Wordnik word of the day: frisket

Today’s word of the day is frisket. We chose it because it’s fun to say, even though the meaning is a bit of printer’s jargon. It rhymes with biscuit and brisket. The Century Dictionary defines frisket as “a thin framework of iron hinged to the top of the tympan of a hand-press. For use, a sheet of paper is stretched and pasted over the frisket, and from this paper spaces are cut out to permit contact between the type and the sheet to be printed, which it serves to hold in place when the frisket is folded down upon the tympan, and to keep clean in the parts not printed.” If you want to learn more about old-fashioned printing, we recommend Practical Printing: A Handbook of the Art of Typography by John Southward.

A galley press.Image from Practical Printing: A Handbook of the Art of Typography by John Southward.

Beautiful Libraries

A little Friday fantasia: in September of 2007 Curious Expeditions collected dozens of pictures of stunning old libraries in a post titled Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries, which was just sent to me by my old pal Magnolia. They’re incredible.

I’ve spent my entire life surrounded either by clean-lined modernism or an almost equally spare New England aesthetic, and it’s startling to be reminded that baroque and rococo (barococo?) confections like this were ever built, let alone on this scale and in such profusion. Likewise, information is now so ubiquitous, and incorporeal, and cheap, it’s jolting to think of a time when it was rare, and heavy, and expensive, and so justified the building of palaces like this to contain it.

Curious Expeditions says they’ll leave it to someone else to post a list of beautiful modern libraries, like Louis Kahn’s library at Exeter. If anyone knows of one, please let us know in the comments.

Staircase Bookcase

This is the least practical staircase ever. Tabbed treads to throw off eye and foot. Stripped lines all over the place, and in every plane, to toy with your depth perception. Clearly an ankle breaker.

As for the books, they must get punted all the time. And a typical stair riser is not more than 7″ high, which means nothing but smallish trade paperbacks under there.

Still, it’s totally awesome, and I want one. Park a bookinist at the top, and you’re in the catbird seat.

Book Ads in the NYTimes, 1962-1973

I missed it when it ran this summer, but in June Paper Cuts, the Times book blog, posted a slideshow of old book ads from what it called the “Golden Age” of book advertising.

Included are ads for a bunch of heavy hitters like Susan Sontag, Edna O’Brien, Cormac McCarthy, Tom Wolfe, Joan Didion, Toni Morrison, and Donald Barthelme. I’m not sure I’d call it a Golden Age–the books may be impressive, but the ads seem to have thrived then as now on hidebound cliché*. But there’s some good stuff there, and more than a few signs of the time: overt sexism, boomer self-importance, and everybody’s smoking.

Unfortunately a number of the images are poorly reproduced. Seems a shame, for a slideshow, especially one so otherwise intersting. Maybe we should all chip in a few bucks and get Paper Cuts a new scanner.

* A cliché, I know.

Depraved and Insulting English

The latest in the seemingly endless line of upper-middle brow treatises on bad words to come to my attention (thanks sionnach!) is Depraved and Insulting English, by Peter Novobatzky and Ammon Shea.

I haven’t read it yet, but judging from reviews and the tidbits sionnach has graced us with, many entries look almost medical–the authors seem to draw more on Latin and Greek than stalwart Anglo Saxon. Which probably makes it all the easier–and more fun!–to slip innocuous-sounding gems like lotium into conversation.