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“To fashion worlds in little”

Richard Hovey’s poem “Taliesin, a Masque” inspired Frank Lloyd Wright’s romantic imagination, fired his own belief in the artist as divine creator. Wright chose the Welsh bard’s name for his home in Wisconsin built to enshrine an extra-marital affair and broadcast his exceptionalism to the world. That torch later passed (with an unfortunate twist) to Ayn Rand, but that’s a tale for another day. Hovey writes:

So God makes use of poets: Teach me then / to fashion worlds in little, making form / As God does, one with spirit—be the priest / Who makes God into bread to feed the world.

That phrase— “to fashion worlds in little” —does inspire me, though I make no Hoveian poetic claim. Yes, Agincourt is, in its way, a “world in little”. But I have fashioned it as a microcosm; a place that plays withrules, rather than breaks or ignores them. Two additional cases come to mind that drive me more then Hovey does.

Fine printer Henry Morris (no relation to the Henry M. Morris who invented Creation Science) devoted his career to exquisitely crafted, limited edition books published by his Bird & Bull Press in Newtown, PA. As an April Fool invention one year, Morris fabricated the island nation of San Serriffe, ideally situated in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.

San-serriffe-april-fools-hoax-e1301590139773

From the prosaic and pragmatic terminology of his craft, Morris has imagined a printer’s “world in little” whose capital Bodoni and major harbor Port Clarendon are typefaces; it’s binary islands are Upper and Lower Caisse. And, of course, he has populated it with a publishing industry disproportionate to its size and situation. For a book on San Serriffe, Mooris even printed currency and cast coins: 

San-serriffe-coin

A copy of the book (with currency and coins) is here in my library. Stop by and I’ll show them to you.

My other inspiration is Donald Evans [1945-1977], born with me but gone too soon. Sickly and ex-patriate, Evans died at thirty-one in an Amsterdam apartment house fire. But not before showing us any number of imaginary lands through philatelic art: Nadorp, Amis & Amants, Republica de Banana, and others evocative of the tropics and so unlike drizzly Amsterdam.

Donald_evans

Evans has crafted intimate postage stamp profiles in ink, pencil and watercolor, with a range of denominations expressed in local currency. His stamps in series often portray themes like mushrooms or palm trees. A framed Evans stamp on my wall is likely to happen shortly after I win the lottery.

These are minds I admire. And their imaginings inspire the minutia that might yet hint to the world that Agincourt exists—or might have. 

The gears are turning even as I type.


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