenth episode! That's like 70 in dog episodes!

And we are now reaching the end of 2017, and the beginning of a new year, which means new hosting fees.

To be candid, with hosting fees, equipment and research materials, it costs me about 4 or 500 dollars a year to produce Books in the Wild, which of course doesn’t include any of my time or the donated time of my lovely friends and colleagues that I have pestered into appearing on this show. And though I certainly have no illusions of ever monetizing this podcast, I promise to never try and sell you mattresses or underwear, it would be nice if this labor of love was a little less labory. If you enjoy this podcast, and would like to see it continue, your support can be as simple as just reaching out, writing a review on Apple Podcasts, or sharing Books in the Wild with friends. Public reviews bump up the visibility for this podcast so that it shows up on recommended lists, so that more people can discover it. I will also be adding some new Books in the Wild items on my etsy shop, such as commemorative zines, keychains, and enamel pins as a sort of fundraiser for the upcoming hosting fees. You can find more information at Books in the Wild .com, coyotebonespress.etsy.com or in the links provided in the show notes.

Thank you so much to everyone for your continued support and especially to those who have reached out with feedback, or just to say Hi. It really does mean alot to me.

And now let’s get into some Unreadable Books!

Imagine yourself as a young child, before you were fully able to read. Perhaps you were thumbing through books from your parents’ shelves, or picking up the most interesting looking covers at the library. Imagine yourself opening a hefty hardcover book, almost too big to carry, and flipping carefully through the pages. You are already familiar with your own favorite books, ones with bright illustrations and short sentences. You know that Where the Wild Things Are is different than Green Eggs and Ham, and so you know that books can have many different stories. You know that books have meaning. The pages in this dense hardcover though are thinner than you’re used to, and jammed full of such tiny letters, and where are all the pictures? You recognize a few words here and there, but the rest is daunting. You skip around looking for clues, looking for pictures and trying to connect these unfamiliar words to the words you know. If you could only crack the code, all the book’s secrets would be revealed.

Books themselves hold a position of authority, whether the meaning of that book is clear to us or not.  One commonality that all writing has, is that someone at some point felt like it was worth writing down. One writes down things that they do not want to forget, or to communicate with others, or to make sense of a story or idea that is in their head. And that’s just step one to making a book. Next you have editing, typesetting, layout and design, printing, collating, sewing, binding. It is the process itself that imbues the book with some of its meaning. There aren’t really any accidental books - a book means that someone out there felt that the content had significance.

But what if a book’s meaning was purposefully hidden from its reader? How do we interact with a book if traditional methods of reading do not work.

First, let's consider how we read. In episode 1 of this podcast, we talked a little more more in depth about reading, but in a nutshell, reading is a cognitive process in which our knowledge, senses, and thinking skills all work together to decode a series of symbols to derive meaning and information. And in an even tinier nutshell, reading means that our eyeballs and brain have been taught to the stuff we see to the stuff we say.  But of course, this type of decoding and correlation isn't as easy as it seems. To be fluent in a language, you must be able to not only recognize the individual letters and symbols, but how they combine together to make words, and then understand what those words mean, and then comprehend the order of words to derive the meaning. Then  you need to somehow figure out all the different tones and nuances and idioms of a language, like for example, you would need to somehow know that when I said “in a nutshell”, I really meant “to summarize” and there are no actual hard external kernel coverings involved.

Written language can be composed to convey messages at many levels. These messages can range from the purely functional, to the depths of abstract artistic expression. How do you know what is what? It isn’t actually always clear.

Let’s consider the book Animal Farm by George Orwell. It is a story about farm animals banding together to rebel and overthrow the human farmers, then they start betraying each other and pigs start wearing pants. Animal Farm is also about the Russian Revolution and subsequent rise of the Soviet-Union and a critique of Stalinism. One of these story lines would be apparent to anyone who is even semi-literate, the other story line would really only be apparent to those with the correct combination of historical knowledge and critical thinking skills. You would need to recognize these words, these characters as not only what they are literally representing, but also what they are symbolically and allegorically representing, in relation to a historical event with which you are familiar enough with to even make the connection.

So, how do we even begin to comprehend and decipher symbols? Are symbols universal? Yes, no, kind of, maybe, sometimes, are the answers. There are over 6,000 languages out there, some more common than others, some are dead languages, some are exclusively oral languages while others have corresponding writing systems. Then within those languages you’re going to have various dialects, accents, and other regional and cultural differences.

There are usually some reliable commonalities in most languages, because all symbol systems are a created by humans. So, in order to consider universal symbols, we need to think about universal human traits, needs, and experiences. Let’s say we were living in a cave before language was invented, and needed to communicate to our cave neighbor. We’d probably develop symbols for concepts like me or you, the objects we see around us, maybe that bright burning thing in the sky, and what happens when that bright burning thing sets, maybe we need to count how many of a thing we have in our cave, or explain directions to your cave.  We visually express things from our environment through pictorial representations, like if you wanted to show an ox, maybe you’d draw a picture of an ox. Then over time, this ox becomes more and more simplified and more abstract until it looks like a few lines for a head and maybe horns, then eventually just turns into a letter A and is intermixed with other symbols to create a code to be used in different combinations to express even more complicated ideas and concepts. There are so many potential variations, that as these characters become more abstract and less representational, the fewer the number of people there will be who can understand it.

And so how and why would one choose to make a book that cannot be read by known traditional methods? And furthermore, how can we read a book that cannot be read? How can unreadable books still retain meaning and evoke reactions from readers?

Let’s say that you have just purchase a crate of old, forgotten books from the storage of a defunct rare books seller. You sit down in your office, excited to pry open the crate like a child on christmas. You open the crate and sort through worn codices and tattered manuscripts. You inspect each book, probably first looking for the title and author, then maybe flipping through the pages to inspect for damage or marginalia. You’re searching for clues to help you decipher the book’s meaning. Some titles you may be already familiar with, and others you may not be, but by reading the title and a few pages, you might be able to get an idea about what the book means. You can probably piece together a lot, even without being able to fully read the book - is the book heard toward children? Is it a cookbook full of recipes? Are there illustrations? Is it finely bound, or just stapled together? What language is it written in? Is it printed or handlettered? All of these characteristics can be combined together to create a fairly decent hypothesis on the books meaning and content.

But then you come across a worn vellum cover, unmarked. When you open the book, there are colorful, strange illustrations and script writing that is unlike any language you’ve ever seen. There are botanical drawings with text nearby that you assume are descriptions of these otherworldly plants, whimsical and eerie human figures, and circular charts that look astrological. Some zodiac signs you recognize, like the fish pisces and a bull taurus. But why are there baby heads on those flowers? And what are those women doing in that fountain? There is accompanying text, but you are unable to read it. It is fluid and decorative, but not overly ornate.  Some pages are numbered, some are not. Some have long strings of text that span the length of the page, some are broken into columns that resemble a recipe or perhaps a list. The book feels important, it feels full of magical secrets that could be revealed if only you could crack the code.  

The book I am describing, and whose meaning has eluded readers for centuries is Beinecke Cipher Manuscript 408, also known as the Voynich Manuscript.

As you may have guessed, the Voynich Manuscript is an unreadable book. It has had a resurgence in the zeitgeist of recent book mysteries. It is in the top of nearly online listicles of weird and esoteric books. It has been a subject of historical fiction in podcasts and films. And you usually find an article written about it every few months by someone claiming to have deciphered it. Which as of today, in December 2017, it has not yet been deciphered.

The manuscript is currently in the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscript Library at Yale University. It was gifted by rare books dealer Hans P Kraus, after being purchased from Ethel Voynich, the widow of rare books dealer Wilfred Voynich of whom the manuscript has become colloquially named.

Voynich himself purchased the manuscript in 1912, which was amongst a bulk lot of Jesuit manuscripts in Italy, near Rome.. Voynich often dealt with rare books and manuscripts, his specialty being obscure one-of-a-kind finds. This manuscript, however, was more intriguing than most. He personally believed that the item could have originated from English philosopher Roger Bacon and was on a mission to prove it. The manuscript itself is made of parchment, and contains colorful illustrations of astronomical charts, botanical drawings, what appears to be alchemical recipes, and is written in an unknown script. This manuscript, Voynich kept for himself, trying to decipher its meaning until his death in 1930.

The manuscript is unusual for a number of reasons. First, its provenance is convoluted at best. The first recorded history we have of the Voynich Manuscript is a letter written in 1665 about it being sold to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, and it was thought to have been written by Roger Bacon. The letter does not say who sold the manuscript, though some speculate that it could have been 17th century astrologist, necromancer and mathematician John Dee. However, this isn’t likely given that the only real evidence that we have for this transaction is that it would be a really fitting story. After Rudolph II. the manuscript seems to have had at least three different owners around Prague and eventually was hidden away in a Jesuit Library. And as it happens sometimes, a stash of these old manuscripts were sold off as a lot, which Voynich purchased.

The manuscript has been carbon dated and determined to have been made between 1404-1440 which rules out Roger Bacon as its creator. It is written on parchment, which is tanned and stretched calf skin, rather than paper. As you might guess, parchment is a good deal more expensive than paper, meaning the the creator or financeer of the manuscript was wealthy. Or another option is that it was an elaborate medieval hoax specifically made to appear mysterious and rare and therefore valuable.

The other pigments used in the book are primarily white, green, yellow, brown, red, and blue, all were inexpensive, common pigments used in the period.

Usually manuscripts are assembled by several different people, there is a scribe who writes, typically copying from an exemplary master copy,  a rubricator who adds ornamental details to the text, and illustrations. Given how intertwined the text and imagery is in the Voynich manuscript, it suggests that they could have been completed by the same hand, or if separate they worked very closely together.

Although the manuscript was created through typical medieval means, the script is apparently an invention of the scribe, as it does not match any known alphabet, and doesn’t appear to have the same hesitation present when copying from a master model. The lack of breaks and hesitation also suggest that it was made by a confident hand written with purpose.

It is this sense of purpose which make the Voynich manuscript one of the most intriguing books of its kind. The mystical illustrations and its resemblance to recipe or diagram format make readers keep coming back to try and decode it.  

The manuscript consists of 102 pages, some are numbered and some are not. It has been determined that its current binding is not original, but it is not known what its original binding was. Based on the subject matter of the drawings, scholars have divided the contents of the manuscript falls into six sections: botanical, astronomical, biological, cosmological, pharmaceutical, and recipes. But even though the topics may be recognizable, the specifics are not. For example, the botanical drawings are recognizable because they symbolically resemble plants - there are roots spreading below, stalks growing above, and diagrams reminiscent of  flowers or seeds on top. We recognize these images symbolically as plant life, of some kind. There are tight, repetitive linework patterns beside each diagram, some with lines jutting out from a specific area. We can use our best judgement to determine that this is text, most likely identifying not only a specific type of plant, but also specific parts of the plant. The Voynich manuscript contains 113 drawings of as yet unknown plant species, with illustrative color details and what appears to be texts describing it. The astronomical charts have been categorized as such because some constellations are recognizable, it looks similar to other medieval astronomical charts from the time, but there are anomalies. I think that one of the reasons why people have been trying to decode the Voynich manuscript for so long instead of just dismissing it as nonsense is because of it familiar aspects. We recognize some astronomical signs, we see the resemblance of the botanical and biological diagrams to our own known botany and biology. We recognize the patterned repetitive designs surrounding the illustrations as writing - meaning that it is dissimilar enough from drawing that we would consider it a separate component.

It means that although we cannot read, nor understand the language that it shares enough similarities that we still recognize it as writing. We are basically using what we know, what we have seen in other books to make sense of the Voynich manuscript.

According to the Primer of Visual Literacy, “Visual data has three distinctive and individual levels:: representationally - what we see and recognize from environment and experience; abstractly - the kinesthetic quality of visual event reduced to the basic Elemental visual components, emphasizing the more direct, emotional, even primitive message making means;  symbolically - the vast world of coded symbol systems which man has created arbitrarily, and to which he has attached meaning.

Let’s use a bird for an example, a dove. And i mean a picture or drawing of a dove, not a real life dove. This is key. On the first level representation Ali you recognize the image as a dove a bird. On the first level you recognize the image is of a bird. On another level, you recognize that it isn't an actual bird, but just a purposeful combination of pigment on paper. And on a symbolic level you might interpret the dove as a symbol for peace or love.

You do not need to be literate to process visual information, but abstract symbols need to be learned in the same way we learn language.

Another such book worth discussing in this manner is the Codex Seraphinianus by Luigi Serafini. Which is another such book, like the Voynich manuscript that no matter how literate, educated, and masterful of semiotics we might pride ourselves in being, the meaning of the Codex Seraphinianus still remains elusive.

Upon first inspection, The Codex Seraphinianus is a large, heavy tome, of around 9x14” and 2” thick.  The cover and binding vary according to the editions, but they are all hefty and compared to a lot of oversized coffee table books, nicely bound. When you open the book, you’ll notice that there is no introduction or table of contents, at least not in any language that we can read. The Codex is beautifully, painstakingly illustrated, and like the Voynich Manuscript, filled with many diagrams and what appear to be biological and botanical drawings. The type is not perfect, it looks handwritten, but there are repeated characters in the same way that our letters might look similar enough to recognize it as certain letters but are not identical.

The drawings are surreal. They are almost recognizable, but there is something uncanny about them that prevents us from fully comprehending what we are seeing. It is highly organized, and therefore purposeful. There are figures that are human-like, but they differ in that they have machinery replacing various body parts, or elaborate alien costumes. There is flora and fauna that is otherworldly but similar to those which we might be familiar. There are images that are in sequence, which makes us attempt to create a narrative.

And this is a rather long quote I am going to read, but it was so good I wasn’t sure where to cut it. This is what Italian magical realism author Italo Calvino says of the Codex Serafinianus: In the beginning, there was language. In the universe Luigi Serafini inhabits and depicts, I believe that written language preceded the images: beneath the form of a meticulous, agile, and limpid cursive (and strength lies in admitting it is limpid), that we always feel on the point of deciphering them just when each word and each letter escapes us. If the Other Universe communicates anguish to us, it’s less because it differs from ours than because it resembles it: the writing, in the same way, could have developed very similarly to ours in a linguistic forum that is unknown to us, without being altogether unknowable.… Serafini’s language does not distinguish itself only by its alphabet, but also by its syntax: the objects of this universe evoke the language of the artist, such as we see them illustrated in the pages of his encyclopedia, and are almost always identifiable, but their mutual relations appear psychologically disturbed to us by their unexpected relationships and connections.… Here is the conclusive point: endowed with the power to evoke a world in which the syntax of things is subverted, the Serafinian writing must hide, beneath the mystery of its indecipherable surface, a more profound mystery touching on the internal logic of language and thought. The lines that connect the images of this world tangle and cross; the confusion of the visual attributes gives birth to monsters, Serafini’s teratological universe. But the teratology itself implicates a logic which appears to us to, turn by turn, flower and disappear, at the same time giving us the sense that the words are carefully traced back to the point of the quill. Like Ovid, and his Metamorphoses, Serafini believes in the contiguity and permeability of all the domains of being.


Even though we cannot read the book, there are certain biblio traditions that are kept in place to guide us through Serafini’s book. In the bottom corners of the pages, there are small markings. Because this is usually where we tend to number the pages of our own books, and because these markings, although foreign still seem to create a sequential pattern, we can deduce that this is a numbering system.

There are also arrows and lines next to images that indicate measurements, however, they are in increments that I don't understand. It reads like an encyclopedia to an alien planet. There is an entire world present within these pages, whose meaning could be fully realized in an instant, if the tools were available to us.

Codex Seraphinianus is not another lost medieval text. It was created by Italian artist Luigi Serafini between 1976 and 1978 and published in 1981. Serafini was 27 years old at the time, purposefully playing with the ideas of combining text and image to create a semblance of meaning.  Of the writing, Serafini says, “ the Quest for this new alphabet seem to me to be the most urgent thing that had to be done. Actually I had to invent one that suited my hand. So I began by scribbling lines that twisted and curved and Curly Q's and arabesques. And from that tangle of ink I slowly distilled calligraphy complete with upper and lowercase letters, punctuation and accents. It was script that contains the dream of many other types of script”.

Serafini worked on the Codex for 3 years, most of which he spent with a white cat perched on his shoulders. A cat, to which Serafini has attributed authorship of the Codex. After the cat followed him home one night and Serafini took him in, he said the cat would clamber upon his shoulders, his tail swinging on Serafini’s chest while he drew and the cat dreamed. Years later, Serafini said “How else could I account for so many drawings and so little time, although I do realize that all this might sound rather bizarre. I must confess that the true author of the Codex was the white cat, and not I, even though I've always passed myself off as being the author, whereas I was merely it's manual executor. Since for copyright reasons, I could not make the present confession until now.”

So we have covered a book of a truly mysterious origin, and a book that was written psychically by a cat. Now I have a couple of contemporary examples by book artists, making books that are not able to be read in a traditionally manner, and yet whose works still feel heavy with meaning.

You find yourself in a room. Hanging on the walls are prints, broadsides of beautiful handmade paper, and free flowing dark indigo watercolor imagery. There is finely letterpress printed text in columns on each. At least, you recognize as text although you can’t quite make out the words. The text feels familiar and foreign at the same time. And yet, coupled with the meticulousness of its presentation, the meaning although allusive feels heavy, feels purposeful and profound. It seems to transcend language, tapping into something deeper, tapping into that something that gets lost the moment you let those feelings become words.

Heather Peters is an artist and writer based out of California. The work I mentioned is a book art installation called Meaning is the Moment Captured. The printed alphabet in question, is indeed a working alphabet created by Peters. In a printshop there exists something called a Hell box - which is a receptible or bin where damaged, unsorted metal type gets thrown. Peters carefully sorted through a hell box, and collected one of each discarded letter. In order to free them from their typographic constraint, Peters then remelted the metal type and quickly cast them into water. The letter’s new shape was then photographed and digitized into a usable font. Which then was typeset and made into polymer plates, which were then used to print.

In her artist’s statement, Peters says that she sees her work with the materials as an investigation into the ways of telling a story, a way to use divination to find meaning in everyday existence, because it is believed by some historians that some of the earliest forms of writing developed through fortune telling methods that were believed to communicate with a world of spirits beyond us.

From Peters’ statement “A shared alphabet gives meaning the ability to transfer, but what if we took that burden away from a set of letters, specifically hard worn lead letters, consigned to a hell box in a busy print studio? Is there a way for the viewer to experience the awe of the beautiful paths of communication and the means of the collective preservation of knowledge we have, as humanity, created without being distracted by comprehension.”

After the metal type was sorted, melted down, and recast into a new alphabet. Peters continues, “I wondered, would we be able to glean the nature of meaning, if not the specifics? Does the inner nature of the letter become a thing revealed once the effort of casting the melted lead into a specific shape is taken away from it? I argue that materials are a language in themselves, a grasping way for humans to transfer meaning. Just as the ancient study of alchemy allowed for the discovery of artist materials that in turn created bodies of work that continued the study of matter under different titles.”

The relationship between visual arts and alchemy is strong and long-standing. Alchemists attempted to learn the secrets of materials, chemically, physically, and spiritually. And although today the disciplines of chemistry and spirituality are fairly removed from each other, it wasn’t long ago they were intertwined. It was alchemists who developed paint pigment recipes and other art making materials. Even today alchemy is often used when discussing the spiritual or emotional impact that can be found in visual and literary arts, that depth that extends beyond just the visual information.

Next, let’s journey to the middle of the desert. You’re walking into a vast, seemingly endless place. Even though you know you are on earth, the desert will always feel extraterrestrial. There are red, spiral rocks jutting out of the ground. There are crooked, hunched trees with talons for leaves and armored plates for bark. You see something reflecting in the sun, just a little ahead of you. As you get closer, you are able to take in the unbelievable scene. There is mechanical wreckage, all gleaning silver and twisted electronics, of what appears to be a flying saucer. As you examine the wreck, you stumble upon a strange book. Not so strange, as you did just recognize it immediately as a book, but certainly unlike any you’ve ever seen before. The cover is solid, heavy, like wood, with unrecognizable symbols and writing etched into it. Inside, each page is filled with ornate and meticulously detailed diagrams and instructions for machinery. Lavish maps and charts, with topographical details, and color-coded keys. The writing is structured, purposeful and profound. You know all this, and yet you cannot read a single word of the book.

Timothy Ely, is a contemporary American artist, and a heavy hitter the book art world. Ely creates beautifully intricate one-of-a-kind manuscript books. They usually are in the form of either the Planetary Collage Standard Binding or the Planetary Collage Drum Leaf binding, both structures of Ely’s own design which allow for maximum surface area on the both the pages and the covers to be written, painted, and illuminated. Ely’s books read like architectural textbooks, celestial and topographical maps, and grimoires all combined into one. They are filled from cover to cover with diagrams, charts, and a mysterious writing system Ely calls cribriform. The fact that the books are uniques, means that they were not intended for a large audience, but instead hold precious secrets. There is a power in Ely’s work that imply that the information presented could gift you with the information you would need to transport you to another planet, build world-changing technological inventions, or harness esoteric magic, if only you could crack the code.

From Ely’s artist statement, “alchemy is a secret art, and I have always liked the persistent idea that my work is occluded. Personal transformation is secret, and even our attempts to reveal what goes on within the self are often, or always, beyond words.”

Ely uses traditions from alchemy in his approach to art materials. He continues “I seek ways to get materials to transform or for surfaces to respond to my drawing methods. Acting upon pigments with water or heat or grinding can change their character. I size the paper with glues or glaze a mix of marble or plaster into areas that seem too restrained. These surfaces can be delicately carved into and worked with additional information until it all reads.”

Like the medieval Voynich Manuscript, Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus, and Meaning is the Moment Captured series by Heather Peters, Tim Ely’s work in unreadable by traditional methods, and yet they all still exude meaning.

I want to make special note of Ely’s quote about reworking his books, “Until it all reads… “ Artist’s books make use of all of itself to convey its meaning. This goes beyond aesthetic preferences or graphic design. It implies that there is intrinsic meaning in the materials themselves. If this sounds a little woo-woo for you, let’s pretend you received a love letter, you know from someone you would want to receive a love letter from. Would it feel differently if you received a handwritten letter on stationery than if it were typed up using a default font, and printed with a home office printer? I think that they feel different. And I would argue that it doesn’t necessarily have to do with time or effort, because at least at my house dealing with my finicky cheap printer takes me just as long if not longer than just handwriting the thing. The human presence is stronger in letters and books and art and food and just about anything, if it has been touched and created by a human hand.

Many disciplines have attempted to analyze and uncover where exactly meaning comes from in the visual arts, and how visual art communicates. Gestalt psychologists have been striving to understand how we organize and perceive meaning in an apparently chaotic world through principles of grouping. For example, we tend to group items together based on their proximity to each other or visual similarites. We also tend to complete shapes and patterns in our mind that might be broken or inconsistent, which is why we see a circle with breaks in it, we recognize as a circle with breaks, and not several isolated curves. It is Gestalt psychology that taught us that “the whole is other, or greater, than the sum of its parts”.

And going back to the Primer of Visual Literacy, the author states that “the last level of visual intelligence is possibly the most difficult to describe and may in the end be the most crucial to the development of literature visual literacy. It is the under structure, that abstract, elemental composition, and therefore, the pure visual message.” In other words, we analyze and organize and interpret this complex system of symbols and imagery in order to understand its meaning, and yet there is something else beneath that. A skeletal visual force, a basic composition of elements that can evoke a response from us. There is an elusive but very real, pure visual energy.

Unreadable books play with our expectations and our knowledge of how books usually function. There are parts that we can understand, similar patterns and traditions that are maintained. The books intrigue us, invite us to read them. Then we are faced with a barrier that we cannot fully penetrate, but which offers enough cracks and breaks to let some of the light of hope in that we will be be able to one day understand. These books are simply not able to be read by traditional methods of reading, but it does not mean that they are unable to communicate with us as readers. Instead of relying on just text and imagery to extricate meaning, we learn to read the whole book from its materiality, visual energy, composition, and personal symbolism. It requires more of ourselves to read them, and therefore, further fuels the expectation that once deciphered, their secrets will be life-changing and profound.

Thank you for listening to Books in the Wild. Please visit booksinthewild.com for links and show notes. If you’d like to contact me, I can be reached at booksinthewildpodcast@gmail.com or you can follow me at booksinthewildpodcast on instagram or Facebook.

Be sure to check out The Paper Carnival, my collaborative new project with Julie Chen of Flying Fish Press. The Paper Carnival creates bookish gifts and collectibles for book artists by book artists, or for normal people too. Our first release is a series of book art themed enamel pins, to wear on your jackets, printing aprons, bags, or I could keep naming things, but I’ll spare you. Visit thepapercarnival.com to get some of your own! You can use coupon code BOOKS IN THE WILD for 15% off your order!

You can also visit CoyoteBonesPress.etsy.com for more book art-related items. All purchases from either site, will help out this podcast.

For more information about Unreadable Books, I recommend A Primer of VIsual Literacy by Dondis, What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund, Ways of Seeing by John Berger

To learn more about the Voynich manuscript, you can see the whole book digitized online on the Beinecke Library at Yale University’s website

To learn more about the Codex Seraphinianus, I have included some links to articles, and there is currently a relatively inexpensive reprint available if you want a copy for yourself

Heather Peters and her work can be found at societyofhermits.com, and you can follow her on Instagram @woundedgeneral

You can view Tim Ely’s work on his website timothyely.com, and much of the information I read on this episode came from the catalog 8 Books by Timothy C. Ely published by Abby Schoolman Books

Thank you again for listening.

Episode 9: A Guide to Witch Hunting - The Malleus Maleficarum - Transcript

I want to add a quick disclaimer to this episode. although this is still by far the tamest version of the European Witch Trials you'll ever find, I do mention genitals for oh, a solid minute and a half which is significantly more than I ever thought would happen in a book arts podcast. I swear it makes sense in context, and it is not explicit nor profane. But if you are listening to this with your grandparents or toddlers or in church or in a job interview, or anywhere else where if might make you feel weird to hear me say penis a half dozen times, I would recommend putting in some earbuds or saving this episode for later

Hello, welcome to Books in the Wild, the podcast about exploring books. I’m Keri Schroeder. Now that we are in October,  I thought we would get into the Halloween spirit by talking about an infamous book called the Malleus Maleficarum, also known as the hammer of witches. A book responsible for fueling the heinous witch trials throughout Europe for oh, several hundred years.

As usual, we will delve into some book history and talk about the author and inquisitor Heinrich Kramer. Then we have a fantastic interview with rare books librarian Karen Wahl about her research on the printing developments of the Malleus Maleficarum, and a talk with writer and translator Valarie Williams about an 20th century supernatural scholar named Montague Summers.

For this episode, what I originally thought would be a fun witchy romp through book history, ended up being a little heavy, more than a little misogynistic, and a lot uncomfortable. So, I won't be getting into the gory details about the European witch trials on this podcast, but choosing to mainly focus on the Malleus Maleficarum itself and its author. There are plenty of gory details about the witch trials out there that you can easily find, trust me. Instead, I want to emphasize how powerful a book can be, for better or worse. The Malleus Maleficarum is after all, probably the most widely printed and bestselling book after the bible. It was the go-to witch hunting manual for centuries, and single-handedly altered the lore of witches forever. For example, much like prior to Bela Lugosi, the vampire trope didn't come with a strong Hungarian accent, but now the two are inseparable in due to Lugosi’s portrayal of Dracula in 1931. Similarly, prior to the Malleus Maleficarum, witchcraft wasn't even primarily associated with women. Yet now the image of a witch being a single woman, with maybe some cats and hanging out with the devil is pretty ingrained in our minds even today.

So how did it all start? Please allow me to take you back on a journey to the year 1484 in Innsbruck, current day Austria. An overzealous Catholic clergyman named Heinrich Kramer has made it his personal duty to stamp out heresy wherever he finds it, to eradicate the sinful serpents in league with the devil, attempting to undermine and annihilate the Catholic church and with it all good and god-fearing mankind, evil which just so happens to usually manifest in the form of women. Now during this time period, there actually wasn't a strong belief in nor fear of witchcraft - for the most part, magic was seen as relatively harmless, perhaps outdated way of doing things. Before the late 1400’s, the general public did not yet associate magic as being in league with the devil, nor was it really considered to be a real threat against the church, nor was it primarily associated with women. Kramer however, believed whole-heartedly in the evils of witches...and women...and witch women.  And he decided that witch-hunting to be his self-appointed life long mission.

In the town of Innsbruck, a knight named named Jorg Speiss comes down with a mysterious illness and dies. A young woman named Helena Scheuberin had been seen spending a little too much time with the nobleman, and doesn't seem overly cooperative in answering too many questions about their relationship. She is then accused of having an affair with the man, and later killing him with black magic. Heinrich Kramer, of course, is eager, one might say a little too eager to lead the trial. A trial that leads to six other women being accused of conspiring through sorcery alongside Scheuberin. But even the other members of the tribunal can't help but notice Kramer’s alarming obsession with Ms. Scheuberin’s sexual history and appalling disgust and disdain for women in general. His behavior is so unsettling, that the local bishop of Innsbruck subsequently dismisses Kramer from his position, and all seven women including Scheuberin are released with minor or no punishment. Let me repeat this point in case you aren't yet convinced of how unsettling this guy must have been: Heinrich Kramer was fired. by the Catholic church. for how he treated women. in medieval europe in 1484.

So newly jobless Kramer learns the error of his ways, understands that maybe the most effective way to spread his beliefs is through compassion and understanding, and spends the rest of his days humbly performing acts of charity and kindness across the globe. Nope, just kidding. Kramer loses his mind, convinced that witches were abound and conspiring against him and goes straight to Pope Innocent VIII to tell him all about it.

Now it might seem like the Catholic Church would have always been anti-witches, and for the most part they were, but there had been a hierarchy of magic, and a differentiation between white and black magic, and most transgressions could be absolved by simple confession. In 1080, Pope Gregory VII had written a papal bull, which is a public decree issued directly from the pope, that forbade the killing of witches, and that they shouldn't be blamed for things like crops failing or natural disasters.

It is 400 years after this decree that Kramer convinces Pope Innocent VIII that witches are area threat against the church. And so in late 1484, Kramer receives a papal bull, called Summis desiderantes affectibus basically declares that witchcraft is real, that it is a direct threat to the church in league with the devil, and that Kramer is the leading authority on witchcraft and that everyone should listen to what he says, sincerely the pope.

Here is an excerpt from that papal bull:

"[m]any persons of both sexes, unmindful of their own salvation and straying from the Catholic Faith, have abandoned themselves to devils, incubi and succubi, and by their incantations, spells, conjurations, and other accursed charms and crafts, enormities and horrid offences, have slain infants yet in the mother's womb, as also the offspring of cattle, have blasted the produce of the earth, the grapes of the vine, the fruits of the trees, nay, men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, vineyards, orchards, meadows, pasture-land, corn, wheat, and all other cereals; these wretches furthermore afflict and torment men and women, beasts of burthen, herd-beasts, as well as animals of other kinds, with terrible and piteous pains and sore diseases, both internal and external; they hinder men from performing the sexual act and women from conceiving, ...they blasphemously renounce that Faith which is theirs by the Sacrament of Baptism, and at the instigation of the Enemy of Mankind they do not shrink from committing and perpetrating the foulest abominations and filthiest excesses to the deadly peril of their own souls, (...) the abominations and enormities in question remain unpunished not without open danger to the souls of many and peril of eternal damnation."

So now with this witch-hunting pope permission slip, Kramer sets to work writing one of the most ridiculous, misogynistic, fear-mongering, albeit comprehensive guide to witch hunting ever written - the Malleus Maleficarum. Now The Malleus Maleficarum is often attributed to two authors, Kramer and another man named Jacob Sprenger. However, the level of contribution from Sprenger (if any at all) is debatable, so I won’t talk much about him in this episode. But for the insatiably curious, Sprenger was a Dominican Friar who was named in the Papal Bull, but wasn't listed as a collaborator of the Malleus Maleficarum until 1519, 30 years after its first printing, and over 20 years after Sprenger’s death. It has been suggested that Sprenger actually didn’t care about witches and there is no evidence ever linking him to any witch trial. Rumor has it that that Sprenger and Kramer actually hated each other, and that Sprenger often went out of his way to make Kramer’s life and work as difficult as possible. It has been suggested that the addition of Sprenger’s name as a co-author could have been to give it a little more credibility, as Kramer himself wasn't really a likeable person even within the church.

The Malleus Maleficarum consists of 3 parts: one - what witches are and what they do, 2 - how to identify them, and: 3 - how to witch trial, aka properly punish and eradicate them. Kramer purports that there are many types of witches but what they all have in common is that they practice the carnal copulation with the devil, and are responsible for all sorts of evil deeds, including but not limited to hailstorms, drought, madness, poisoning men, making men insane, killing livestock, shapeshifting, sterility in men and animals; miscarriage and stillbirth, eating children, offering children to the devil, seducing men, creating mysterious illnesses, cannibalism, and stealing men’s semen so that they can bear demon babies. In fact, there are no less than 3 full paragraphs on demons and witches stealing semen, probably more, but I only made it through three. This includes a part about demons gathering spilled semen from the dirt to give to witches for their rituals, so be mindful of where you misplace your semen men….which is just….i have so many questions…

Kramer also includes an uncomfortably long section in the book about all the many ways that witches make men’s penises disappear. Sometimes the penis is gone completely, sometimes it just appears to be gone but isn't really, and sometimes the man is just bewitched into thinking that his penis is gone, sometimes the penis goes away in the middle of the night and comes back the next day. Sometimes it's in a box with a fox, sometimes it's with a mouse in a house. It's just a fun game we women like to do, go around hiding penises. Because you know, witches.

So you can see how the church was a little alarmed by Kramer’s unsettling preoccupations, but thanks to Pope Innocent the VIII, he now had the support he needed to really spread his unsavory message. Kramer really cemented the connection between magic and devils and women. Prior to the Malleus Maleficarum, sure some people believed that sorcery and magic were real, but there were a lot of masculine incarnates like wizards and warlocks and werewolves and other w’s. Post Malleus Maleficarum however, all women were especially susceptible to devilish temptations and it was the job of men to stamp out this evil. It elevated witchcraft and sorcery to the crime of heresy, which was punishable by death. Even the name Maleficarum is feminine. The masculine form of the word would be Maleficorum, and it is also this masculine form that would have been used to include all genders. So by specifically choosing to use the word Maleficarum, the term can really only pertain to women

Kramer claims that “the natural reason that women are more susceptible to evil than men “is that she is more carnal than a man, as is clear from her many carnal abominations. And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives.”

In the book Fearless Wives and Frightened Shrews: The Construction of the Witch in Early Modern Germany, author Sigrid Brauner states,

“According to the Malleus, the only way a woman can avoid succumbing to her passions – and becoming a witch – is to embrace a life of devout chastity in religious retreat. But the monastic life is reserved to the spiritually gifted few. Therefore, most women are doomed to become witches, who cannot be redeemed; and the only recourse open to the authorities is to ferret out and exterminate all witches”.

Wow. I'm gonna guess dear listener that you're probably thinking that all this is beyond bananas, right? And that no one, short of an actual medieval child-eating demon monster, can support this inflammatory flimsy drivel, right? You would be incorrect dear listeners. Instead, The Malleus Maleficarum is an unfortunate example of just how powerful books can be.

Because what else happened in late 15 century Germany? That's right book trivia winners, the Gutenberg press and the european printing revolution. Right behind the bible in being the first books to ever be printed, and therefore one of the most widespread, and most purchased book in the western world is The Malleus Maleficarum. And then what happened in europe right after the mass publication of the Malleus Maleficarum in the late 15th century? Why, that's when the 16th century kicked off the only the most brutal mass witch trials and executions for, oh, on and off for the next few hundred years. Now I'm not saying that Kramer was solely responsible for the development of misogyny, fear of magic, or lethal punishments for heresy. But he did tie all these disparate elements together into one tidy package.

And now here to talk about some of her up close and personal research on the Malleus Maleficarum, I’d like to introduce Karen Wahl, a Reference/Legal History and Rare Books Librarian at the Jacob Burns Law Library, a library that has eight copies of the Malleus dated from the time of the witch trials in their collection. She is also the previous past chair of the American Association of Law Library’s Legal History and Rare Book Special Interest Section. I was lucky enough to attend APHA last year, which is the American Printing History Association conference, where I was able to see Karen’s talk about the printing developments of the Malleus Maleficarum. Her presentation was so thought - provoking and fun that when I decided to do an episode on the topic this year, I contacted her right away.  And now here’s my conversation with Karen Wahl.

Keri: Hi Karen. Thanks so much talking with us today. To start off, do you mind talking a little bit about the collection at The Jacob Burns Library. Who usually uses the library, and what is the collection’s focus?

Karen: The Jacob Burns Law Library is the library for the George Washington University Law School.  As such, we’re a closed library who caters specifically to the law students and faculty of the university.  That said, we also have one of the largest collections of rare legal material in the United States, which is open for use by researchers upon an appointment.  Our rare book collection focuses primarily on the development of law of continental europe.  As such, we have large collection of French, German, and Dutch law, Roman, Canon, and International law, and materials on the separation of church and state.

Keri: that makes sense.. and so how and why did the library acquire so many copies of Malleus?

Karen: One of our more interesting subcollections is a collection on witchcraft trials.  These fall under our church and state collection, as they were some of the trials that were batted back and forth between ecclesiastical courts and secular courts.  As part of that, we began collecting the Malleus Maleficarum, as it is one of the foundational documents that defined how to run these witchcraft trials.

Keri: that sounds super fascinating. So what was it that inspired you to research the Malleus Maleficarum?

Karen: It was sort of serendipity.  In 2012, a couple of colleagues and I spoke about researching the Salem Witchcraft Trials at the American Association of Law Libraries conference in Boston.  That certainly piqued my interest in our witchcraft trial collection as a whole.  When I saw the American Printing History Association conference on “The Black Art & Printer’s Devils,” I started out by thinking, “Oh man, I want to go to that conference and learn everything.”  I kept thinking of different interesting topics I could imagine being discussed, and started realizing that I could actually take part in that discussion.  I had three different ideas, (the Malleus, witchcraft trial documents publication formats, and printing forgeries), and the idea that showcased our collection the best was looking at the printing developments of the Malleus Maleficarum.

Keri: Is anything known about the previous owners of the books?  Were they just book collectors, or were they actually once owned by witch hunters?

Karen: Each of our copies is inscribed by at least one former owner, but what their relationship to the book was is not exactly clear.  In a couple of cases, it’s clearly some sort of collector (they’ve dated their signatures in the mid to late 19th centuries, when witch hunting was no longer in vogue).  In others, you have either a contemporaneous signature, an undated signature, or clearly another owner that has not inscribed his copy (which you can tell from a different handwriting in the marginalia).  In our 1614 copy, in addition to the owner’s signature, there also a page of names written in the same hand.  While I could totally be wrong, my hunch is that these are people that the owner suspected of being witches, which is so creepy.  There are 20 names on the list!  Our 1495 copy did end up in a library, probably a Jesuit library, in Montilla, Spain at some point. Unfortunately we don’t know quite when or whether it would have been used in the Inquisition.  Sadly, I’m terrible at paleography, and no one’s done much research into the previous owners of our books to find out exactly who they were and what their relationship to this book was.  So anyone looking for a research project- there you go.  Come visit us.  

Keri: first off, that would be such an amazing research project. And also yeah the last thing you want to see in the inscription of a witch hunting book is a list of names. Have you come across any other interesting marginalia?

Karen: Again, my paleography skills are not great, but yes, there is some marginalia, and where that marginalia is found is pretty interesting. In our 1494 Koberger edition, there is a LOT of marginalia and a number of manicules, but it’s all limited to the first part of the work,  this would lead me to believe that it was primarily being used by someone interested in learning about the existence of witchcraft, rather than actually dispensing justice.  Our 1495 edition (the copy that ended up in Spain) also has a lot of marginalia.  In this case, instead of just pointing out sections to come back to, there are many more notations, (including one about how Zoroaster first discovered magic), and are not just limited to the first section, and also makes notations in the second section.  Meaning that, in addition to determining if witchcraft exists, this owner also appears to be interested in identifying witches. Meanwhile, the 1519 edition’s notations are primarily centered around the section of how to try these cases.  So, if our marginalia examples are indicative of the times, it really seems like there’s movement from trying to prove that witchcraft exists and is bad, to acceptance of that, and a focus on identifying and trying witches.  When we move into the 17th century, when the witch hunting furor is dying down, we also see way less marginalia.  

Keri: so at the Jacob Burns Library you've been up and close and personal with at least eight copies of the malleus. Are there notable variations in the different editions or are they fairly consistent?

Karen: As far as I’ve been able to tell, there’s not a huge variation in language between the different editions, but there’s definitely a development in the layout.  In the later half of the 16th century, it appears that the authority of the Malleus is starting to be called into question a bit- you start seeing a table of authorities added to lend weight and credence to what’s been written in the Malleus.  You also start seeing an index, which might imply that it was being used more as a reference work than something you were expected to read cover to cover.

Keri: Right. That's an interesting point. So who, or rather what kind of person would have originally purchased the book? Who was it marketed to?

Karen: This was basically Kramer’s manifesto, so I think he wanted as many people to read it as possible.  But if I were to guess, I imagine it would be market to those in religious communities, especially those who were in the positions of Inquisitors.  

Keri: And speaking of Henreich Kramer, he was a real prize wasn’t he? Do you mind telling us a little bit about him?

Karen: Hoooboy- where to start.  He was an inquisitor during 15th century in Germany.  We’re talking the period right before the Reformation when there’s a lot of dissatisfaction with the church, and the church’s plan is to quash that dissatisfaction and calling it heresy.  Kramer’s role as Inquisitor was to quash the heresies before they spread, and get people to recant and come back to the church.  He takes it into his head that a major heresy that is rampant in Germany, and not being properly stamped out is witchcraft, which, at the time, is not really considered a big deal by…. Anyone else.  There are a few differing viewpoints going on in this area of Germany at the time- 1) that magic doesn’t exist, and that those who “practice” are fooling themselves, and 2) that while people may practice magic, it is benign and can’t effect large changes, and isn’t a big deal.  Kramer disagrees with both views, and says that 1) magic and witches are real, and 2) all practitioners of magic have made a pact with the devil, whether they realize it or not.  His compatriots basically laugh at his ideas until he convinces the pope to agree with him, and the pope says, “You have to listen to him and aid him and in his desire to prosecute witches- it sounds like you guys have a big problem with that up there.  Also, all of this applies to Jacob Sprenger as well.”  (which is the main reason people associate Sprenger with Malleus as well) Kramer then writes the Malleus and as a preface, includes the this Papel Bull as sort of as a “SEE? I TOLD YOU SO.” to everyone who disagreed with him.  

I really tried not to view this work from the point of view of a 21st century feminist, but it is really hard not to view this guy as a straight up misogynist.  A fair amount of the first part all boils down to erectile disfunction and trying to find a way to blame it on women.  And while sure, both men and women could both be witches and dabble in the dark arts, clearly women, being weak minded, would fall for the devil’s trickery more often.   Come on, seriously?

Keri: I am so right there with you. You mentioned something interesting about the Polish translation of the Malleus. Can you talk a little bit about that, and why it’s of particular interest to you?

Karen: The existence of the 1614 Polish translation of the Malleus is fascinating to me.  It’s the only time during the early modern period, when these witchcraft trials were actually taking place in Europe, when the Malleus was translated from Latin into a local language.  You see a pretty drastic increase in witchcraft trials in Poland over the next 60 years after its publication.  But one of the most interesting things is that the translation only includes the first two sections- the one set on  proving the existence of witchcraft, and the one on how to identify a witch.  The third section- the procedure for trying someone for witchcraft was left out of the translation.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the procedures Kramer came up with weren’t particularly good or impartial or just. They allowed torture to be used to obtain evidence, and condoned pretty invasive searches to help identify witches.  But there were at least SOME restrictions.  In the Polish witchcraft trials, there WERE no restrictions.  Torture of any and all types were able to be used not only to extract a confession but also to extract the identification of other witches. 

Keri: That is truly frightening. Thank you so much Karen.

I'm sorry I keep repeating myself here,  but it’s crazy to me that this book, on witch hunting, is one of the best selling, most widely printed books of all time. It was an imposing, hefty tome of a book. It was written in Latin, an authoritative holy language. Many renditions of the Malleus Maleficarum also set the text into 2 columns, reminiscent of the Gutenberg bible, perhaps to further emphasize it's holy importance.  As was the style at the time, the book was original printed using blackletter, a heavy germanic typeface meant to mimic manuscript writing.

Then as Karen mentioned, just when the malleus started losing Steam, the papal bull was added in the preface, so just in case anyone tried to question Kramer’s bonkers theories, they would know they would be questioning the entire catholic church.

Kramer’s ideas of what constituted witches was so bizarre and so in depth, that really no one was safe from being accused of witch craft. I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of it before - if you say you’re a witch, you’re a witch, if you deny being a witch, you’re a witch. Are you a single young woman with maybe too much male attention? Witch. And older woman who lives alone? Witch. Standing too close to a cat? Witch. If you get tossed in a river and float, you’re a witch, but if you’re tossed in a river and drown, maybe not a witch, but oops. It is estimated that between 40-60,000 women, men, and children were executed during the european witch trials in the 16th to mid-18th century.

And there is a direct correlation between the printing of the Malleus Maleficarum, and the spread and voracity of the witch trials. After its first pressing in 1487, twenty more editions were printed by 1520. This is when the witch hunts really started to pick up in Western Europe. This was followed by somewhat of a lull for nearly 54 years, until it was reprinted by a Venetian printer in 1574. Another 16 editions were made between 1574 and 1669, this time not just in official Latin, but now included translations in German and polish - common languages. Not so coincidentally, the witch trials during this time in Germany and Poland are well-documented as being particularly heinous.

The latest early modern printing of the Malleus Maleficarum was done in Frankfurt in 1698 - I say latest early modern printing not to try and be confusing, but to say this was the last time it was printed as a guidebook, for the purpose of actually hunting witches. After this printing, the book lay dormant for about 200 years until scholars started studying the history of the European witch trials.

Which brings us to the first English translation of the malleus maleficarum in 1923, and a strange goblin of a man named Montague Summers. Summers was a scholar on demonology and witchcraft described as having a rotund body but with disproportionately slender legs, an unusually high pitched screechy voice, had an old-fashioned judge's hairstyle and wore long black capes and a sword cane. So when he says scholar and expert on demonology, im thinking you know, maybe just an actual demon.

Keri: “so, Mr. Summers, how did you come to know so much about demonology and witchcraft?”

High-pitched demon voice: “oh you know, just learned from a friend. Hehehehhe”

Up next, I have asked Valarie Williams to speak more on Montague Summers and translations of the Malleus Maleficarum. Valarie holds a master’s degree in literature with a special interest in Romanticism, Medievalism, and Rilke. I was eager to hear Valarie’s statements on Summers as a writer and German/English translator.

Valarie: Wedged between Victorian Medievalism and Spiritualism - two periods that riveted Western Europe - came the birth of Montague Summers. By all accounts an odd man, English-born Summers took his country’s fascination with the Medieval to an extreme. Consumed with the ghouls of decrepit gothic abbey’s, Summers, a clergyman first, literary critic second, wrote about witches, vampires, and werewolves. For him, this wasn’t pornography or social commentary disguised as bone-chilling horror pulp; Summers believed in the existence and presence of each.

A prominent man of letters, Summers studied and wrote extensive criticism on 17th century texts before turning his attention to supernatural matters. He covered all the greats of the period, the individuals who led the cannon before setting his sights on an ambitious little translation project: bringing the Malleus Maleficarum into English, a text that offers insight into the minds of early modern lawmakers. For a man who believed vampires and werewolves lived among society, the Hammer Against Witches wasn’t a matter of intrigue, Summers set out to warn society.

Much like the originators of the Hammer, Montague Summers had his concerns about who was who and what was what. Though the English are often accused of xenophobia, Summers seemed preoccupied with the presence of the supernatural rather than the foreign. This was betrayed by the word VAMPIRE written on white cloth on the side of his portfolio bag, which he carried along with his shovel - yes, ole Monty walked around with a shovel in hand, like an angry Eastern European villager chasing down Frankenstein.

Though his accoutrements might seem strange, and his real reasons for translating the Malleus Maleficarum into English from its original Latin are not precisely known, Montague Summers was not the first to do it, nor was he the first to reprint it. In fact, it became a necessity since the text was not always in regular production. The invention of the Gutenberg press and moveable type enabled the text to remain in circulation during its 300 year heyday, and the book remained a bestseller, after the bible. When witchcraft became suspect, a book could be printed, like an early form of print-on-demand. To ensure the Church and lawmakers, often one and the same, were able to access the information within the text, Kramer wrote it in Latin.

Conceptualized in Switzerland and published in Germany it begs the question why the Malleus Maleficarum was written in Latin rather than German. Kramer wrote the text while present in a German-speaking society, after all. If German had been the lingua franca of the 15th century, perhaps he would have, but, Latin was still regarded as the universal language. It would be years before Latin would be replaced by French, and eventually English, as the language of law, church, and business. Kramer’s conscious decision to pen the Malleus Maleficarum ensured that any learned man, a man who could also quite easily carry out justice in the name of God, State, or both, could access the text and utilize it to its full extent.

By the time Montague Summers came into the world, French had replaced Latin, English replaced French and the Malleus Maleficarum was once again called to print. Since the sun had yet to set on the British Empire, perhaps there was no more logical place on Earth for the Hammer Against Witches to return to the hearts and minds of law, church, and business. The English believed witches were bad for business since King James I, a guy who regularly sought religious counsel, prayer, and publicly shared contempt for witches and witchcraft whenever his merchant ships took to the seas. Guess who got blamed when one of those ships sunk?

In ole’ Monty’s days society still had its preoccupation with the welfare of commerce, especially the British Empire and the Industrialists of America. The captains of industry on both sides of the Atlantic weren’t paying the church for prayer over their business affairs like a good Early Modern businessperson might. These folks were running to the new religion of the day: Spiritualism. A religion the not only asserts the existence of an afterlife but also the notion that the dead can be communicated with, and boy can they talk! Magician Houdini famously denounced Spiritualism while Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and practically every other author, artists, and interesting person alive in the early 20th century, gave it credence. After artists embraced it, industrialists soon followed, shelling out good money for advice from the other side and any other psychic predictions they could gather. The Western World couldn’t get enough of the supernatural. Enter Montague Summers, his shovel, and his English translation of the Malleus Maleficarum.

Latin hadn’t fallen out of favor completely, yet English traveled further in the early 20th century. A new translation brought new literary and social attention to the legal guide previously legitimized by the church. Though Latin was still used by the Church when Summers translated the Malleus Maleficarum, English superseded its importance in legal and cultural matters. Those with power and influence, those who could execute a hunt and a hearing would have done so in English, not Latin. Unfortunately for Montague Summers, no one was really hunting for witches during his day or looking to blame someone for impotence, failed shipments or crops dying. Not to be beat, ole Monty moved on to study, and warn against, vampires and werewolves.

Keri: Thank you Valarie.  As Valarie mentioned, witchhunting lost much of its steam by the 19th and 20th century, though when you think about things like the Satanic Panic in the 1980’s and the West Memphis Three who were teenagers wrongfully accused of murder in 1994 because they listened to devil worshipping music, you can see some pretty contemporary after effects. Even Harry Potter has been banned on and off from libraries because it promotes witchcraft. Books can be pretty powerful things. Wars have been fought over books. Books have been stolen and forged, and not necessarily always for monetary reasons, but simply for power. Books have been banned and destroyed out of fear of how readers will react. And not just benign books like Harry Potter, but potentially dangerous books like Mein Kampf, The Turner Diaries, or Anarchist Cookbook. And even though there are a lot of questionable ideas and opinions available online, or through other unofficial channels, the book form itself is imbued with certain sense of authority, and can really add credibility for some otherwise pretty crazy ideas. So I guess the answer is to be mindful, and ask questions, and do your research. And especially this day and age, if someone is pushing some questionable source material on you, like maybe how all women are witches and eat babies and hide penises, just make sure that they’re not their own source.   

If you're curious about reading the Malleus Maleficarum, you can easily find free e-versions online, it is very much in the public domain. If you would like to read more ABOUT the Malleus Maleficarum and the european witch trials, my recommended reading list is as follows

The book that Karen Wahl really needs to write.

Sigrid Brauner’s book Fearless Wives and Frightened Shrews: The Construction of the Witch in Early Modern Germany

The "Malleus Maleficarum" and the construction of witchcraft: Theology and popular belief by Hans Peter Broedel

Witchcraft in Europe, 400-1700: A Documentary History by Alan Charles Kors

For listening recommendations, Historical Blindness is a great podcast that covers obscure and mysterious history, and right now they have a two-parter episode about the rise of the Satanic Panic in the 1980’s starting all the way back in the medieval period. You can check that out at historicalblindness.com

Another podcast that I enjoy is Monster Talk, a paranormal podcast released by Skeptic Magazine. In episode 110, they interview author Brian Regal about his research on Montague Summers and it is fascinating. You can find Monster Talk at skeptic.com/podcasts

Again, I would like to thank Karen Wahl and Valarie Williams for being so generous with their time, knowledge, and expertise.

As always, feel free to contact me at booksinthewildpodcast@gmail.com or visit booksinthewild.com you can follow me on Facebook and instagram @booksinthewildpodcast


Episode 8: Book Art Basics Trivia - Transcript

Hello welcome to episode eight of Books in the Wild, the podcast about exploring books. I’m Keri Schroeder. I have had a few questions for the past seven or so episodes, regarding what exactly is book art. So today I’m going to reel it in and start at the beginning.

What is book art exactly? What is an artist book? Are all art books book art? What do you mean by codex? Or livre d’artiste? Are you making these words up?

I’m glad you asked dear listeners. And I hope we can reach these answers together, and have some fun doing it. Today we are going to talk about the book art basics. I’ve invited a couple book workers to play book art trivia today, and got a new kazoo so you know we’re all in for a big treat, and the best thing about book art trivia is that win or lose – we’re all equal in the world of esoteric nerdery. We will go over a bit of history, and I also have compiled some frequently asked questions from our listeners.

I have a few announcements about some upcoming events, but I’ll save those until the end of the episode. I also recently discovered that Books in the Wild has reviews on iTunes – I had no idea because apparently iTunes doesn’t notify you about these sorts of things? So I wanted to thank Simon, Jim, and LizzyLou for their thoughtful and kind reviews. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside to hear that people enjoy the podcast. So thank ya’ll so much. You too can leave a review on iTunes or wherever and I will probably find it eventually.

Hello and welcome to BOOK ART TRIVIA. I am your host, Keri Schroeder. Book Art Trivia consists of three rounds covering various topics book arts terminology, book history, bookbinding structures, typography and printing. For those playing along at home, I would love to hear your answers too, so feel free to comment on the episode post on booksinthewild.com or send me a message. Today’s book artist contestants are Ariel Hansen Strong and Faith Hale!


Welcome and thanks for playing. And now for Book Art Trivia Round One!

These questions will cover general book terminology. Each contestant will have the opportunity to answer. And I may or may not make some comments in between. We’ll see how it goes.

Question One. Book arts is a general term that refers to the creative and craft disciplines of bookmaking. Therefore, book arts includes which of the following subsets:

            a. Fine press books, traditional bookbinding and designer bookbinding

            b. altered books, artist books, sculptural books, and zines

            c. printing and typography

            d. installation and performance art dealing with concepts of books

            e. all of the above

Yes, Ariel.

Ariel: Definitely e. All of the above. And more probably

Faith, any more to add?

Faith: e all of the above. I think book art is anything that is even remotely booky

Keri: Excellent job! Book arts is an umbrella term that houses all things bookish. And by bookish, I mean pertaining to the book as a book itself as an object. Things like bookbinding and printing and papermaking can all be included under book art. Then within those subsets are even more subsets. And within those subsets are even more subsets with experts questioning the definition of these subsets.

So for example bookbinding is a part of book arts for sure. But then within bookbinding there are fine binders and commercial binders and library binders to name a few. Then within even the subset of fine binders you have those that specialize in gold tooling, or leatherwork, or historical bindings, then maybe within the subset of historical binding specialists you’ll have ones that work exclusive on one particular structure. Or within printers there are those who specialize in letterpress, or offset, or lithography, and so many others. There is a lot of overlap between these disciplines, there are a lot of book workers who are well-rounded in multiple disciplines and techniques, but there is also a lot of divide sometimes.

Alright, on to question two. This deals with book history.

In the 15th century, this man introduced movable type to be used with the printing press. Who was he, and why was this a big deal?

Ariel: Gutenberg! He was a German printer and publisher who created movable type out of melted metal. Which was a big deal because before movable type, books were either hand scribed or printed with wooden blocks. And unlike wooden blocks, metal type can be re-melted and reformed and type allowed for a speedy printing process, and the invention gave way for the printing revolution.

Great job Ariel. And Faith, what about your answer?

Faith: Gutenberg. Everybody knows this! He was a printer and he was a big deal because he introduced movable type to be used with the printing press. Um before him, you had to be super fancy to own a book, and after him you had to be a little bit less fancy to own a book. He really democratized ownership of printed stuff, and he made it a lot more accessible for the non-super wealthy people.

Keri: Absolutely. Fantastic answers. Johannes Gutenberg was a German blacksmith, printer, and publisher who instrumental in the development of the printing revolution in Europe. There is a popular misconception that Gutenberg invented the printing press. He did not. But what he did do was develop a more efficient way of casting metal movable type. As Ariel mentioned, prior to this development, there were still books being made, but they were either written by hand, or they were printed from carved wooden blocks. By having movable type, this allowed for texts to be composed letter by letter and printed, then the type could be moved around into a different composition and printed again. You no longer needed to carve a whole new block of wood for each page, or spend hours or days writing a page by hand.

And as Faith mentioned, this revolutionized printing making books slightly more affordable and available to not just aristocrats and the super elite. The books were still expensive, just not as expensive as previous books. For example, in 1455 Gutenberg printed around 200 copies of the 42-line bible, also aptly known as the Gutenberg bible. Each copy cost 30 florins, which was approximately three years’ salary for an average clerk at the time. However, this was still far less expensive than a handwritten manuscript bible in which one copy could take upwards of a year to make.

The Gutenberg bible was a massive undertaking. Each bible consisted of two volumes totaling 1,286 pages and measuring 11-' by 16 inches. They are set in two columns of large, black-letter type of 42 lines per page. This format of having the bible pages divided into two columns was extremely influential on the style of bibles even today. Out of the 200 copies, approximately 180 were printed on rag paper, and 20 were printed on vellum which is a tanned and stretched calf skin, each vellum copy required the skins of about 160 animals.

Today, Gutenberg bibles are wildly rare an expensive. Only 48 known copies survive – 36 on paper, 12 on parchment. In 1978, the going price for a Gutenberg bible on vellum was $2.2 million. A single leaf can easily fetch more than $60,000. In 1994, Bill Gates purchased a complete set, meaning two volumes of the bible for a rumored 31 million dollars.

Now we’re going to jump ahead a few centuries. Question Number Three. American pop artist Edward Ruscha is often credited with creating the first modern artist book in 1963. Ruscha’s innovative book consisted of twenty-six photographs with short captions. What were the 26 photographs of, and why was this significant?

Yes, Faith

Faith: Gas stations! 26 gas stations! Ed Ruscha took pictures of 26 gasoline stations, and this was significant because once again this was not fancy. I feel like all of the exciting book art advancements was when we went from super inaccessible and difficult to get your hands on, to really easily accessible, not only did he take pictures of something that any motorist can see but he made it available in a form that was a really simply printed book – it wasn’t on fancy paper, and hadn’t been done with special materials, it was just a mass-market press book, even though at the time it was super cheap and now they are super expensive to get a hold of. When I first became enamoured with this book I would look it up on ebay all the time, and I learned very quickly that now they are highly prized and really expensive.

Great answer, Faith. Ariel?

Ariel: Gasoline stations! American gasoline stations specifically. Why was this significant? I guess because it was cheap and mass-produced which defied the idea at the time that an artist book had to be expensive and finely crafted

Keri: Excellent answers. Now, bringing up 26 Gasoline Stations by Ed Ruscha as a key moment in the history of book art is probably a bit contentious for some book artists. I feel like Ed Ruscha to book art is like Pablo Picasso to cubism, where you’re gonna get the art historians saying “boring” and start naming all the other artists who started cubism and influenced Picasso and yet Picasso gets all the credit, and so on. Which are all valid and true points. However, it is kind of hard to deny Picasso’s reach and popularity. Same with Ed Ruscha, where in a way, his importance to artist’s books is because of his importance to artists books.  

Our contestants’ answers were pretty thorough so I don’t have much more to add, other than to emphasize its importance as a democratic multiple, meaning that it was inexpensive, easily accessible, and breaks down some of the preciousness sometimes associated with artist books.

Question Number Four.

THIS is a technique of relief printing using a printing press, a process by which many copies are produced by repeated direct impression of an inked, raised surface against sheets or a continuous roll of paper. This is done by composing and locking movable type into the "bed" or "chase" of a press, inking it, and pressing paper against it to transfer the ink from the type which creates an impression on the paper. What is this printing technique called?

Ariel: Letterpress printing

Keri: Letterpress printing comes up a lot in the book art world, because it was the primary printing process from the mid-15th century through the early twentieth century. This is when offset printing was developed and became the main printing process for books and newspapers because it was cheaper and faster. But letterpress is still used today, and there are a lot of die hard letterpress fanatics because it’s beautiful and very hands-on.

Question Five. This is a tricky one. Please take as much time as you need.  What is an artist book?

Ariel: In my terms, an artist book is a work of art that uses or references or exists in the form of the book, or uses the qualities inherent to the book form, such as sequence, pacing, intimacy, combining text and image, or the options for multiple readings, etc. An artist book might be self-referential, as in the form refers to or informs the content and vice-versa the content informs or refers to the form.

Faith: I think an artist book, it’s one of those questions that even after studying it for several years now, I can’t give you an exact definition, but I think the easiest most cop-out answer to this is an artist book is something that an artist tells you is a book. So, it can look like a book, or it can not look like a book. It can operate like a book, or it can operate totally differently. The most convenient answer that made me stop wrestling with it and stop trying to define it is that I read a book by Gord Peter and he’s a furniture maker and he says that he shows somebody something and says that that’s a chair, and sees how their knowledge of the fact that it’s supposed to be a chair affects their interaction with said chair. Maybe it’s a pile of ashes. Maybe it’s a chair but it’s been so covered with things that you can’t actually sit in it. And I feel like a book is very similar, where maybe it doesn’t have pages, or maybe it doesn’t have a cover, maybe it doesn’t even have words but someone has told you that this is a book and as the viewer you have a responsibility or a certain set of filters with which to interpret and analyze it. Or maybe just even experience it.

Keri: Thank you so much for your thoughtful, detailed responses. Everyone gets a point for that one! Oh boy, the artist book. It’s not universally agreed upon where the placement of the apostrophe should be placed in artists book, let alone what they are. To me, an artist book is conceptual art, essentially, that in some way interrogates the book through form and/or concept. An artist book can be an actual book, but it must in some way expand beyond that – it must need to be a book and use its physical form to support its content. A great example of this would be Julie Chen’s book Chrysalis, which uses the metamorphosis of a chrysalis as an allegory for the stages of grief. The book comes in a box resembling a specimen case, and inside sits an actual chrysalis-shaped object. The viewer must open the case, and remove this precious and delicate looking object. The chrysalis is held together by magnetic hinges that the viewer must then peel back to access the small crescent-shaped book inside, thereby making the viewer an active participant in the unraveling and transformation of the object. The innermost book is small and feels delicate in one’s hands. The text inside deals with how stages of grief can transform oneself into something unrecognizable and new. The reading experience of Chrysalis happens not only in the text, but all the elements of the object working together in tangent, creating an intimate, immersive experience.

And yet another example of an artist book might not have any physical elements of a book at all, but instead deal with different aspects of the book conceptually. Heidi Nelson is an interdisciplinary artist whose work often explores ideas of communication, data collection, and the reading experience. Nelson’s installation Outernet Library Branch – Wave Farm is a receiving station for Outernet data transmissions in Acra, New York. The features a satellite dish antenna surrounded by Adirondack-chair-inspired seating, with a bench oriented toward each cardinal direction. The WiFi network access area is defined by a large mowed meadow. Visitors can access the expanding library collection of data broadcast from a network of satellites in space, is a new and separate system outside the Internet. Outernet is not a book per se, but offers similar experiences of a book such as the transference of information and the collaborative organization of imagery and text.

On the other other hand, there are books that can contain artwork but not be artist books. Livre d’artiste are books in which the text and images tend to be not very collaborative. Usually they are deluxe editions of a classic text with illustrative prints created by famous artists. Books like a French translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven by Stephen Mallarme illustrated by Eduard Manet, or James Joyce’s Ulysses illustrated by Matisse.  They are usually finely bound with ornate covers and exquisite craftsmanship. They’re luxurious books for the sake of being luxurious books, but the concept doesn’t usually extend beyond the content found within the text itself.

We will return with round two after this commercial break!


Woman #1: (Sigh)

Woman #2: What’s the matter?

Woman #1: Oh just trying to get some shopping done, I’ve been all over town but can’t find the last couple items on my list.

Woman #2: That’s too bad. What are you looking for?

Woman #1: Well, you know how Tim and I are redecorating? I really need a few cactus throw pillows, and a real striking centerpiece for our living room –something that really expresses our love for printmaking, and fine art, and Beyonce.

Woman #2: You know, that is so funny that you would mention that and also eerily specific, but I happen to know just the place!

Woman #1: Really?

Woman #2: Yeah, I just got some great book-themed baby clothes for a baby shower last week and treated myself to a linocut print of Queen B herself from Cloudship Creative over at cloudship.etsy.com, and if you enter the code BOOKS you will get 10% off

Woman #1: Amazing! What was the site again?

Woman #2: That’s Cloudship.etsy.com


Keri: Now for round two of book art trivia: What am I? I will provide a definition for a book arts related item or structure. Contestants, your correct answer will name the item being described.

Item One. I am a book made by many sheets of paper one on top of the other, adhered together on one side with a spine, and typically covered with a thicker, more durable cover.


Ariel: What is a perfect bound book

Yes, that counts. I was looking for something more general though. Faith?

Faith: I am a book made by many sheets of paper, I am a codex

Keri: Excellent. Both answers are correct. A Codex is a typical, everyday book, with pages and a spine and a cover. Ariel mentioned a perfect bound book, which is a type of codex. Perfect bound is a commercial binding that consists of single-sheets of paper glued on one edge and attached directly to the cover – think of a mass-market paperback, that is a perfect bound book, ironically named because they are just awful.

Item number two. I am an inscription usually found at the end of a book that contains facts and information about my production.

Yes, Faith.

Faith: The inscription usually found at the end of a book is the colophon. These are the nerdiest things I’ve ever seen in my life, because they’ll tell you, I mean not all the time, sometimes they’re very normal and they give the most basic information about the book but sometimes they talk about the paper and where it was made and who made it and the typeface and who designed it and the ink and what kind of ink it is, and that I think is the birth certificate of the book. It gives you all the information of where it came from and who made it come from there.

Item Two. I am a slim slightly tapered piece of bone, or sometimes I am now made out of Teflon. I fold and crease paper.

Ariel: Bone folder

Faith: I am a bone folder. I love Teflon folders. I also love bonefolders that have been altered. When I worked for the fine binding apprentice, he had like these super tiny ones and he had big fat ones and he had all different sizes but I did learn though when I had to help them shape them is that you should never sand bone outside of water because the flakes of bone will get into your lungs and do horrible damage.

Keri: Item three. I am a book made of one long sheet of paper, folded in a zig-zag formation.

Ariel: A single-sheet pamphlet, or a snake book, I dunno it has a lot of names

Faith: a book made of one long sheet of paper, folded in a zig-zag formation is an accordion book.

Keri: I will accept both of those answers. It does have a lot of names. I was aiming for concertina or accordion book but now I am realizing that snake book or flutter book would work too.

Item four. I am reddish-brown deterioration spots on paper, and share my name with a cute furry forest dweller.

Ariel:     Is the cute dwelling forest creature reddish brown too? Cause I’m gonna guess a fox

Faith: I am foxing! Why is it called that though? Does anyone else know? I wish I did.

Keri: Correct! Foxing is an age-related detoriation of paper. You ever see an old book or paper with reddish brown splotches? That is called foxing. And thank you for your question Faith – I did a little bit of research and it seems that foxing is possibly named because of the reddish brown color, or because the color is caused by the chemical ferric oxide.

This concludes round two of book art trivia. It’s a close call! If I were actually keeping score, I think it’s a tie? We’re about to start our final round, but first here is another message from our sponsors.


Keri: Welcome back folks. Before we move on to round three, let’s learn a little more about our contestants.

First we have Ariel Hansen Strong.  Tell us about yourself Ariel.

Ariel: I am book artist, print maker and designer based out of San Francisco. I got my BFA in sculpture at the San Francisco Art Institute, which is where I first learned about book art and where I fell in love with it. I have a MFA now in Book Art and Creative Writing from Mills College, and I currently teach book art related public education courses at SFAI. My work usually centers around socio-economic issues and you can check it out at arielhansenstrong.comI also create printed goods under the name Cloudship Creative, and you can find me on facebook as Cloudship or on Instagram at Cloudship_AHS

Fantastic. It is a pleasure to have you on the show Ariel. And now let’s meet Faith Hale. Tell us about yourself Faith.

Faith: My name is Faith Hale. I work for a company called CreativeBug that does online art and craft tutorials. So I had originally gotten my MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing from Mills College. I really wanted to teach book art in a college setting, and now that I’m at this kind of platform it’s basically like a Netflix for crafters. I’m really excited to be able to expose book art to a broader audience. In the month of September, I’m doing a daily book art class and each day we do a spread or technique and it’s really interesting to see the kinds of people that are taking my class and what is coming out of it. It’s such a privilege and I’m perpetually excited to be working with this kind of community.

Keri: Wonderful. Is everyone ready for Round Three, Who’s that book worker? In this round, I will provide the duties and job description of a book professional and you will name their job title.

Number one. Sam deals with the provision and maintenance of a collection of books, which is usually accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Sam’s duties may include archiving, building bibliographic databases, and developing community events. What is Sam’s profession?

Ariel:     Sam is a librarian

Faith: Sam’s a librarian.

Keri: Correct! Two points!  Profession number two. Dean is a craftsman who works in a specialized trade that assembles and covers books. His duties may include creating decorative coverings, leather working, and gold tooling. What is Dean?

Ariel:     Dean is a bookbinder

Faith:       Dean is a craftsman. I would call Dean a fine binder. That was actually my first professional job in the book world, was apprenticing for a fine binder and he was so perfect. He was everything you would imagine a bookbinder to be: angry, and loud, and very opinionate and also super passionate and excited and delicate. He made the most exquisite historical reproductions and also is very skilled leatherworker.

Keri: That is correct. And thank you for the insider look at bookbinding apprenticeships Faith. Profession three. Castiel preserves books and manuscripts from further damage. He does this by repairing when necessary with archival, reversible materials and ensuring proper storage and care.

Ariel:    A conservator/preservationist

Faith: an archivist. I think?

Keri: Eh, I’ll give points for both those answers. The answer I was going for was book conservator, which is a profession dedicated to the preservation of books and paper. They don’t necessarily restore books and paper, but make reversible repairs and decisions regarding its storage and environment in order to prolong the life of the object.

Profession number four. Bobby creates artwork that deals with the concepts and form of the book.

Ariel:  Bobby is a book artist

Faith: Bobby is a book artist

Keri: Correct. That was a bit of an easy one. This one might be a little tougher. Profession number five. Ruby is a designer who specializes in the art of arranging type to make written language legible, readable and appealing. She selects and arranges typefaces, point sizes, leading and kerning.

Ariel: Type designer/type setter

Faith:  I think that Ruby is a graphic designer.

Keri: Excellent. I’ll accept both answers. I was going for type designer or typographer which I guess is a specialty within graphic design.

What an exhilarating game! It looks like the score is uh… fifteen and fifteen? Which means we have a book art trivia tie because we’re all winners here. For those playing along at home, I would love to hear your answers as well. Send me an email or post on our facebook!

I recently asked on facebook for book art questions, and asked some book friends for their frequently asked questions as well. And I mean book friends like friends who are also into books, not literal books that I consider to be friends, I’m also not sure if that’s something that really needed clarification, but you never know.

So I took these frequently asked questions and talked about them with some fellow book artists and friends and we came to some answers together, so it’s not like I’m speaking on behalf of all the book artists in the world. So here are the top five questions we have gathered.

The number one question that I have been asked is what is book art? Which I hope the book art trivia game helped explain a little bit. But basically to reiterate, book art is an umbrella term for many crafts and disciplines involved in bookmaking. This includes but is not limited to, bookbinding, letterpress printing, zines and ephemera making, paper marbling, etc etc etc

Question two. How do book artists make money? Who buys this stuff?

Great question. And something that I definitely something that I need to learn more about myself. Book artists are just artists, just like the painters and photographers and other creative professionals and so I think their source of income is much the same as any other artist. You have the commercial artists that make money by making custom products or designs – for book artists and printers it would probably be stuff like wedding invitations or posters or labels or custom bindings for books, that sort of thing. Then you also have the fine art side, where book artists might sell their own creative work to libraries, museums, or private collectors. Education is another component, there are a lot of book artists who make a living teaching book arts in the many book centers out there like San Francisco Center for the Book, or the Center for the Book in New York, or The Paper and Book Intensive, or Minneapolis Center for the Book, or there are many book art programs at a university level such as Mills College, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Univerisity of Iowa, University of Utah, Wells College, San Francisco Art Institute… This is by no means a comprehensive list, there are a lot out there.

Question three. How is Book Art different from graphic novels, zines, or art and print portfolios? Oh my gosh Selena, I don’t know. This is a tough one. But I think the answer is, they don’t have to be different, there can definitely be some overlap, but at the same time, just because a book has art in it doesn’t mean it is an artist book. I think to be an artist book, or to even really be housed under the term book art, the content really needs to be intrinsically tied to the book itself, either in concept or form. Whereas, there may be many graphic novels whose stories can be told just as well through another medium and really ignores the fact that it is a book at all, to be an artist book means that the form of the book itself really plays a big part in the overall meaning. Book Art is also one of those things where the more you learn about it, the more aware you are of just how much you don’t know. It’s like when you’re a little kid and you learn that Columbus discovered America and Pluto is the ninth planet and all the dinosaurs seemed to live together during the same time period, and then a few years later you’re told “by the way, literally none of that is true, welcome to the uncertainty and existential dread of adulthood, good luck trusting anyone ever again.”  So maybe book arts is like that? But we get to make stuff with our hands?

Question four. Do you hate e-readers?


I think there’s a misconception that book artists are holding onto dead technology for the sake of I dunno, it’s preciousness?  or for tradition’s sake? But I don’t know any book artists out there that are anti-technology. I believe that Book artists make books because there is something about the care and craftsmanship that adds a noticeable difference between a hand-made book and a commercial paperback. It’s not merely to add difficulty and time to the task, I mean, no one likes things to be more difficult if you’re essentially getting the same outcome. I also don’t believe that new technologies necessarily need to devour each other, there is plenty of room for e-books and physical books.

Question five. What do you think is the future of the book? Also a tough one. Because I’m not a witch or a fortune teller, but I think that in the near future you’re going to see a rise in small independent presses and finely made books. Because publishing has wildly changed due to things like self-publishing and the e-books, and it’s really difficult to compete with online shopping or big companies that kind of have the market cornered for mass-market books. So, we have to offer something that they can’t which is human touch, craftsmanship, personalized experiences, maybe more limited edition works, things like that. I also think there will be or should be more cross-over between artist books and digital books, hopefully. This question especially, I would love to hear your thoughts on.

Before we conclude this book art basics episode, I had an announcement about an exciting exhibition at San Francisco Center for the Book. Degrees of Innovation will be opening on October 13, 2017 and runs through January 17, 2018 featuring the work of twenty alumnae from the Mills College Book Art and Creative Writing MFA Program. The opening reception will be held on October 13, 2017 at 6pm and there will be an artist talk on December 8, 2017. For more information you can visit sfcb.org

I wanted to thank Ariel Hansen Strong and Faith Hale again for playing Book Art Trivia, you can check out Ariel’s artwork at ariel Hansen strong .com or follow her on Instagram at cloudship_ahs and facebook as cloudship. You can find Faith’s zines and other creative projects on Instagram @ faith, with like 11 a’s, or go to creativebug.com to sign up for her online book art classes.




Episode 6: Detective Pilcrow and the Search for Missing Punctuation Transcript

Books in the Wild
Episode 6: Detective Pilcrow and the Hunt for Missing Punctuation
July 2017

INTRO MUSIC: Jockers Dance Orchestra “The Royal Vagabond” http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Jockers_Dance_Orchestra/

KERI: Hello, welcome to Books in the Wild, the podcast about exploring books. I’m Keri Schroeder.

Today we are on the hunt for missing punctuation. Like many letters and even entire words, quite a few good punctuation marks have been lost to modern English. In this episode, we’re going to track down some forgotten and elusive marks, from the mysterious Pilcrow to the playful interrobang. Today I have a very exciting noir-themed audio drama filled with questionable acting and an unforgivable amount of punctuation puns. I hope you are excited as I am.

Believe it or not, punctuation and the alphabet didn’t come together in a set. Much like the can opener being invented about fifty years after the introduction of canned food, punctuation arrived a few centuries after the development of written language.

Our story begins in Ancient Greece. Because, English is a language that uses the Latin alphabet, which is derived from the Phoenician script, which was adopted by the Greeks around the 9th century BCE. This Greek alphabet was all uppercase letters (we didn’t have lowercase letters until a few hundred years later, and in fact upper and lower case letters weren’t even called upper and lower case until about two thousand years later, but that’s a whole different story).

So, back to the Greek alphabet, the letters were all uppercase or majuscules if you want to impress your friends. There were no spaces or punctuation between letters, and was meant to be read in what we call the boustrophedon or “ox-turning” method. Which means that you start reading at the upper left part of a text, much like we do now, but when you get to the end of the line instead of going back to the left and reading the line below, you would drop down to the next line directly below, and continue reading that line from right to left, which was written backwards of course. This turning motion, of reading left to right, down, right to left, down, left to right, mimicked the turning of an ox plowing a field. With a little bit of practice, this ox-turning method of reading is supposedly faster and more efficient than how we read today. You can save a fraction of a second with each line by not having to go all the way back to the left margin to continue reading, and you are also less likely to lose your place having less distance for your eye to travel.

I say we should try to bring it back. I say we all take a moment to write a letter to the grammar police or whoever makes decisions about these things, and explain how boustrophedon really is the most optimal eye-tracking performance pattern available. We could be reading twenty-five to thirty percent faster. That adds up over time. For example, if you read Fifty Shades of Gray boustrophedon style instead of in a single-direction, you could have 25% of that time back of your life.

But back to the development of punctuation. After the development of the Greek alphabet, for the next five to seven hundred years, written language looked like walls of text with no spaces or breaks. Laws and official announcements were carved into walls like one big drunk text. Then at around 200 BCE, the Hellenistic Greek scholar Aristophanes of Byzantium, a grammarian, librarian and scholar at the Library of Alexandria said “this is bonkers”. I’m paraphrasing, because I’m not sure what the ancient Greek word for bonkers is, but he recognized that there must be an easier way to read these walls of text. Aristophanes developed a series of marks to indicate to the reader when they should pause. These three markings indicated where one should make a short, medium, or long pause while reading, respectively called komma, kolon, and periodos. Sound familiar? And so, it was from this Indo-European tree of language that many branches and sprouts later, modern English bloomed.

But now I’d like to introduce one hard-boiled punctuation point here to help me tell the tale of missing marks, Detective Pilcrow private eye.



MUSIC: Saxophone Solo - https://freesound.org/people/vedas/sounds/171196/

Pilcrow: The name is Pilcrow. I was once major player in the manuscript game. I used to be the first mark you’d see. I was an enforcer, taking the lead and showing readers the entrance. And damn, was I good. Maybe even too good. I took walls of text and broke them down like Godzilla or King Kong only wish they could.

But this was back in the day, before computers, before texting, hell, even before the printing press. Now here I am, all but forgotten in the punctuation world, relegated only to boring legal documents to be skimmed over. Or worse, hidden amongst computer jibber-jabber to be ignored completely, as lost as the city of Atlantis under a sea of typographic curiosities.

You know what the worst part is? All you highfalutin characters complaining about the overuse of the exclamation mark, or those new confangled emojies. It’s a semi-colon and an improperly placed parenthesis! She ain’t winking at you! Anyway you think that’s bad? Try being replaced with an indent. That’s right. Just a few blank spaces. Try being replaced by nothing.

Most people have forgotten my name. I am called the “paragraph mark” by some. Some ignorant folk refer to me as “a backward capital P”. (scoff)

It was for these reasons that I started the Pilcrow Private Detective Agency. I didn’t want to see any more good punctuation marks fall by the wayside. And the way I see it, it takes a lost character to find a lost character. And I ain’t got nothing more to lose.



KERI: Ah, the pilcrow. A personal favorite of mine. As our mysterious narrator mentioned, you probably best know the pilcrow as a paragraph mark, resembling a backward P with a curved tail. You may also know pilcrow as that thing that shows up when you accidently hit a wrong key in Microsoft Word and then it takes you forever to figure out how to change the view back to normal again.

But the pilcrow has been through a lot. Shortly after the development of the markings that would come to be known as comma, colon, and period, we see early iterations of the pilcrow used to designate the beginnings of new ideas in texts, or to mark a change in subject, or passing of time, or as we know them now – paragraphs.

The pilcrow’s form varies through the centuries. At times, the pilcrow resembled an upside-down capital L, or a lower case slanted y, but it was nonetheless common in many manuscripts up through the mid-fifteenth century. The pilcrow was usually written in a different color ink than the body of the text, further emphasizing the shift of paragraphs. These characters were written by hand by specialized scribes called rubricators to perform what is called rubrication, which is the adding of the red ornate lettering in medieval manuscripts.

The bulk of the text from these manuscripts would have been previously completed by other scribes who would leave blank spaces for the rubricators to fill in their part, the scribes also often included instructions on how the lettering should look in the margins of the manuscript. Rubrication was used to highlight important text and to start new sections of text, so usually the first letter or even first sentence would be in red ink and/or more ornate than the body of the text. Pilcrows were also rubricated, to designate the change in paragraph.

Rubrication wasn’t necessarily an easy task to perform. Remember, these were in the days before ink jet printers or even printing presses. Ink wasn’t even something you could buy at a store.

This is a recipe and instructions for making red ink, from a book of compiled medieval craft techniques:

To prepare white-flake, get some sheets of lead beaten out thin, place them dry in a hollow piece of wood and pour in some warm vinegar or urine to cover them. Then, after a month, take off the cover and remove whatever white there is, and again replace it as at first. When you have a sufficient amount and you wish to make red lead from it, grind this flake-white on a stone without water, then put it in two or three new pots and place it over a burning fire.

You have a slender curved iron rod, fitted at one end in a wooden handle and broad at the top, and with this you can stir and mix this flake-white from time to time. You do this for a long time until the red lead becomes visible.

The point is that rubrication took time, patience, skill, and a tolerance for working with urine. And so the use of rubrication was minimal, used only to signify importance. It’s not uncommon even today, as many books still have their opening lines in ornate text often in a different color, especially if the book is a special edition or fully illustrated. We can also see modern day rubrication in red letter edition bibles, in which all the words spoken by Jesus Christ are written in red.

And even in the case of many Christian church service pamphlets, not only do they use rubcrication but the pilcrow makes an appearance to differentiate between directions to be followed from text to be read aloud. For example, the bulk of the text would be the sermon for you to follow along with, intermixed with pilcrows that indicate when you should kneel or stand or repeat certain parts of the text aloud. A change in action.

However, none of these are as common as they once were. Because something happened in the mid-fifteenth century that would change rubrication, and therefore affect the pilcrow forever… The invention of the printing press.

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of printing, I’ll save that for an episode about printing, but for you non-printers, here is a real basic run down. And for you printers out there, please cover your ears for a few seconds because I am about to severely oversimplify this and don’t want to get hate mail.

Okay, non-printers, did you ever make those potato prints as a kid? You know, when your elementary school teacher gave you a plastic butter knife to carve your initial into a potato as if that were a good idea? And if you managed to not cut your fingers, you could dip the mangled potato into tempera paint and smash it into a large piece of butcher paper. Leaving behind a smooshed smear of a letter. Then if you wanted a second color, you had to clean off the first color or risk turning everything muddy brown.

The same general principles apply with any printing press. Except instead of one potato, you have a thousand miniature potatoes of various letters that have to be aligned perfectly, oh and they’re made of lead. And instead of using the back of a plastic spoon as a brayer, you have a few hundred pound metal and wood contraption to press your paper onto the tiny metal potato letters. And replacing the plastic knife are a whole new array of movable parts to smash your fingers in.

What stays the same though, is that you still have to clean everything off, move around your tiny letters, make sure everything is lined up perfectly, and press the paper again if you want another color.

Now the printing press sped up the production of books, but they still tried to incorporate many characteristics of handwritten text. Blackletter for example, mimicked handwriting, and if you don’t know what blackletter is, just picture the logo for any metal band ever.

Another carryover from manuscripts into printing was rubrication. But to do this with a printing press, the body of the text would be printed in black ink with spaces left blank where the red text should be. The red text would later be either added by hand or by doing a separate print run with red ink.

Lettering by hand was time-consuming and expensive, and setting up the press for a second run was also time-consuming and finicky, especially when sometimes the second color was just to make a single mark on a page. After awhile, these blank spaces reserved for pilcrows before paragraphs, just started being left blank, and readers started recognizing the empty indention as a marker for a new paragraph. Hence, the invention of the indent at the beginning of a paragraph. And then before pilcrow saw it coming, he was for the most part, obsolete.


Pilcrow Noir Scene #2

Pilcrow:   Darkness coated the town like a double-print of carbon black. I was working on a case when she walked in.

            Ampersand:    Detective Pilcrow?

Pilcrow:      The dame had the kind of curls and curves that brought together clauses. She was the type of woman that men wrote similes about.

Ampersand:   Um, I’m standing right here. I can hear you. And don’t call me a dame. My name is Am. Ampersand.

            Pilcrow:      She was sharp as a knife and cut right to the chase.

Ampersand:    Yeah, I’m still here.

Pilcrow:      Pleased to meet you, Miss Ampersand. Call me Pilcrow.  So, what’s a classy character like you want with an old relic like me? (I asked her. I wanted to discuss her past, the present, and our future together, but didn’t want to seem too intense.)

Ampersand:    Okay… Well, I need help finding my friend who went missing recently. His name is Mr. Thorpe. Octo thorpe.

             Pilcrow:  Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in awhile.

             Ampersand:    You know him?

Pilcrow:          The guy’s got more aliases than supervillain’s phone book. First he's repping for numbers and pounds, next thing you know he gets a little tipsy and gets sharp.  You should be careful joining up with characters like that.

Ampersand:    I’m a conjunction. It’s my function.



KERI: Oh Ampersand, you little minx. Ampersand is a logogram, a symbol representing a word, in this case the word “and”. The Ampersand form evolved from a ligature of the Latin letters “et”, which means “and”.

A little trip down etymology lane tells us that ampersand is the long lost 27th character of the English alphabet. When reciting the alphabet in school, or maybe during old timey sobriety tests, or whenever else folks from the 19th century might recite the alphabet, it was customary to add the Latin phrase “per se” meaning “in itself” after stand-alone letters. It was used to indicate “that’s all, folks” before moving on to the next word or letter, especially if a letter could also be a word, like I or a for example. It was basically a more eloquent version of saying “next word” whenever we’re spelling anything aloud.

And so just like our alphabet now usually ends with X, Y, and Z.  “And” used to be considered part of the alphabet team. It would get confusing (as if this weren’t already confusing) to say “x,y,z, and and” so to indicate that you really mean the word “and” and you’re not just stuttering “and and”.  People used to say “X, Y, Z, and per se and.” Which over time gets slurred, and per se and, and per send, ampersand.

The ampersand’s physical form is fun too. It’s delicate and curvy. Sometimes the “et” ligature form is still recognizable, like a lowercase e t. Sometimes it looks like a bisected backward capital “e”. Sometimes it looks like a real questionable cursive “S”. There are so many variations, and yet we still recognize them as “and”s which is pretty astounding if you think about it.

German typographer Jan Tschichold was also intrigued by these variations, and collected hundreds of examples of ampersands from first century Pompeii to the seventh century Book of Kells, all the way up through the twentieth century in order to chronicle the development of the ampersand. These forms were compiled and released in a booklet titled Formenwandlungen der & Zeichnen, or The Ampersand, it’s Form and Developments in 1953.

But is ampersand really just a symbol for “and” to be used in the same way? Do we really need to shorten and? Shouldn’t we instead shorten words like, I dunno, ampersand?  Is it just the illusion of being more efficient?  Like how saying VW seems like a faster way to say “Volkswagen”, but it’s not.

The ampersand does have a slightly different meaning than the word “and”. It’s generally considered informal to use the ampersand symbol to straight out replace “and” if what you really mean is in fact per se “and”. But, the use of an ampersand actually joins items closer together than just a regular old “and”. You see the ampersand a lot in shared company names, business partners, or in writings that have more than one author. The ampersand technically implies that the owners or partners or authors have contributed the same amount of work or share the same amount of ownership. For example, let’s say you have Sam & Dean Hunters for Hire, as in Sam ampersand Dean – that implies that they are equal partners. But if it read Sam and Dean, it would mean that Sam is the main contributor and Dean is supporting, which we all know isn’t true. Although this is a loose rule that is often broken, it’s still fun.


Pilcrow Noir Scene #3

(Walking outdoor sounds)

             Pilcrow: You sure this is where you last saw him?

Ampersand: Yes, absolutely. This is Interrobang’s place. He was throwing a retro 60’s party. I must warn you though, he can be pretty intense.

             Pilcrow: past perfect or present?

            Ampersand: more like, questionably aggressive, but you'll see what I mean

            (Knock on door, door opening)

            Interrobang: hello?!

            Pilcrow: hello mr. Interrobang, we’re here inquiring about a missing character

           Ampersand: it's Octothorpe, he's missing

           Interrobang: I'm sorry to hear that?!

           Pilcrow: is that a question, mr. Interrobang? Why are you yelling?

           Ampersand: (under her breath) shh! He can't help it

           Interrobang: no worries?! And please, call me The bang?!

Pilcrow: I'm not going to call you that

Ampersand: when's the last time you talked to Octothorpe, the Bang?

Interrobang: not since the party?! He was hanging out with those youngsters?! You know?! They call themselves Emojis!?

            Ampersand: oh no! Not them!

            Pilcrow: who are the emojies?

Ampersand: they're new characters, I guess, not quite punctuation, they're a cartoonish gang of emotional icons. Oh, but they're just awful, Mr. Pilcrow!

Interrobang: I kicked them out because after a few drinks there were eggplants everywhere?!

            Ampersand:(gasp) disgusting!

Pilcrow: Just like debaucherous dust bunnies, have we been sucked up to find ourselves in a moral vacuum? I thought to myself

            Interrobang: what?!

Ampersand: oh, he does this sometimes. It's a clumsy transition, but it means we're about to move into a new segment



Information Essay: Interrobang

KERI: Interrobang?! Is a punctuation mark conceived by Martin Speckter, the head of a New York advertising agency and editor of a magazine called Type Times. In the march 1962 issue, Speckter wrote an article declaring the need for a new punctuation mark for exclamatory rhetorical questions.

For example if you wanted to punctuate “he said what?!”, you would usually end it with alternating exclamation point question mark exclamation point question mark and so on, until you felt that the proper amount of incredulous rhetoric was achieved.

Speckter asked readers through the article to submit design and name ideas for this new mark. Readers sent in their suggestions, and among them were words like rhet, exclarotive, exclamaquest and interrobang. Interrobang was declared the winner, being a combination of interrogative and bang being a slang term used by printers for the exclamation mark.

Next came the design ideas. The winner, as you can imagine, was a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point. They are overlayed on top of each other sharing the dot below.

Interrobang, like Chia pets and bellbottoms, became wildly popular but we're relatively short lived. Because this was the pre-computer era of the early 1960s, if one wanted to use an interrobang, it had to be hand-lettered by a designer or manipulated by literally cutting and pasting existing punctuation marks. But surprisingly, that didn't hinder interrobangs popularity that much. Throughout the 1960s, interrobangs could be seen all over advertisements and printed articles. They were so widely in use that in 1967, type designer Richard Isbell included the interrobang in his new font called Americana. It was also added to the new model of Remington typewriters later that year.

But then sadly, within a few more years, the interrobang faded into obscurity. Though it still exists as a cult classic punctuation mark amongst retro type enthusiasts, appearing here and there as a throwback to the 60’s, and can be found in a few digital fonts such as Ariel Unicode and Palatino Linotype


Pilcrow Noir Scene #4

Pilcrow: The silence was loud enough to shatter itself, as I contemplated how to tell Ampersand that her friend Octothorpe might be in real danger

             Ampersand: Octothorpe is in danger?!

Pilcrow: sorry, I forgot I was in exposition mode. (Clears throat)... It wasn't easy, but I managed to track down the emoji headquarters, a place called Social Media Center. I think that it be our best chance at finding Octothorpe

           SOUNDS: (Knock on door, door opens loudly, party noise maker)

            Cake: HAPPY birthday! What can I do ya for friends?

            Pilcrow: What does that mean? Are you a...cake? Is this your purpose?

Ampersand: over there! Is that a bat? Or a vampire cow? Oh mister pilcrow I'm so confused!

            Poop: don't forget about me!

            Pilcrow: what in the name of Guttenberg are you.. you're….

            Poop: you can say it. I'm Poop. 

           Ampersand: oh. why? (Sobbing)

Poop: don't be embarrassed. Everyone Poops, baby. it's been a best selling childrens book since 1977 and translated into multiple languages worldwide.

            Ampersand: oh, Mr Pilcrow, I feel faint

            Pilcrow: enough tomfoolery!  Where's Octothorpe?

            Octopus: (underwater sounds) hello? Were you looking for me?

Pilcrow: Octothorpe! Not octopus!  What IS this place? Some sort of Lewis Carroll nightmare?

            Octopus: sorry...

            Octothorpe: oh, hey guys. Whats up?

             Ampersand: Octothorpe?  You seem different… are you okay?

Octothorpe: I'm totally fine. Oh, but I don't go by Octothorpe anymore. I mean, you can call me the character formerly known as octothorpe if you want, but I usually just go by Hash.

            Pilcrow: Hash?

            Octothorpe: yeah man, it's kinda like my tag name, you know.

            Ampersand: but Octo...er, Hash, we were so worried about you!

            Pilcrow: are you being held here against your will? Blink twice for yes.

Octothorpe: nah man, nothing like that.  I'm just kicking it with my new friends. You gotta reinvent yourself every once in awhile you know? I just wasn't feeling all that useful for awhile.But here, I'm like a master tagger. You want to see a hamster eat a tiny burrito? Bam! Hashtag too cute#. Or maybe you want to see a picture of what your neighbor ate for breakfast? I got ya - Hashtag instafood!

             Ampersand: I don't understand. Why would anyone want that?

             Octothorpe: it's the way of the future man. Likes for follows, likes for follows.

             Pilcrow: what is he saying? (To ampersand)

            Ampersand: that's enough! I think you should come with us!

Octothorpe: no way! Jeez, you remind me of my ex, Apostrophe. She could be pretty possessive too. I'm fine, really. Hashtag lovinlife!


Information Essay: Octothorpe

KERI: You are probably familiar with a versatile little character that goes by many names: octothorpe, hex, number sign, pound sign, hatch or hash. Visually, they are the same but their meanings have changed throughout the centuries.

It's believed that octothorpe’s origins began as an abbreviation for the Roman measurement libra pondo, which developed into a ligature with a horizontal line crossing the lower case L in order to differentiate itself from the numeral 1. From then it was eventually simplified into the familiar two horizontal lines bisecting two vertical lines. It is still commonly referred to as the pound sign because of its association with measuring weight.

The first appearance of pound sign being used as a symbol for numbers around the 1850’s as indicated by book-keeping texts at the time. The “number sign” as it became known, was still mostly handwritten.

The origins for the name Octothorpe is a little more convoluted, though for me it is the most fun to say which is why the name was used in the audio drama.

In the late 1960’s Bell Labs was developing ways for the telephone to interact with computers and added two new keys - the asterisk, which they renamed the Star key because it looks like a tiny star. And the pound sign, which was renamed Octothorpe for no discernable reason at all.

So let’s try break it down – “Octo” is easy enough to decipher, referencing the eight points of the shape, or the eight open fields surrounding the square. Thorpe is a little harder to figure out.  According to one legend, the term was named after the eighteenth-century English philanthropist James Edward Oglethorpe, though why this would be the case is unknown.

Another origin story is that Thorpe is the old Norse word for “field” and that the symbol looks like eight fields surrounding a central village. Hence octo-thorpe.

And yet another urban legend of the octothorpe’s namesake originated from an inside joke about an employee burping.

Whatever the truth may be, the word octothorpe first appeared in a 1972 employee handbook for the Bell Labs telephone company, but as for why they chose the name octothorpe, one may never know.

Other names this little symbol is known by are hatch, as in cross-hatch hatch marks, and hash which is a disambiguation of hatch.

Hash went through another transformation in 2007 when twitter user and former google designer Chris Messina tweeted a single ground-breaking suggestion, “how do you feel about using pound sign for groups? As in #barcamp?”

and thus the hashtag was born! I won't get into the nitty gritty about metadata, mostly because I don't understand it, but the use of hashtags in one's social media posts makes them more easily searchable, thus connecting more users. As you can search by topic and shared interests. This also means that the hash mark all on its lonesome is sometimes mistakenly called a hashtag, but until it comes in contact with a mashed together word it is still just hash.


Coyote Bones Press Ad

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Information essay: emojies

KERI: Emojies are ideograms, or symbols that represent an idea or concept independent of words. You know them as smilies, that help clarify intent or emotion via texts and social media posts. It's helpful in adding meaning to your messages when you have to be brief.  Like when your partner texts you and asks if they can adopt three kittens they saw at the shelter and you type “yeah sure I think that's a great idea”. Butthe inclusion of one smiley emojie or one eye roll emoji can affect whether or not you end up with a house full of baby felines.

Emojies differ from emoticons in that emoticons are emotion icons created from existing punctuation and letter combinations. If you want to smile, you just type colon dash parenthesis for example.  Emojies on the other hand are full pictorial representations of not only emotions, but numerous concepts and objects.

Emoji, is Japanese e for picture and moji for character. Emojis were first developed by a Japanese cell phone company who were inspired by the symbols used in tv weather forecasts and the cartoon icons used to show emotion in manga and anime. The first set of emojis were released in 1998 as 176 single characters. Today, there are now 1,088 characters available expressing everything from weddings to aliens to thunderstorms.

An interesting thing about emojis is that they can have vastly different meanings not only due to context, but also depending on region and culture. For example, the manicure emoji shows fingernails being lacquered – and was originally initiated in 2015 as just that – painting ones nails, perhaps as a way to communicate self-care, or a concepts of beauty.  But what it has been commonly used for, especially in America, is to express nonchalant self-importance, or simply -   “haters gonna hate”

You may have noticed that I used the word “initiated” for the release of new emojis, that’s because (and this is by far the most exciting fact I have learned this week) new emojis are voted on and created by a group called the Unicode Consortium.

The Unicode Consortium is an international non-profit organization that standardizes computer language basically. The specifications agreed upon by this organization is what allows our operating systems, software, and apps to communicate with each other. And they are also responsible for standardizing emojis – so that an android user can text an iphone user two dancing girls with antennae and they get it.

So who can propose new emojis to be voted upon by this mysterious consortium? You can! You can go to www.unicode.org right now and propose a character. Then, the usefulness, versatility, and recongizability of the character will be considered and it may become added to the emoji repertoire.

To tie this back into book arts a little bit at least, in 2014 artist Xu Bing published a book called The Book from the Ground written entirely in emoji. Xu Bing’s statement on the book was 

“Twenty years ago I made Book from the Sky, a book of illegible Chinese characters that no one could read. Now I have created Book from the Ground, a book that anyone can read.”

Book from the Ground is a hardcover, readily available book you can easily find online or in many bookshops. At first glance, it looks like just entire pages completely filled with a wall of emojies, and it is. Except when you look at each symbol and icon and consider its meaning, a story develops about a day in the life of a quote unquote a typical urban white-collar worker. The idea is that for the most part, regardless of where are from or what official language we read or speak, we all share this relatively overlooked language that a lot of us use on a daily basis.

We send a thumbs-up as affirmation, hearts to express love and comfort, and sad faces to offer sympathy. And although these are not official or formal ways of writing, you wouldn’t use them in a research paper or legal document or anything, but they are in their own way valid forms of communication.


Pilcrow Noir Scene #5

Pilcrow: as I walked her to her front door, I was overwhelmed with the desire to comfort her, to tell her everything would be okay.

          Ampersand: Stop that. Stop it right now.

           Pilcrow: I'm sorry about your friend.

Ampersand: oh, it's okay. If over sharing with strangers is what makes him happy, and it's not hurting anyone, then that's fine by me. Thank you Mr Pilcrow for helping me find him.

           Pilcrow: it's my job. But also, it was pleasure miss ampersand. (Pause) I think, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ampersand: don't say that. We really can't afford that line, copyright and all.

Pilcrow: are you sure? I'm pretty sure it must be in the public domain.

(Slow fade out audio)

Ampersand: Nope, we're gonna be sued.

Pilcrow: well, it's more of an homage anyway

Ampersand: I guess so. Look it up

Pilcrow: what do I search for?

Ampersand: try Hashtag casa...




KERI: I hope you enjoyed our time together through the magical world of punctuation. For further reading about punctuation, my recommended reading list is Shady Characters: The Secret Life of Punctuation, Symbols, and other Typographical Marks by Keith Houston, Making a Point: The Persnickety Story of English Punctuation by David Crystal, and Just My Type by Simon Garfield.

And for Books in the Wild’s soon-to-be-award-winning audio drama punctuation noir, the role of the hashtagging Octothorpe was played by Sean Cocca from Childhood Remastered podcast. Our yelly friend Interrobang was played by Reverand Jeff Kelley, host of the Squatchers Lounge Podcast. The bubbly Octopus emoji was played by Paul from The Varmints Podcast.  Poop emoji was played by Lafayette Kartchner. Birthday Cake and Ampersand were played by yours truly, and my mysterious and wonderful partner in crime Detective Pilcrow played himself. Music and sounds were sampled from Freemusicarchive or freesound.org, or if you can hear the sound of rabbits running around in the background, I probably recorded it myself. Thank you so much to fellow podcasters and friends Sean, Jeff, Paul, Lafayette, and Detective Pilcrow for lending your voices to this episode. I have links to everyone’s podcasts in the show notes, please check them out.

If you like what you hear, please rate and review us on itunes or stitcher, or you can send me an email at booksinthewildpodcast@gmail.com , or Instagram and facebook at booksinthewildpodcast, or just send smoke signals or maybe some homing pigeons. Whichever is your preferred method of communication – get in touch. Sometimes it’s nice to know that people are listening and I’m not just forcing people to act out the hypothetical voices for anthropromorphic punctuation marks for no reason.

Oh, and I am finally consolidating the reader notes and episode list so it’s all in one place at booksinthewild.com– I’m not really sure why I thought it would be less confusing to have them separate, but I have learned the error of my ways and the episodes have all the information including links to the reference materials, show notes, and now, full transcripts!  For those who might want such things, like if you want to read along with me for each episode. You can do that now. 

Hashtag Books in the Wild. Thank you again for listening.








Episode 5: The Sleeper Booklet Hoax

Reading List:

Literary Forgeries and Mystifications by Richard Landon

The Story of a Largely Unknown Evolution - Germ Theory Hoax

Inland Printer Volume 53

The Linnean Society of London

Note: I am still looking for more information about Lightface Celtic Typeface, George Washington Sleeper, and a complete readable copy of Shall We Have Common Sense! If anyone has any information on these topics, please contact me

Episode 4: A Commonplace Audiobook - Overcoming Creative Block

This episode takes the form of a "commonplace audiobook" - an mix-tape of inspiration to help overcome artist's block, ranging from information about the creative process, excerpts from interviews, music, and tips on overcoming creative block.

Reading List:

Commonplace Books

What is Creativity?

Creative Block

Music (in order of appearance in episode):

"The Cave" by Black Camaro

"Maligned" by The Residuels

"Wildfire" by Hand Grenade Job

Audio Clips:

A Conversation between Patti Smith and David Lynch

Wristcutters: A Love Story

Episode 3: Artist Talk by Julie Chen

Every Moment in a Book: Three Decades of Work by Julie Chen is now on view at the Allen Library Special Collections at University of Washington. On March 16th, a reception and artist talk was held and I was lucky enough to attend and record the momentous event. Listen to the artist talk here.

Notes and Links for the episode:

Episode 2: The Wipers Times

Reading List


WWI Glossary

Bully British canned corned beef. “Bully” is believed to be a corruption of the French bouillie meaning “boiled”, and due to the image of bulls depicted on the tin cans.

Cold Meat Ticket - Identity disc. Soldiers were issued two identity discs. In the event of death, one disc was taken from the body (the cold meat) and one remained.

Minnie - short for "Minenwerfer" (German for "mine launcher"), a class of short range mortars

No Man's Land - the area between the trenches of opposing forces

Sherwood Foresters - line infantry regiment of the British Army

Tommy- British soldier. Derived from Tommy Atkins, which, much like John Doe in the U.S., was a name on sample forms to represent a a typical British army private soldier.

Whizz-Bang - A high-velocity shell. Derived from the noise of the rapid flight and the explosion of a German 77mm shell.

Wipers – British soldiers' nickname for the city of Ypres, Belgium (“EE-pruh”)