Monday, September 15, 2008

Alcuin Society's 26th Annual Book Design Awards

The Awards Ceremony for the winners of the Alcuin Society 2007 Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada will be held this year at Emily Carr University. The awards will be presented by Bonne Zabolotney, Emily Carr University's Associate Dean, Design. The keynote speaker will be CS Richardson.
Designer and author CS Richardson is Creative Director for Random House of Canada. Over a twenty-five year career, he has designed books for numerous notable authors, including Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Wayson Choy, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, and John Irving. He is a multiple winner of the Alcuin Award and has received CBA Libris, Applied Arts, and Advertising & Design Club of Canada awards. Richardson is also an acclaimed novelist. His first book, The End of the Alphabet, is an international bestseller, and winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book.
Robert Bringhurst will also give a short, informal talk about his new book, The Surface of Meaning : 25 Years of Book Design in Canada (CCSP Press).
Robert Bringhurst, both a former Alcuin competition judge and design award-winner, is a poet, linguist and typographer. His book, The Elements of Typographic Style (now in its third edition) has been translated into ten languages. His most recent books are The Tree of Meaning (2006) and its companion volume, Everywhere Being is Dancing (2007); and New World Suite No. 3 (2007).

EMILY CARR UNIVERSITY – SB301 (South Building)


The award-winning books will be on display. For a complete list of the books, and more information about The Alcuin Society and its book design competition, see:

During the day, two free book design-related workshops will be held at the University, with a limited number of admissions; pre-registration will be required. Details will be announced shortly on the Alcuin Society's website.

The Alcuin Society is a Vancouver based non-profit society for the support and appreciation of books. In addition to the annual Book Design Competition, the Society publishes a quarterly journal, Amphora, and organizes workshops, lectures, and exhibitions on various aspects of the book.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Alcuin Society/Vancouver Museum Presentation

Speaker: Crispin Elsted, co-proprietor of barbarian press in mission, BC

Topic: the case for the canon: printing the classics in the cyber-age.

Date and time: Wednesday, may 27th, 7:00 to 8:00 pm

Place: Joyce Whalley learning centre, Vancouver museum, 1100 chestnut street, Vancouver

Alcuin society/Vancouver public library, special collections presentation

Speaker: Michael Kluckner, winner of the 2007 Vancouver book award

Topic: "Len Norris and the Vancouver imagination"

Date and time: Wednesday, may 27th, 7:30 – 9:00

Place: Alma van Dusen and Peter Kaye rooms, Vancouver public library, central branch

Description: award winning author, Michael Kluckner, has been influenced in many different ways by the city of Vancouver. One of these influences was Vancouver sun cartoonist Len Norris Michael will explore that relationship in a lecture illustrated by a generous sampling of Mr. Norris’ cartoons.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

217 Miles from MoTown: Tim Inkster @ The Porcupine's Quill, 1974-2008

Tim Inkster, one of the faces behind The Porcupine's Quill, will give an amusing and enlightening illustrated "memoir" of his life at the noted and notable Erin, Ontario, press. Inkster is making a rare appearance in Vancouver as one of three judges at the 26th annual Alcuin Society Book Design Competition.Sometimes described as a "hot house" for the development of Canadian literary talent, The Porcupine's Quill has also been compared (inaccurately, by one misinformed Heritage Canada consultant) to MoTown Records (whose Head Office on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan is 217 miles from Erin in distance, and considerably further in just about every other conceivable way).

Tim Inkster is a member of the Graphic Designers of Canada, and has been active within the Literary Press Group and the Association of Canadian Publishers. He was also heavily involved in a variety of roles with the Eden Mills Writers' Festival for more than ten years, including one term as president. He managed the Upper Canada Brewing Company Writers' Craft Award the year the prize was awarded to Alice Munro.

As well as winning numerous national and international awards himself (including many, over several years, from The Alcuin Society), in September of 2003 he received the Sixth Annual Janice Handford award which honours "an individual who has made a significant contribution to the advancement of small press publishing in this country." In October, 2005 he was a featured guest speaker at the Sixth Annual Gaspereau Press Wayzgoose in Kentville, NS.

COST: FREE to the public
DATE: Thursday, April 3, 2008
TIME: 7:00 - 9:00PM
PLACE: The Vancouver Museum -- Joyce Walley Learning Centre
1100 Chestnut St., Vancouver. BC

Reservations: contact Leah Gordon (604)732-5403 or

Co-sponsored by The Vancouver Museum and The Alcuin Society.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Robert McCamant: A Strategy Whether Collecting or Publishing

As part of the SFU Library Special Collections series, Share the Enthusiasm, long-time printer/publisher, collector and author, Robert McCamant, will discuss his strategies for collecting and publishing.

Robert McCamant was one of the founders of the Chicago Reader, one of the oldest and most successful American alternative weeklies. For 23 years, McCamant was the paper’s art designer and later its vice-president.

In 1984, he became proprietor, designer, and editor of Sherwin Beach Press (; the Press publications have been in many exhibitions, recently the NYPL’s “Ninety for the Nineties”.

McCamant is a member of the Association typographique internationale, the American
Institute of Graphic Arts and Chicago’s prestigious Caxton Society for which he edits
their journal, The Caxtonian. He is an advisor to the Codex Foundation and North American chair of the Fine Press Books Association.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Alcuin Society (

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue
Hamber Foundation Boardroom 470
Simon Fraser University Vancouver
580 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC

Refreshments following lecture.

Free Admission – limited seating
- please reserve a seat by calling
778.782.6704 or emailing

For further information contact:
Eric Swanick
Head, Special Collections
WAC Bennett Library
Simon Fraser University
Tel: 778.782.4626


Friday, January 25, 2008

Orwell's "Bookshop Memories," or a Cure for Bibliophilia

Recently the world's most popular blog, Boing Boing, pointed to a rather grumpy essay by George Orwell, entitled "Bookshop Memories." Alcuin Society members and other book lovers may be happy to know that there is a documented cure for their bibliophilia:
But the real reason why I should not like to be in the book trade for life is that while I was in it I lost my love of books. A bookseller has to tell lies about books, and that gives him a distaste for them; still worse is the fact that he is constantly dusting them and hauling them to and fro. There was a time when I really did love books — loved the sight and smell and feel of them, I mean, at least if they were fifty or more years old. Nothing pleased me quite so much as to buy a job lot of them for a shilling at a country auction. There is a peculiar flavour about the battered unexpected books you pick up in that kind of collection: minor eighteenth-century poets, out-of-date gazeteers, odd volumes of forgotten novels, bound numbers of ladies’ magazines of the sixties. For casual reading — in your bath, for instance, or late at night when you are too tired to go to bed, or in the odd quarter of an hour before lunch — there is nothing to touch a back number of the Girl's Own Paper. But as soon as I went to work in the bookshop I stopped buying books. Seen in the mass, five or ten thousand at a time, books were boring and even slightly sickening. Nowadays I do buy one occasionally, but only if it is a book that I want to read and can't borrow, and I never buy junk. The sweet smell of decaying paper appeals to me no longer. It is too closely associated in my mind with paranoiac customers and dead bluebottles.
For the full essay, check here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Print-on-Demand. It's Here.

Insofar as publishing is "the activity of making information available for public view," the internet has been democratizing publishing for some time now. These days, in Canada at least, anyone can go to a public library, access the Internet, and start a blog at Blogger, all for free. Put another way, with the World Wide Web the barrier to entry for publishing is almost nonexistent, requiring only basic computer skills.

Conversely, up until recently there's been a significant barrier to entry when it comes to good old fashioned ink on paper, especially in book form. Usually an author has to convince a publisher that a sufficient number of his or her books will sell to turn a profit, or failing at this an author could opt for so called vanity publishing, fronting the money to publish a run of their own book.

This is no longer the case. As this article suggests, print on demand technology is here:
New printing technologies are making published authors of legions of aspiring writers, a population that once toiled for years on tomes that might not see the light of day. The vast majority of today's instant authors may sell only a few dozen copies of their books, but on-demand publishing is letting thousands realize the ambitions of generations of would-be writers.
With this technology the economics of scale cease to apply: if all you want is one book, you can have it printed for you; if you have orders for 25 books the next day, you can have them printed... There's no limit and no significant price difference for volume.

The above quoted article links to three sites that offer print-on-demand: