New York: Granary Books, 2012. Portfolio of 47 unbound double-sided manuscript facsimiles, color printed at scale, on Red River Aurora Natural paper, each print measuring 14 x 11 inches, with a supplementary index print. Portfolio wrapper of handmade ivory paper with a cotton tape lift, lined in blue paper, replicating a fragment from a Dickinson manuscript (“the gorgeous nothings”). With: separately bound 52-page letterpress essay by Marta Werner, “Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems,” measuring 10 x 7.5 inches, with seven printed manuscript facsimiles tipped in (one folding). Essay stitched in heavy grey paper wrappers with blue lining papers, replicating a manuscript fragment (“the Wheels of Birds”). With: 32-page guide by Jen Bervin, measuring 11.5 x 9 inches, including color-printed visual indexes, a directory of manuscripts, a postscript and a colophon. Guide sheets housed loose in a pale green paper enclosure. All parts housed in an archival box, numbered in pencil, with an original sketch of an envelope in blue, and a hand-painted seal.
Scarce example of one of the most influential artists’ books of the twenty-first century, a collaboration between artist Jen Bervin and scholar Marta Werner. Through a series of vividly printed fragments, the authors explore Emily Dickinson’s late turn to composing on scrap paper and envelopes, showing how these “sudden collages” launch Dickinson’s formal experimentation into a third dimension. “At this juncture Dickinson no longer thinks of keeping what she acquires through the labor of writing, and her attitude of astonishing recklessness is reflected in her new practice of writing on anything and everything near to hand: chocolate wrappers, the margins of books, scraps of paper.” Reproducing almost fifty surviving “envelope poems” in facsimile, Bervin and Werner illuminate aspects of Dickinson’s writing practice previously lost to view, new taxonomies of the ephemeral and the material. The Gorgeous Nothings was issued in a numbered run of fifty copies, with ten copies hors commerce: this is copy 50/50. In 2013, New Directions issued a smaller-scale version in book form, with an introduction by poet Susan Howe. That trade edition remains in print, but copies of Bervin and Werner’s original production are elusive; most are in institutional collections. A fine example of a beautiful and significant artists’ book.