Mourning Charlie Hebdo (and why collecting historical newspapers matters)


You’ve probably heard the news this morning.  As editors for Charlie Hebdo met for their weekly Wednesday morning meeting today, January 7, 2015, at least two armed intruders wielding automatic rifles opened fire in the satirical newspaper’s offices in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, killing twelve of the newspaper’s employees. Among the dead are Charlie Hebdo’s editorial director, Charb, and cartoonists Cabu, Wolinski and Tignous. French President François Hollande is calling this a “terrorist attack.” It is also without a doubt an attack on freedom of speech. This is not the first time that the Charlie Hebdo has come under attack. In 2011, the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed for having published a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.  Nor is it completely out of the ordinary for French newspapers to raise ire, as this timeline from Le Monde “50 years of attacks against the French media” shows. However, today’s attack is certainly the deadliest.

Since the early 1970s, Charlie Hebdo has occupied a place in the radical left of the French media, publishing news and cartoons that are both humorous and harshly critical of current events. This past summer, prompted by the recommendation of Assistant Professor of French Lucas Hollister, the library acquired the entire back run of the first iteration of Charlie Hebdo, including all issues published from 1970-1981. Hollister saw the value in students having first-hand access to this highly visual representation of politics and culture in France in the 1970s. Few libraries in North America have such complete holdings from the first generation of Charlie Hebdo, and this acquisition offers an opportunity for students and faculty to examine this important voice in the satirical press.  It also reminds us of the singular role that academic libraries and archives serve in preserving and providing access to marginalized voices from around the world.

Dartmouth’s complete holdings of Charlie Hebdo are on Berry Lower Level:

Memories of Blake ’08, Part I

Tucked into the pages of his cumbersome and crumbling “mem book,” which now resides in the Rauner Special Collections Library, lies Francis Gilman Blake’s hand-drawn map of an expedition through the New Hampshire wilderness, annotated with the details of each day’s travel and a branch plucked from the slopes of Mt. Washington. While the practice of scrap-booking at Dartmouth has since been replaced by other hobbies and interests, the Rauner Library has preserved some of the books created by students from the early twentieth century.

Although simplistic in their detail, Blake’s illustrations of the mountains prove stunningly accurate in their physical relationship to each other. The mountains are carefully spaced and aligned, yet they are not drawn from a bird’s-eye view like a traditional map, but from a perspective on the horizon, evoking a deeply personal recollection of the landscape. In terms of geographic orientation however, Blake only offers his audience a single winding line through a series of mountains and towns. But to someone familiar with the mountains, trails, and roads of the region, Blake’s map tells an incredibly vivid and personal story of adventure. The map therefore serves not as a geographical tool, but as an experiential guide. In terms of absolute place and geography it is meaningless, but as a relative measure of place within a shared context, it tells a story more detailed and intimate than any cartographer could draft.

While miles and locations ordinarily serve as measures of distance and place, juxtaposed in this context they convey a measurement of relative time. Blake’s itinerary provides a list of the mountains and mileage that tells not only of where he went, but also of the fast pace and strenuous nature of the hike, allowing those familiar with these steep slopes an intimate perspective on the passing of the journey. Over one hundred years later, these chronological clues prove much more valuable than the dates that accompany them. Notions of absolute time have become lost over the decades, but Blake has preserved these episodes by grounding them in a relative context that survives today.

Blake’s book ends at over one hundred pages, weighs as much as a large dictionary, and holds various large objects between its pages including entire flowers, small books, and notably a 108 year-old pretzel. These characteristics suggest that Blake never intended this book to travel, or even to be opened on a regular basis. Without a title page, cohesive structure, or labels for many of the photographs, Blake’s intended audience likely comprises a small group of those quite familiar to him and his experiences.  This conclusion, drawn from the physical nature of the book, is supported by his uses of time and place within a shared context. Perhaps the chief member of Blake’s audience is his future self, the individual best equipped to unravel the relative contexts of his maps. Blake’s audience is limited only by a reader’s willingness and ability to engage these objects outside of their absolute geographical and chronological contexts, the depth of the connection determined by the extent of the shared experience.

Posted for Edward Harvey ’15

The Making of a Multi-Color Linoleum Block Squid

Students and community members can learn how to carve and print relief blocks here in the Book Arts Workshop. Usually we work with linoleum blocks, but wood, rubber (more for rubber stamping than running through a press), Sintra board and other relief printing materials are fair game as well.

This image of a sledding squid came about as a drawing in my sketch book, then became the idea for a simple holiday card. Of course nothing stays simple and it soon became a three-color, three-block linoleum relief print. Here’s a little about how it was created—at least the printing process—where the idea came from is hard to say.

1) The Sketchbook Drawing

Here’s the drawing as it appears in my sketchbook.

2) Draw on Block

First I drew the image in pencil onto a 3 x 5 mounted linoleum block—remembering it had to be backwards or wrong-reading, so it could be right-reading in the print. Since this is a view of a ski hill near our house, I wanted it going downhill to the right—like my view (seems I drew it going the wrong way in my sketchbook!).

Once I had what I wanted, I went over the drawing with ink.

I use a dip pen and ink to draw on my blocks because I like the thick and thin quality of the line, which I follow when carving. A sharpie works nicely too. Best to use a regular tip Sharpie rather than a fine tip because you’ll want to have thicker lines to carve. Very thin lines will be weak in linoleum—and not very forgiving if you don’t have a steady hand.

3) Tone Block

Toning the block makes it easier to see where I’ve carved or not. A thin layer of ink or paint works nicely. There’s drying time involved with ink or paint (oil paint anyway). This time I used a marker that was handy. I ended up liking the color so much that I matched my first print color to it! In this photo you can see where I began carving the block after the toned color dried.

4) Carve Block

I carved the first block making a few decisions and edits to the drawing along the way—carving the lines in the sky, adding the trees at the edge of the hill and other small things. Because it’s a relief print, I cut out all the areas that I didn’t want to print. You can see in this photo I still had some carving on the sled and the snow to do, but it was almost done.

You can use linoleum carving tools like the ones Speedball sells or you can use wood carving tools. For something this small I like to use my set of Dockyard Micro Carving Tools. You can get them online from Woodcraft. Any set of small wood carving v and u gouges should also work well. McClain’s in Portland OR has some really great tools especially for print-makers. Here are the Dockyard Micro Carving Tools.

5) Print First Color

Once my block was carved, leaving the surfaces I wanted to ink and print raised, I printed a proof with my first color.
To print the block I locked it up on the bed of our Vandercook SP15.

I cut my paper so it would be over sized. It’s easier to print a larger sheet of paper on the Vandercook, so I didn’t want to cut my paper to the finished size before printing.
After I printed a proof and carved a few unpleasant stray bits off my image I printed the run of my first color—the dark blue-green.

Usually I would print light colors first, then dark, but after Gaylord Schanilec suggested printing dark to light during a wood engraving class I took with him at Oregon College of Art and Craft this past summer, I thought I’d try it with my linoleum block. The idea is that the build up of inks will create a richer black or dark ink. This works best with transparent inks.

6) Transfer First Block Image to Second Block

When I finished printing the first run and before I cleaned the ink off the block and press I transferred the inked image onto a blank linoleum block of the same size. This would be my guide for carving the block for the next color—the light green-blue. To do this I ran the press over the block without paper, thereby printing the block right onto the mylar we always have around the cylinder of the press as the draw-sheet and part of the packing.

Then I removed the first color block and put the blank block in its place on the press bed. I ran the press over this block, transferring the ink from the mylar to the uncarved block.

I carefully took the inked, uncarved block off the press and set it aside to dry over night.

7) Carve Second Color Block

With the image transferred onto the new block, I traced with a sharpie where I wanted my new color to be in relation to the already printed first color. In other words, I traced around the snow, the cloud, inside the squid’s eye and just delineated everywhere I wanted the new color and where I didn’t want it. Then I carved just as I did before to create the block for the new color.

In this photo you can see this step as I did it for the third color block.

Here it is printed by itself so you can get an idea of what I carved and left raised to print.

The ink is a rubber-based ink with quite a bit of transparent base (or transparent white) mixed in with color I made. The transparent base is like the ink without the pigment-just transparent goo. This makes for a lighter, transparent color.

8) Print Second Color

I set up the second block in the same exact position on the press bed as the first block. I had to break down the press in between runs, so I made careful notes and measurements of where everything was before taking apart my lock-up. It also helps to take pictures to make it easier to rebuild the lock-up. With everything in place I made a proof—admired my work and removed the unwanted bits. Once I had what I wanted I printed the second color.

9) Transfer First Block Again

To prepare for the third color block I transferred ink from the first block onto another blank uncarved block. The block that prints the darkest color and most detail is called the “key block”—in this case it was the first block. I wanted to use the key block to guide me in my carving for the third color because it had the most information or detail. I think for this print the second block would have worked well to transfer from too, but that’s not always the case.

10) Carve Third Block Color

Once I had the image on the third block, I was able to carve away everything but the squid where I wanted the pinkish color to be. Here’s a picture of all three carved blocks.

I considered leaving some block raised under the squid so there would be a pinkish shadow under him on the toboggan, but decided against it. I think the squid “pops” more without it. I also debated on whether I wanted to have his suction cups pink or white. To make them white I would have to carve out those little spots again, like I did on the first block. In the end I decided to carve just a tiny bit of those spots out, so there would be a small white highlight on the suction cups. When the blocks are registered perfectly (lined up perfectly) these highlights work great!

Here’s what just the third color block looks like printed by itself.

You may be wondering how I got such a fabulous squid-pink. Again I used transparent base to make a transparent color. I also used a bit of Rhodomine red, Pantone yellow, Irish Mint green (we have a lot of dark green here!), a good amount of the mixed light blue I used for the second block and probably some other things. It was a bit of a potion, but just what I wanted.

11) Print Third Color

Having gotten everything set in the same place again (block, paper, paper guides, furniture), I printed the third color. I’m particularly excited by the highlights and areas where all three colors are visible. All in all it looks like a happy squid.

Written by Sarah Smith