An Unveiling

"All pioneers are considered to be afflicted with moonstruck madness." ~Gilbert Blythe

It all started two years ago.

In truth, it started well before that, probably back in my childhood, when I would pore longingly over the crafts section in my Highlights magazine, laying on my bedroom floor with my chin propped on my arms. From my earliest memories, I have always loved to fashion things with my hands. Some of my most famous and oft-repeated last words have been, “I could make that.” Sometimes it’s a delightful and satisfying success. And other times it’s a delightful mess that ends up under the bed or in a dark corner of the attic. But come weal or woe, I’m never so happy as when my fingers are into something—glue, paint, Christmas greens, garden dirt, flour.

I’m sometimes even tempted to write with a quill pen so that I’d have some of those lovely Jo March ink stains to proclaim my vocation to the world.

But this particular madness started two years ago.

I had been daydreaming out loud to Philip about this dancing vision I had. It was so absurd I couldn’t help being enchanted by it: A small-scale run of books made entirely by hand. Was it possible? Was it even remotely financially feasible?

Was I crazy?

I’ll never forget Philip’s reply. He looked straight at me and smiled.

“We can do this,” he said.

And, oh, how I love that ‘we’. It has made all the difference.

In January of 2010 we made a plan. I selected a public domain text for the first run and began to acquaint myself with the mysteries and mazes of Adobe InDesign. I read everything I could on the craft of bookbinding, and schemed over how I could maneuver a one-at-a-time process into a multiple copy run.

Philip built the presses for me—and there is a world of love contained in that one little phrase. He made them all by hand and set me up with everything I would need to make books. I still just sit in my shop sometimes and gloat over my tools, they are so beautiful. (And I realize, in bookbinding as in other arts, that I love the instruments and devices as much as what is produced by them. I get a little giddy over things like English bookbinding needles and Irish linen thread.)

“Yet an old book has something for me which no new book can ever have—for at every reading the memories and atmosphere of other readings come back and I am reading old years as well as an old book.” ~L.M. Montgomery

As the year went on, that ‘we’ expanded to a circle of dear and extremely talented folks. My amazing and artistic brother-in-law taught me how to use that ornery old InDesign, and spent hours on the phone with me, sending files back and forth, and formatting things exactly the way I wanted them. My sister—the one who introduced me to book arts in the first place—designed the logo for my press. And she created two supremely gorgeous original oil paintings to illustrate my book: one for the cover plate and one for the frontispiece. Local letterpress artisans and dear friends, Matt and Erica Hinton, helped me figure out how in the wide world we could deboss and imprint so many cases at once, and Matt invested literal days into making it work. The result of his labors took my breath. I am overwhelmed at the support and excitement these people lent to my project, and deeply grateful for the mark of their talents upon it.

And so, on this December day, in the year of our Lord 2011, I am pleased to introduce the first release of Low Door Press:

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery

“I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people know more... though I know that is the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born.” ~L.M. Montgomery

I selected this title for many reasons, chief of which being that I fell in love with it as an impressionable teenager, and I wanted to honor Montgomery herself and her influence on my life with an affectionately handcrafted edition of her second book.

I was sixteen years old when I first made the acquaintance of Kilmeny Gordon. I had known her older sister, Anne Shirley, for about four years at the time, and the blessed hours I had spent in her company had given me a love for Lucy Maud Montgomery and her writings that was akin to reverence—a reverence which remains steadfast to this day.

from my preface

The pages are acid-free rag content and the signatures were folded and sewn entirely by hand onto cotton tapes with Irish bookbinder’s thread. I used an archival PVA book glue and traditional English mull for the binding, and the headbanding at the head and tail of the spine are silk. The book cloth is Dover linen and the endpapers are Italian cotton. As I have mentioned, the artwork is from original oils painted by my sister, and the cases were individually debossed and inked on an early-twentieth century engraver’s press. I would not even be able to begin to say how many hours went into each book, but I can avow that every one of them was a labor of love.

So why would I attempt something so crazy? Am I glutton for punishment or a moonstruck lunatic?

Neither, I hope. But I am a lover of beauty and the God who authored it. And I long, like all of us, in my small way, to contribute to His great canvas of beauty that overspreads the world in spite of all the evil and darkness and ugliness. In the face of it, really. My brush is quite small, more suited to details, but I want to ply it with a confident hope that it matters. That in a world of automation and plastic and hurry, there is still a place for something impractical and time consuming and existing only for love. Ruskin said the most beautiful things in life are often the most useless. “Peacocks and lilies for instance.”

And maybe even handmade books.

“Oh, it's delightful to have ambitions. I'm so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them-- that's the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.” ~L.M. Montgomery

I am listing 15 copies of Kilmeny of the Orchard today. (There will be more in the shop after Christmas.) Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, I can only sell them to residents of the U.S. Thank you for your understanding.

My writing partner wrote this loving tribute to my Kilmeny, if you’d care to read it. And while you’re at it, do yourself a favor and enjoy her endearing daily raptures celebrating her love for this holy season of Advent…

55 Responses to “An Unveiling”

  1. Lanier – I was fortunate enough to purchase one of these books at Hutchmoot. What a treasure – it really is beautiful. Thank you.

  2. Kristen Anna says:

    Lanier! This makes me so happy; what a great surprise to start the week with. The books look absolutely beautiful and I can’t wait to hold one in my hands!

  3. Maryann E. says:

    I emailed this link and the order form to my husband…as a Christmas wish list idea for me!

  4. Sara Sophia says:

    So beautiful it hurts!

    Hopefully you won’t be sold out before I can order my copy <3

  5. I may have cried a few happy tears reading this.

    You are magical, my faerie friend.

  6. Josh says:

    When I saw on facebook that you were planning a surprise for today, I thought you might be announcing a Christmas sale or a new shipment of books or some such thing. But this is just… Amazing! I may have to wait until after Christmas to place my order, but I definitely want one! :-)

  7. jodi says:

    I’m so happy for you! I hope this is the first of many.

  8. Gina says:

    It’s just beautiful, Lanier!

  9. Jeanne says:

    Lanier!!! You are publishing books!!! This is so awesome!!! Somehow it just makes one happy. :)

  10. Jessica says:

    I am in awe. So perfectly lovely, Lanier…

  11. Linda says:

    Would you be able to let me know when i could order one…..and the price.
    It would be a lovely gift for a dear friend.
    Thank you.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Linda, I will add your name to the list of those who have asked to receive an email when the next batch is ready. Thank you so much for asking. :)

      The price is $35.00 per book.

  12. Sheena says:

    Dear Lanier, such a noble art! I’m so happy that as e-books become more popular someone is pursuing the craft of making them beautiful by hand. The older I get the more I am convinced that every beautiful thing made is a light lit against darkness. Your life is a conflagration…thank you for your toil.

  13. Jess says:

    These are gorgeous. Wow.

    I went on a library spree this summer and checked out lots of book/journal making books. I loved the ideas and instructions so much that I made a couple of journals right away. There is something breathtaking about threading the needle with embroidery floss and poking it through the holes in the paper… And then when the journal is finished you look at it with a lump in your throat and think, “I made that. It is so beautiful.” One of the best feelings in the world. :-)

    All the luck in the world on your quest. We can always use a little more useless beauty. ;-)

  14. [...] 556. A friend’s long-dreamed-of project coming to fruition. [...]

  15. Tayler says:

    Oh, I was so excited when I saw this, and then so very dissapointed to find out that I had missed them already! I would love to purchase one when you list more. Kilmeny of the Orchard is one of my absolute favorites and the copy that I have is a very worn paperback in desperate need of replacment. How perfect! :-) May this new venture be filled with much joy and blessing!

  16. Missed the rush. Seems like the friday after Thanksgiving on Anthropologie’s site BUT it is Monday. I look forward to the New Year and hopefully getting your gorgeous book to read!

  17. [...] Links, Walking Faithfully | Leave a comment This lovely quote was said by a woman named Sheena over at Lanier’s. Lanier just posted about her newest project, making books by hand.  They [...]

  18. Teresa says:

    Oh Lanier – what a wonderful thing! I can only imagine the joy this endeavor has given you. I will join the ranks of those looking forward to a restocking after Christmas. It will be something to look forward to. So happy for you and happy for me and everyone who will have the joy of owning such a beautiful thing. The fact that your sister ‘s art is inside makes it all even more special.

  19. Gretchen says:

    Oh friend, I am so excited to see the fruition of all of your long, loving hours. And I, too, pray it is just the beginning.

    Hubby and I are both in awe at the beauty and painstaking detail quite evident in these pictures. And yet it’s not in the least surprising, knowing you and your hubby. The project suits you both to a t.

    Many happy returns of the day your first handmade book went on sale…!

  20. Pete says:

    Will you please publish my next book?

  21. Lindsey says:

    Absolutely beautiful :) Best wishes in your endeavor!

  22. Joanna says:

    I am so behind the times! I don’t look at your site for a couple of days, and now I find this! I am immensely proud of you. I look forward to acquiring a copy when you replenish the stock. AND–the materials are archivally correct! Good girl! :)

  23. Elisabeth says:

    Beautiful.

    And, may I add, inspiring. I don’t think I’ll ever make books by hand. However … I do have a number of projects in mind for which the beauty and nobility of good stories (and quality telling AND illustrating) are guiding principles.

    I’m so thrilled for you, my friend. May every blessing be yours in this venture!

  24. Abby Maddox says:

    They’re all GONE!!!! I’ll be waiting anxiously to buy one after Christmas :) You know, I have never read one. book. by LM Montgomery. My Mom gave me Anne of Green Gables as a gift when I was too young to appreciate it. I started it, but got lost in the details and never picked it back up. I know it’s going to be one of my all-time favorites, but since I’ve waited this long to discover it, I’ve decided to wait a couple more years so that I can share it with Pace. I think it will be so special to discover Anne together… Kilmeny, however, I have made no such commitment to, so I think I may enjoy your copy guilt free! :)

  25. Jan says:

    Oh, to find and follow one’s passion–a gift from God and a lot of hard, but enjoyable, work to bring to fruition!

  26. Kiersti says:

    That quote of Anne’s captures, at least in part, the gift I find in your site whenever I visit, Lanier. You do add so much beauty to this world, and remind us of the beauty in it…and that all true beauty and goodness comes from Him. No wonder I always leave feeling refreshed in my soul, though we don’t even really know each other. Anyway…thank you, and may the Lord bless you for sharing all you do with us.

  27. Diana says:

    Is it possible to pre-order a copy of the next batch? And where can one find the pricing details? Thank you!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Diana, I don’t have a pre-order option in place as of yet, but I can add your name to the email list of those who have asked to be notified when the next batch is ready. :)

      The books are priced at $35.00 each.

  28. Kristie Fields says:

    Lanier, The books are absolutely beautiful! Please let me know when the next group comes out.

  29. Giuliano says:

    I received mine two days ago on the 12th. You have no idea how happy I am to know that I got one. It was a gift for a friend and I had no idea about any of this until she showed it to me on the 5th. I ordered one shortly after and believe I may have gotten the last one as it was no longer listed on the bookstore page. To know that there were only 15 made, even more taken back that i was able to get one.

    I gave it to her as an early Christmas gift as we won’t see each other (we work together) after Friday and she was speechless. She never thought she would have one for herself.

    She and I both are absolutely in awe with the craftsmanship put into the book. You have done something amazing and I do hope to see more handmade books like this. Do you ever think you may take pictures of the equipment and the process of making the books? I will most likely buy a 2nd book if any more are ever produced. My daughter is 5 and I think it would made a beautiful gift for her in a few years, and something that maybe in 100 years will be considered a family heirloom.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Giuliano, I am absolutely delighted to hear that you and your friend were both so happy with the book! Thank you so much for your gracious and affirming words–they mean so much. I will definitely be making more copies of Kilmeny after Christmas, and I’d be glad to let you know when they are ready!

      And, yes, I do plan on writing about the process in the near future. I was so intent on this last batch of books that I didn’t take many pictures, but I will remedy that with the next one! :)

  30. angela says:

    Hi Lanier and Happy New Year! Can you please let me know when you have more published? Thanks- just beautiful!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Thank you, Angela! :) I will be happy to add your name to the list of folks who have asked to be notified via email when the next batch of books is ready. Thank you for asking!

  31. Hannah says:

    I would love a copy as well! What a neat idea. Would you please add me to your list? My Mom and sister and I are looking forward to it!

  32. [...] husband surprised me with one of the first of my friend Lanier’s Low Door Press editions of Kilmeny of the Orchard for Christmas…  He’s reading it aloud to me so we can enjoy it [...]

  33. Brenda says:

    This is delightful in so many ways! Would you please add me to the list to be notified of any others added to the shop?

  34. Amy Glover says:

    Hello Lanier!

    I came across your writing through Rabbit Room and now am soaking up your site. My 12 year old daughter and I have recently been exploring handmade books and are delighted to read about your new endeavor. Please add us to the list of those who would like to purchase a copy when they are ready.

    Blessings,

    Amy

  35. JennyD says:

    Awww, I’m so sad I missed this! :-( Lanier, if you do it again, please do let me know–I’d be interested in purchasing a copy or two! :-)

  36. [...] 556. A friend’s long-dreamed-of project coming to fruition. [...]

  37. [...] a year ago I had the pleasure of announcing the first title in the newly-inaugurated Low Door Press, a bindery dedicated to producing books created entirely by hand. The response to Kilmeny of the [...]

  38. [...] dear Lanier at Lanier’s Books unveiled a project she had been working on…handbound copies of Kilmeny of the Orchard.  And they look [...]

  39. [...] away with me, I gave in and gave it its head. It was out of this untrammeled flight of fancy that the dream of Low Door Press emerged: whole runs of books made entirely by hand. I longed to create something that was simply as [...]

  40. Marianne says:

    Just new to your blog, coming from the Rabbit Room. Will you make any more Kilmeny of the Orchard? Please let me know. thank you!

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Hello, Marianne! Thanks so much for your question. :) I don’t have any current plans to re-issue Kilmeny, but I may very well do a second run someday. If I do, I will be sure and give people plenty of notice this time! :)

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