The Black-Capped Chickadee in Love
Poecile Atricapillus Amans [The Black-Capped Chickadee in Love] is my first entry in the series A Field Guide to the Birds of Duluth Township: Full of Avian Facts so AMAZING it is as if the Author Made Them Up! . If the book actually existed, and if it was reviewed, I am sure the reviewer would write “while the book may be short on facts, it is long on truth.”
Anyone who lives up North knows the moment in late winter when the light has come early for the first time and you hear in the stillness of morning – “hey, sweetie, hey sweetie” – the mnemonic humans have created for the sweetest of love songs from that dapper romantic, the Black-Capped Chickadee.
“his song of love fills the air. All who hear it, man & beast, rejoice.”
I wanted to catch the sound carry across the morning. I conceived it to be printed in increasing larger type as it carries off into the corners of the Township. But being a micro-press, my type choices are limited in both scope and depth, forcing me to fall back on my Italian Old Style. To save my patrons framing costs [and to deal with the limited size of my paper cutter] I am trying to work with standard size papers, so this series will by done on 5″x7″ Arnhem paper that I can buy in pre-sized packs. Finally, to leave luxurious wide margins [a great joy of fine printing] my text block was reduced to only 3″ wide.
I set to work, and set some type, and pulled a proof.
The text block is set in 12 pt. type. Foreign language words would be traditionally presented in italic. My smallest IOS italic is the much larger 18 pt. I hoped to solve this by dropping amore onto its own line but it feels a bit like shouting. However my friend Jon at The Tight Squeek Press has taken pity on me an I have 12 pt. IOS italic in the mail to see if this can solve this design problem.
With my type design on hold & in the hands of the USPS, I set to the second task of the print, my image of the chickadee. I wanted my faux-guide to have the feel of a real & perhaps last century book. I settled on a pen and ink drawing that would be turned into a photoengraving for the printing process.
The joy of photo-engraving is that reducing a larger drawing down to a smaller size, what could in one size be described as a shaky pen stroke becomes the pen stroke of a bold & confident artist. The terror of the photo-engraving is that the reduction can muddle those bold strokes into a dark blob. After a drawing for a bit I scanned my image to its actualize to see how it would looked in a mock-up.
With the image looking encouraging, I went on to finish the penwork.
Now I needed to figure out the reduction. On the left you can see the drawing reduced 40%, and 33% on the right. The consensus of my focus group was the larger image. I made a 1200 dpi scan and sent the image off to the engraver.
[Early, Early February]
Disaster strikes! The italic arrived from The Tight Squeek Press, but Jon did not have my exemplar, and working from a dictionary, sent me the letters for amour – “a secret or illicit love affair or lover.” But my chickadee is a romantic, so I wanted to stay with my original amore, or “romance.” While I was pondering this, other calamities were in the works.
Disaster strikes! I erred on my math and the engraving came back too large. Other than it entirely upended my design, I was impressed with the detail of my first foray into engraving from pen & ink sketches.
Trying to make the best of things [and not losing a week of time & $60 to have the engraving redone] I reset the text in 18 pt. type. The size seemed to work. It also solved my amore/amour problem as I have 18 pt. Old Style in italic.
Due to the larger size of the type, I had to rethink my paper size (still hoping to stay with a standard size). The left is a mock-up on 6″x9″ paper, and the right is 7″x10″. I was hoping to use the 7″x10″, because it would allow a wider bottom border, but the 6″x9″ seemed a better fit.
But the tape & the separate sheets of paper in the mock-up were busy so I scanned the mock-up, cleaned it up on Paint with the eraser (yes, that Paint. Still use it. Still love it] & made a faux black foam core mat.