Lisa Rappoport, “Zane Grey and Me”

The leather-bound book along with its custom-made clamshell box. The two horses printed on the top of the clamshell (covered in Lokta paper) are from the herd galloping across the two-page spread of the frontispiece. Artist: Andrew Larkin.

Title page, showing the silver concho-cum-leather lacing book closure; and a second copy of the book, showing the exposed longstitch binding. The title page introduces the use of vintage dingbats and the upcoming presentation of text in two columns. Also provides the first glimpse of the multiple colors of St. Armand paper, and shows the top edges of pages carved into the canyon and mesa Southwestern horizon.

Page spread with quotes from Zane Grey’s 1917 novel Wildfire in the lefthand columns (printed via monotype composition of Farmers Old Style), and writing by Rappoport in the righthand columns (handset Centaur). The book is illustrated chiefly with vintage dingbats.

Page spread, as above.

Page spread, as above.


Lisa Rappoport (Richmond, CA)

Zane Grey and Me
letterpress printed from lead type, plus a couple of polymer plates
Edition of 47
32 pages
8.25″x25″x.375″ open
8.25″x10.75″x.75″ closed
The first five books in the edition come in a custom clamshell box, dimensions 9.75″x25″x1.5″ open/9.75″x11.5″x1.75″ closed. (Seen in image #1.)

Zane Grey and Me juxtaposes excerpts from the 1917 novel, Wildfire, with my own autobiographical responses, obliquely addressing the roles of both romance and romance novels in modern life. This book grew out of my suburban childhood in New Jersey and my years working with horses in Europe and New Mexico. The underlying question is, how does reading romanticized versions of the American West affect an impressionable horse lover?

The twin columns of text on each page, one derived from Zane Grey’s novel and one resonant passages from the author’s life, graphically echo the many binaries of the book’s themes: English vs. Western riding style; academic vs. experiential learning; literary writing or purple prose; idealized icons of womanhood or living, breathing feminists; the tension between fiction and reality, past and present. The wraparound cowhide cover and exposed longstitch binding, with leather lacing and silver concho closure, brings to mind journals kept by pioneers.

The colors and the sculpting of the pages into canyon and mesa shapes, along with the horizontal layout, evoke the horizons and landscape of the Southwest. The rough-surfaced St. Armand paper conjures up the textures of the high desert: dirt, sandstone, sandy arroyos; low-growing vegetation like rabbit brush, snakeweed, cholla. For the binding I chose skins termed “distressed,” an apt description of the hard lives of many who live in the harsh environs of the Southwest, not least its ranch hands (and its cattle).

Mr. Grey’s text is composed in Farmers Old Style, as it was in the original publication; my text is handset Centaur (designed by Bruce Rogers a few years before Wildfire was published). Zane Grey and Me is illustrated profusely with vintage dingbats and a couple of photopolymer plates. As a book artist and designer, I am interested in where form and content overlap or diverge. I want to delve into the substance and discover what format or structure will provide an organic home for it. It’s not entirely accidental that we refer to a book as being “housed” in its protective box: the book seeks its suitable abode, in several senses. This book’s house is covered in paper dappled like a pinto horse, and printed with two from the herd of horses (drawn by Andrew Larkin) that gallops across the frontispiece. But in some reversal of interior and exterior, it’s also the design choices which become a book’s home.

What I try to do is to create an integrated entity. The various elements should amplify one another to work toward a whole greater, more coherent, than its parts. I spend a lot of time pondering the possible options for font, paper, ink colors, binding, format, structure. Sometimes a particular best choice is sacrificed for the success or harmony of the whole, or perhaps more precisely, for the betterment of the conversation among the various aspects, which is so much richer than any monologue. The viewers or readers are the ones whose responses inform me to what degree I’ve achieved my goal.