Kentville, Nova Scotia is home to Gaspereau Press. Lucky for me, I live right up the street. I also happen to be lucky enough to have worked with Andrew Steeves, one of the two publishers that founded the press in 1997. Andrew draws inspiration and technique from the holdings at the Vaughan Memorial Library at Acadia University, where I just happen to work in the Archives and Special Collections department. He has spent many Friday afternoons with us in our reading room digging out and examining our oldest and most interesting treasures, taking close up photographs of individual letters as examples of early fonts, and providing us with a running history of printing. Thanks to him, we have discovered all sorts of items we didn’t know we had. Or at least didn’t know were as interesting as they are!
All summer, during Andrew’s various visits to the library, we threw around the idea of hosting a library staff event at the press. Once a year Gaspereau Press hosts an open house event, but we wanted to do something special for our book loving friends and colleagues. Last week our plan finally came to fruition when nine staff members from the Library descended on the press. Andrew and co-founder Gary Dunfield kindly educated and entertained us for several hours, well outside their normal business day. First we had a complete tour of the facilities and a step by step walkthrough of the production of a book, from conception to shelf.
Our small group gasped in awe at the buckle folder machine, and stood back in reverence at the 1833 Albion Press.
But Andrew and Gary are all about a hands on approach, and next we were invited to make our own blank notebooks, complete with a hand printed cover using their Vandercook Universal I proof press.
We were pointed towards a cabinet full of wooden letters and let loose. Big letters, little letters, giant ampersands, and minute decorative pieces; we examined them all.
Once we had each had a go, we carefully sewed our covers in place, happily marking our place in the Canadian publishing scene. As a team of library staff, we already loved books. After leaving Gaspereau Press that evening we all held a new respect for the process of their creation. Gaspereau Press reminds us that books are works of art, items to be treasured, and stories to be cherished.
Gaspereau Press attracted media attention in 2010 when The Sentimentalists by Johanna Skibsrud won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Click here to find out what happened after The Sentimentalists won this prestigious Canadian literary award.
To find out more about Gaspereau Press, click here.
Bethany Jost graduated from Dalhousie University with a BA in English Literature. She is currently working on her Masters in Archival Administration at Aberystwyth University, UK. Bethany works as an Archives Assistant at the Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada.