MS CASSIE: A Note on the Printing and Typography

The book-length sequence Ms Cassie is unusual among the works of the Gauntlet Press, in that it was 'written, designed and broadcast piecemeal' (from Outram's 'Preface'). Many of its pages were created and broadcast as autonomous broadsides, from 1997 through 1999. In 2000, the series complete, Outram and Howard assembled perhaps eight copies of the entire sequence, plus front- and end-matter (including a preface by Outram). None of these copies, to my knowledge, was formally bound - though some at least were enclosed in plastic sleeves and gathered in three-ring binders.

Ms Cassie belongs to the Gauntlet Press's 'electronic era'. Of the printing process, Peter M. Newman writes: '... most people assume that, in [the Gauntlet Press's] "electronic" incarnation (after the old letterpress gave up the ghost), Richard and Barbara somehow mastered the mysteries of QuarkExpress to produce the complex layouts of productions like the Ms Cassie broadsheets. In fact these were created using the same simple, meat-and-potatoes word processing application (WriteNow) that Richard acquired when he first started using an old black-and-white laptop. They did briefly flirt with sophisticated page layout programs but found them far too complicated. Instead he and Barbara treated the computer like their old Adana letterpress, the final results only being achieved by multiple passes through the printer!' (e-mail to Martin Howley, 4 Feb. 2008).

In her designs for the Ms Cassie broadsides, Howard employed typographical ornaments chosen from a variety of fonts. Preeminent among these are fonts designed by Michelle Dixon and Blake Haber, co-proprietors of a digital foundry called 'Dixie's Delights': 'Printer's Ornaments One' and 'Two', and a similar face, 'Beautiful Ornaments Three'; 'African Ornaments One' and its companion face, 'Wildlife' (African wildlife motifs); 'Postage Stamps'; 'Cave Painting Dingbats One'; 'Pre-Columbian Ornaments One' and 'Two'; and 'Woodcut Ornaments'. Fonts by other designers include: Matt Jalbert's 'Arts & Crafts Dingbats' (based on designs from the Arts and Crafts movement); Phill Grimshaw's 'Rennie Mackintosh Ornaments' (based on the designs of Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh); Nikos Goulandris's 'Tragliatella' (based on motifs of labyrinths, etc., from Etruscan artifacts); Andrew D. and Lise C. Taylor's 'Arboris Folium' (tree-leaf motifs); and the font 'DBQ's Rock Art' (copyright 'O'Keefe'). Howard also makes use of theriomorphic ornaments from a font called 'Mimbres', based on designs from Mimbres pottery; of avian ornaments from the fonts 'New Bird' and 'New Bird Reverse'; and of domestic ornaments from the font 'Kitchen Stencils'.

In the descriptions that accompany the reproductions from Ms Cassie, we have, where possible, identified the sources of the ornaments - both to give credit to their designers, and to suggest the various and wide-ranging cultural contexts on which Howard is drawing. It should be noted, however, that these ornaments - like any symbol - signify in multiple and shifting ways, in the new contexts in which Howard has placed them.

With the exception of a few easily-distinguished display faces, we have not identified the typefaces in which the Ms Cassie poems are set. The typefaces would have been drawn, however, from Outram and Howard's relatively modest collection of digital fonts (though the collection offered a wealth of choices, in comparison with the pair's Bembo-only letterpress days): Baskerville, Bembo, Bookman, Caxton, Dante, Harrington, Hiroshige, Joanna, Lithos, Lucida, New York, Oxford, Tekton, Venetian, and Zapf Chancery.

We have aimed for consistency in our descriptions of the colours; these descriptions are subjective, however, and influenced by the density of printing in a given design, and by the background colour of the paper on which it is printed.

Brief discussions of the Ms Cassie sequence can be found in Peter Sanger's book 'Her Kindled Shadow ...': An Introduction to the Work of Richard Outram (Antigonish Review, 2001; 2002; and forthcoming in a new edition from the Gaspereau Press), and in Alberto Manguel's essay 'Waiting for an Echo: On Reading Richard Outram' (in Into the Looking-Glass Wood; Knopf, 1998). See also 'Some True Marriage of Word and Image'.