The naming of the presses, and a new employee in the shop


I love naming things. I’ve named my car (Happiness Runs), my favorite picnic blanket (McIntosh) and our wireless portable speaker (Hank, for Henry Mancini, of course.) My guitar is Gilbert and my ukulele is Cordelia. Every time we acquire a new animal I spend days happily mulling over just exactly what they’re meant to be called–and every time I light on it the knowledge comes with a certain settling of confirmed instinct. The exception might be the case of my cats (who generally have literary names but also include my black-cat-Oxford-scholars, Magdalen and Balliol), for, as T.S. Eliot is faithful to remind us, cats name themselves. At any rate, they are tolerant of my designations–or, at least, they all come running when I rattle off a a string of, “Josephine-Lucy-Pip-Wemmick-Oliver-Maudie-Balliol!” at suppertime. My sheep and goats have Shakespearean names (much as we love Harry Potter, I’m constantly having to tell people that our Hermione’s namesake hails from “A Winter’s Tale”, not The Sorcerers Stone), and my female Pyrs seem to have acquired the tradition of being called after Roman goddesses.

(Only one true misfire, and that was in the naming of my rooster, Margot. I’m sure it’s easy to imagine the circumstances surrounding that misappellation, and the consternation that resulted when Margot got bigger than all “her” sisters and started crowing! He’s very bitter, and takes it out on me at every opportunity. But the fact remains: if I’m generally good at naming, I’m very bad at re-naming.)

So when I started turning over names for my beautiful 19th century book presses, I felt confident that the right idea was dancing around at the fringes of my mind, just waiting to seize me (not the other way around). When it did, I looked up the passage thus invoked and read it with a smile of satisfaction. Yes, that was just exactly what I was after…

It came from Dorothy Sayers’ novel, The Nine Tailors. Set in the fens of East Anglia, this book is as much a rhapsody over the high art of change ringing as it is a deliciously complex mystery. I remembered the way Sayers described the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul in such vivid-but-tender language that their tones leapt off the page with an exquisite cacophony of genuine personality. It’s one of those passages that makes my heart beat faster, it’s so fraught with the life-affirming sense of “selving” one finds in the poetry of G.M. Hopkins, and the bold strokes of an author in command of her craft and in love with her subject.

The bells gave tongue: Gaude, Sabaoth, John, Jericho, Jubilee, Dimity, Batty Thomas and Tailor Paul, rioting and exulting high up in the dark tower, wide mouths rising and falling, brazen tongues clamouring, huge wheels turning to the dance of the leaping ropes. Tin tan din dan bim bam bom bo–tan tin din dan bam bim bo bom–tan dan tin bam din bo bim bom–every bell in her place striking tuneably, hunting up, hunting down, dodging, snapping, laying her blows behind, making her thirds and fourths, working down to lead the dance again. Out over the flat, white wastes of fen, over the spear-straight, steel-dark dykes and the wind-bent, groaning poplar trees, bursting from the snow-choked louvres of the belfry, whirled away southward and westward in gusty blasts of clamour to the sleeping counties went the music of the bells–little Gaude, silver Sabaoth, strong John and Jericho, glad Jubilee, sweet Dimity and old Batty Thomas, with great Tailor Paul bawling and striding like a giant in the midst of them. Up and down went the shadows of the ringers upon the walls, up and down went the scarlet sallies flickering roofwards and floorwards, and up and down, hunting in their courses, went the bells of Fenchurch St. Paul.

Dorothy Sayers, The Nine Tailors

Don’t you just love that? Doesn’t it make you want to leap to do what you’re uniquely made for, pealing out the story of your life like a bell with its own tongue and tone, all the while ringing in glad concert with other bells? Perhaps my mind is just odd enough to connect a description of change ringing plunked in the middle of a murder mystery, Hopkins’ “As kingfishers catch fire,” and the equipment (and, consequently, the work) of my own little bookshop–but in my mind it’s a golden thread, gathering a host of sweet longings into a bundle of meaning and purpose.

At any rate, it’s a long-winded explanation of why I’ve named my presses after church bells. After languishing in a dark basement for who-knows-how-long, these book presses are finally doing exactly what they were made to do–and so am I. Book binding, for me, is a facet of a larger calling that’s too untame for names and labels–it’s part of an overarching vocation of words and relationships and the cultivation of beauty that I can’t really describe but I know it’s sunk its hook in my heart. And that calling, of course, is meant to lose itself in the glorious Love Song that’s been pealing over human history since the foundation of the world.

When I sit down to write a poem, or share about a book I love, or sew a stack of collated signatures into a text block, something deep within me chimes out: Whát I dó is me: for that I came!  And, with Gospel-backed audacity, I dare to affirm G.M. Hopkins’ assertion that a human being fully “selved” in Christ can’t help but reveal Christ in the ordinary equipment of a unique life.

So, without further ado, allow me to present Gaude (pronounced “Gaudy”) and Dimity:





And in addition to these lovely dames, we have a newcomer: an early 20th century Multigraph guillotinepaper cutter. I never knew that I could be so excited over 500 lbs of steel! But when Philip showed it to me on Craigslist, my heart was utterly gone. I had to have it for my shop–it was the very cutter I’d been dreaming of for five years. We got a fantastic deal on it, and the nice man we bought it from was tickled to learn that I would actually be using it. This thing goes through book board like butter, and will add a tremendous layer of efficiency to my processes. Please join me in welcoming Batty Thomas to the shop:

From a dusty barn in Indiana, to a farmhouse in Georgia, Batty Thomas is finally home.

From a dusty barn in Indiana, to a farmhouse in Georgia, Batty Thomas is finally home.

(And let me just add that it took two days, the brains of an engineer, and three people to get this bad boy up the stairs and down the hall into my shop. Many thanks to my brother-in-law for helping us along a rather harrowing journey. I was so sore the next morning I could hardly move!)

Jericho the lying press and Jubilee the sewing press.

Jericho the lying press and Jubilee the sewing press.

And so, the work is underway once more. I’m currently stitching the signatures on Jubilee, the sewing press, after marking them up for sewing on Jericho, the lying press. Each book consists of 20 signatures (folded packets of 16 pages each), which are hand-sewn onto cotton tapes. The next step is to tip in the illustrations and endpapers, and then glue on the mull–which is what holds the text block firmly together within the book board covers. After that, they’ll all pay a visit to Batty Thomas and be trimmed down before the covers are attached. Then they will be dressed in a lovely pale green book cloth, with gilted titles and a beautiful full-color paste-down cover illustration (more of my sister’s work–I cannot wait for you to see it!).

Jubilee and Jericho

Jubilee and Jericho, with my beloved left-handed scissors. 

It’s a long, slow process. But I love it. Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

6 down, 94 to go...

6 down, 94 to go…

Soli Deo Gloria.

16 Responses to “The naming of the presses, and a new employee in the shop”

  1. Kim says:

    Lanier, this is beautiful! I love how you have given names and personalities to all the members of your home, whether they be fur, feather or metal. Each one is visibly cherished.

  2. Lara says:

    Oh, this makes me so happy! Congratulations, dear Lanier!

  3. My daughter tells people that when she first saw Miss Potter at the theater, she thought of her mother (moi) who tends to not only name inanimate objects… but talk to them. I loved this!

    Can’t wait to see the new book.

  4. Michael says:

    Awesome. That’s an impressive team of characters you’ve assembled. Oh, and Oliver asked me to remind you that he thought he heard something deep within Batty Thomas chiming out for a cat bed.

  5. Judy says:

    This might be the most perfectly delightful post in the history of blogging!

    I loved the Dorothy Sayers’ quote – I can hear the bells’ pealing joy. Just for a moment their exuberance reminded me of the moment, in “Larkrise to Candleford”, when Alf Arless almost bursts with the happiness of having rung the clock tower bells, simply for the joy of it.

  6. Joy says:

    How wonderful to use the bell names; they fit so perfectly. The Nine Tailors is one of my favorite of Sayers’ books because of all of the incredible descriptions of change ringing.

  7. I love all the details. And perfect names! Now I want to read The Nine Tailors again….

  8. Cheri says:

    Would the painting behind your new paper cutter be your sister’s artwork? It is lovely and as a violinist, I’m intrigued to know more about it.

    • Lanier Ivester says:

      Cheri, it is! 🙂 This was the piece my sister painted of Kilmeny Gordon for the frontispiece in my limited edition run of Kilmeny of the Orchard. Isn’t it gorgeous? 🙂

  9. Jody Byrkett says:

    You’re left-handed, too? Oh, I should have known… ^_^

    I also love the violin painting, your sister has a lovely gift!

  10. Josie Ray says:

    Little Gaude and Sweet Dimity look pleased with their musical appellations. (Do you call your husband Great Tailor Paul when he enters your belfry? He would, though, have to adopt the persona and “bawl and stride like a giant in the midst of” the other bells/belles.)

    I agree with Michael (or Oliver, rather), but I immediately looked at Batty Thomas and saw a Barred Rock tucked into that lower cubby. Were there feathers there when you first brought it from the Indiana barn? 🙂 Perhaps a fantail dove belongs there.

    Your bold championing of “selving,” to be quite frank, hurts, running counter, as it does, to the enforced “whoever would come after me, let him deny himself” and “whoever finds his life will lose it” theme that has been my life. I am painfully “whacked” from above whenever I try to develop in areas aligned with my gifts and desires. Your loves must be more aligned with the Divine Will than mine, and it is a *pleasure* to see someone giving free rein to them. May God continue to bless your calling.

    “Not until the last echo had died away was the city aware that little Saint Nicholas at the North Gate had been striking for some time.” (I’ve not read Sayers, but the descriptions of the bells in The Dean’s Watch are delightful.)

    Happy Christening, Gaude and Dimity, and welcome Batty Thomas! 🙂 May you long, under the hand of your gifted change-ringer:

    Ring in the nobler modes of life,
    With sweeter manners, purer laws.

    Josie Ray
    Passion Sunday,

    p.s. Are you planning to have a book-signing? I will start planning a Regency day dress. 🙂

  11. Josie Ray says:

    I just came across this, from Charles Spurgeon. Timely.

    “Prayer pulls the rope below,
    and the great bell rings above in the ears of God.
    Some scarcely stir the bell, for they pray so languidly;
    others give but an occasional pluck at the rope;
    but he who wins with Heaven is the man who grasps the rope boldly
    and pulls continuously, with all his might.”

  12. Josie Ray says:

    “I was not here at the naming of the birds, or the flowers, or the hills. I wish I had been. Naming beautiful things–is that not the true office, as it is the joy, of the poet?” –David Grayson, The Countryman’s Year.

  13. Josie Ray says:

    “Pa laughed his big laugh, like great bells ringing…”

    –from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie, my lunchtime reading today

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