Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Week 37: Lyon Street

   Week 37's book-of-the-week,  Lyon Street, is based on a medieval book structure called a vade mecum. These little traveling books date back over 400 years. In the same category as girdle books, they had long leather thongs that tied to the belt (girdle) of the owner, or were hung from a chain around the neck. Often these little books were filled with very small text of necessary reference information, such as medical terms for a doctor, accounts for a business man, liturgy for a priest, or map co-ordinates for a sailor. The Oxford Dictionary describes a vade mecum as a handbook or guide that is kept constantly at hand for consultation. The origin of the words vade mecum is latin and means go with me. This structure was chosen for the book Lyon Street because it seemed the best fit for a book that focuses on relationships and long-lasting connections while simultaneously spotlighting the significance of memory, identity, and place.

a gold tooled title on the cover...
   Like the ancient books from medieval libraries, the petite 3-inch by 4-inch Lyon Street is covered in leather and has gold tooling for the title. A black satin ribbon and red button create a wrap closure. A second ribbon, threaded through the spine, makes a handy loop for attaching to a belt or wearing the book around the neck.

inside the cover, the button shaft with the ribbon

When the book is opened,  the two covers are glued to either side of a single multi-folded sheet of paper. 

 The paper for the text block is mould-made Italian paper that was dipped in walnut ink and then printed with a 4-color lithograph of a map of Lyon Street.

old the top section down...
The sheet is gate folded to accommodate the extra space needed for the map.

then fold the other section up...
   The story of Lyon Street was printed onto handmade Japanese paper with an inkjet printer in Helvetica font. Then, the stanzas were cut up and collaged onto the lithograph.

fold the first section down one more time

a close up of the lithograph map
This is the story that goes with the map...

Lyon Street

In the 1950’s, the post war
building boom was happening 
all over the country as the 
young men came home from 
the war, finished their 
veterans’ college educations, 
and started families.

In Raleigh, the rambling homes 
on the grid of shady streets 
were being added to by rows 
and rows of red brick duplexes 
and tiny row houses. They dotted
curved sunny streets on rolling 
hills of once-plowed farmland 
that were recently Raleigh’s borders.

One of those streets was Lyon Street. 
The families that lived on Lyon street 
were mostly young couples with two 
or three kids.. The kids spent their days 
climbing trees, riding bikes, playing 
kickball in the street, and “war” 
across the bare grass yards 
split by honeysuckle hedgerows
and dotted with wild onions and 

The young couples met after work. 
They sprawled out in woven plastic 
lawn chairs sipping whiskey sours 
and PBRs… the men grilling
chicken legs and burgers, the moms
fixing cole slaw and sliced tomatos. 
They played cards and listened to
their HiFi’s. They shared their 
upheavals and their hopes.. and 
they grew up, just like the kids. 

Twelve families… They started in the middle
of the street. The Stevens, the Larsons, 
the Coopers, the Coleys, the Cannons,
the Carvers, the Walkers, the Gustafsons,
the Kennersons, the Fullenwilders… 
and on either end, the Boneys, and
the LeGrands. Really, one family,
connected by a street.

In a couple of years, 
the families began to move. 
To settle into newer neighborhoods 
even further out. Streets lined with 
split-level houses, colonials, and 
spacious ranches… with trees, and 
landscaping, and neighborhood pools 
for the kids.

The families were spread out now.  
But somehow Lyon Street continued. 
They met for parties
and weekly Bridge Club… 
exchanged Christmas cards, 
and attended the funerals of 
the ones that passed.
And Lyon Street wasn’t really 

a place, but a state of mind.

Some historical vade mecum books...

15th century manuscript with fold-outs
Bodleian, MS. Ashmole 6. A 15th century vade mecum (‘go with me’), 
page from a 15th century physician's folding almanac: London, British Library,

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