Binding Crafts: English Course Combines Artistry of Writing, Publishing

May 25, 2021 | News, UToday, Arts and Letters
By Kirk Baird

Among the writings Olivia Manias carried into her English 3080 course, The Art and Process of the Book, were a selection of poems she had scribbled out during her freshman year at The University of Toledo.

The poems were, admittedly, rough. But they were a starting point in a semester-long process to improve her artistry not only as a writer but as a craftsman who brings those words to tangible life in a handmade chapbook, a small book containing poems, ballads, stories or tracts.

Olivia Manias, who graduated in May with an English degree, poses with copies of her chapbook of poetry, which is titled Thump Thump.

“With all the feedback I’ve gotten in my workshop classes,” Manias said, “they’ve evolved into something I’m really proud of … which is the culmination of all my creative work here at the University.”

Her chapbook of poetry is titled Thump Thump.

“I’m so glad that UToledo gave me this unique opportunity,” said Manias, who graduated in May with an English degree and will return in the fall to pursue a master’s in writing studies. “I had no idea what letterpress printing even was before this class, and now I’m thinking about starting a small business with what I learned. My work has been published in print before, but the quality of letterpress printing completely elevates it.”

Timothy Geiger, a professor of English who leads The Art and Process of the Book, said the course allows students “a unique view of writing, turning the theoretical aspects of language into something more physical in the form of lead type and hand-printed pages. It quite literally allows students to shape language on the page.

“For creative writers and those interested in the arts and humanities, the class allows them a deeper understanding and appreciation of the book — its synthesis, history, art and evolution.”

A collection of chapbooks, a small book containing poems, ballads, stories or tracts, created in the English 3080 course.

Christopher McCormick, a senior majoring in creative writing, put together a chapbook about family and growing up in northwest Ohio and Michigan, which he titled Aliens on the Au Sable River.

“This publication is important to me because it is the first time that I get to see my poems in a book format,” McCormick said. “Some of these poems were worked on for a year or more and it’s wonderful to see them in a book. To bring it to life, I had to design the layout of the book, set the type on the printing press and print 25 copies of the book. The last step in the process was to bind each of the books. All of this was accomplished by hand with the help of Professor Geiger.”

Classmate Zachary Hendrix, a recent English graduate, said The Art and Process of the Book course was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for everyone involved.

“Tim gave us all the necessary tools to succeed, and while he offered feedback, he also allowed us great creative freedom,” Hendrix said. “As a result, each of us were intimately involved with each step of the production of a book: from concept, to using modern design tools (Adobe InDesign), to learning the mechanical skills and techniques of decoration and bookbinding, to operation of the Vandercook press and the finer details of book production.

“On a purely educational level, it was a tremendous experience that, for me, was a true capstone to the collegiate experience. Beyond just a deeper appreciation of the time and labor required to create any singular book, the process engaged critical thinking about aesthetics, and how both visual and textual data work in harmony, or at odds with each other to create meaning.”



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