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...|
|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...|
|then fold the other section up...|
|fold the first section down one more time|
|a close up of the lithograph map|
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,|