Reading today from On the Walls and in the Streets: American Poetry Broadsides from the 1960s by James D. Sullivan for my Printer as Publisher letterpress class, I came across a passage quoting Beatrice Warde’s essay on typographic design “The Crystal Goblet: or Printing Should Be Invisible.” It struck me suddenly that I am, and have always been, a practicioner of invisible arts. Or at least, I have enjoyed and hopefully excelled in the invisible rather than the visible arts.
I began my professional career as an editor, and I would like to believe a good one, for a small independant press in Boston. Putting together manuscripts of poetry, culling from them to create coherent books, providing feedback and suggestions – these were things I loved about my job that were seen by only the author, serving the author’s work in presenting it to an unacknowledging public. As it expanded to include production and design I developed myself as a designer in the school of “good design should serve the text.” Then as I turned more seriously to literary translation, one of the first books I read about translation was Lawrence Venuti’s The Translator’s Invisibility. Now, as I begin to seriously study letterpress printing and the art of handmade texts, I am realizing once again that the ultimate marker of success for me will be in remaining unacknowledged.
The trend is obvious – the things I have committed myself to doing have always resulted in the prioritizing of others’s work. And that’s something that I’m rather proud of, as a practicioner of invisible arts. It’s sometimes hard to see the connection between disparate activities, and I love these moments of insight that allow me to connect all the various things that I care about.