Books and Bookmakers

The first instinct of a human being with a unique thought or feeling is to communicate it to some one else. That is the seed and meaning of all art. That is why books are written.

Primitive races engraved their experiences on stone and wood. They were the first books.

The Egyptian temples are nothing but books carved in stone. The Hindu temples are histories graven in granite.

After that, man began to use papyrus to record his visions. He began to write.

He sought to do it beautifully, just as those men did who wrote on stones. Later came those wonderfully wrought missals and holy books of the Middle Ages, wherein Beauty wed Thought and Dream.

The Roycroft books continue this great tradition and evolution. To record a thing is not enough. It must be recorded beautifully. The instinct that works and fashions the great masterpieces gotten out in The Roycrofter Shop is the same instinct that set a single man to work for years on a single panel in the old Hindu temples. It is the same instinct and passion that compelled a priest to give up years of life to beautify a prayer-book. It is the same instinct that made William Morris and the Kelmscott Press immortal.

The best books produced by the workers in The Roycroft Shop are as distinctively works of art as any painting that hangs in the Louvre.

The Roycrofters began an era in American bookmaking. Anything that is done perfectly, sincerely and beautifully begins an era.

“I fell in love with the binding on that book and I bought it,” said William Morris one day. [iii] The book was one he had written. He re-read it when he got home—“for the sake of the feel,” he said.

And that is the joy of a book, after all—“the feel of it.” There is a psychological “feel” as well as a physical “feel” in the great classics that are printed by Roycroftia. It wells from every line. It is in the perfect workmanship.

Shakespeare, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, have a different “feel,” a new “feel,” when you read them through these beautiful volumes.



Source: The Fra, Nov. 1912, pp. ii-iii



Although the byline for this advertisement (it can’t truly be called an essay or article in the objective sense) is simply “Casseres,” it seems pretty clearly to be the work of Benjamin De Casseres. The tone is similar to that of De Casseres’ other works, and the list of “Shakespeare, Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau” at the end pretty much solidifies the probability that he wrote it, as they are four of the most commonly referenced writers in his work.