Audio: Novelist Edward Rutherfurd on Paris and Literary Tourism


One of 250 Bouquinistes by the Seine in Paris

Edward Rutherfurd was born in England, in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge and Stanford, he subsequently worked in political research, book-selling and publishing. Abandoning this career in the book trade in 1983, he returned to his childhood home to write Sarum, a historical novel with a ten-thousand year story-line, set in the area around Stonehenge. It was an instant international bestseller remaining on the New York Times Bestseller List for 23 weeks. Since then he has written (at least) six more bestsellers: Russka, a novel of Russia, London, The Forest, set in England’s New Forest which lies near Sarum, and two novels which cover the story of Ireland from the time just before Saint Patrick to the twentieth century. In 2009 New York was published, and in 2013, Paris.

Rutherfurd is the quintessential Literary Tourist. He ‘walks’ the cities he writes about, researches them, imagines them, and arrives at a personal understanding of them. We talk here about this process, about the importance of learning about the ordinary lives of people from the past, of ‘active learning’ and writing short stories about the places you visit, about James Michener and the fascination of historical and cultural roots,  about history as reconnaissance, as “finding out what happened to the last army that went there”, about the campfire and stories of the hunt, the Musee Carnavalet and Le Procope restaurant. Listen here


Photo of Edward Rutherfurd looking like a Parisian

Visit the Cary Graphic Arts Collection in Rochester, New York

Location: Rochester Institute of Technology
Author(s): Frederick Ghoudy, Ismar David, Hermann Zapf.
Hours: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–12 p.m., 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Other times by appointment
Focus: Book Design, Graphic Design, Typeface Design, Bookbinding, printer’s manuals, typography, typeface specimens, calligraphy, great books of the printer’s art
Terms: A call ahead is preferred

The Cary Collection is one of the U.S.’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practices. The original collection of 2,300 volumes was assembled by the New York City businessman Melbert B. Cary, Jr. during the 1920s and 1930s. Cary was director of Continental Type Founders Association (a type-importing agency), a former president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and proprietor of the private Press of the Woolly Whale.  His professional and personal interests in printing led him to collect printer’s manuals and type specimens, as well as great books of the printer’s art.  In 1969, the Cary Collection was presented to RIT by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust as a memorial to Mr. Cary, together with funds to support the use and growth of the collection. Today the library houses some 40,000 volumes and a growing number of manuscripts and correspondence collections.

While the collection’s original strengths continue to be an important focus, other aspects of graphic arts history have also been developed. For example, the Cary Collection is committed to building comprehensive primary and secondary resources on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, the development of typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, the history and practice of papermaking, typography and book design, printing and illustration processes, bookbinding, posters, and artists’ books.

Though many of the volumes in the library are rare, the Cary Collection has maintained, from the beginning, a policy of liberal access for all students and especially those enrolled in the RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

The Cary Collection also manages the Graphic Design Archive, comprised of some 36 archives documenting the work of important 20th-century Modernist graphic designers, and has been aggressively acquiring examples of avant-garde book typography.

You can visit Printing Museums around the World

Houston’s Museum of Printing History was founded in 1979 by Raoul Beasley, Vernon P. Hearn, Don Piercy, and J. V. Burnham, four printers with a passion for preserving their various printing-related collections and sharing them with the community. Chartered in 1981 the Museum had its official opening in 1982 with Dr. Hans Halaby, Director of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, cutting the ribbon. The mission of the Museum is to promote, preserve, and share the knowledge of printed communication and art as the greatest contributors to the development of the civilized world and the continuing advancement of freedom and literacy. It does this through an active, on-going exhibitions program, and a series of book arts workshops (The museum suffered a fire a year or two ago, but it appears that things are now back to normal).

I met with Museum Curator Amanda Stevenson to talk about the collection. During our conversation she delivers a very informative thumb-nail sketch of how relief and intaglio printing techniques work. Listen here

More recently I visited the tiny Musee de la Typographie in Tours, France. While it may be small, it’s full of all sorts of different kinds of old printing equipment and tools, typefaces, woodcuts and handmade paper. The owner/manager is incredibly enthusiastic about the enterprise. Muriel Méchin lovingly toured me through his museum, showing me, among other things, a compositor tool called a Moule à Arçon a hand-held individual character casting device that was a forerunner of the Monotype machine. He actually let me handle some of the exhibited items, something most museums forbid. Here’s my conversation with Jean Louis Maitre.

Printing museums, big and small, definitely rank high on many Literary Tourists’ ‘to do’ lists. Here’s a list of some you’ll find, mostly in Europe. And another that covers the rest of the world.

Another stop on your literary tourist bucket list

If you listened to my Biblio File conversation with Jean Louis Maitre, you’ll know that Christophe Plantin was born near Tours, France and moved to Antwerp in the mid-1500s where he founded a printing company. After his death, it was taken over by his son-in-law Jan Moretus. The Plantin Moretus Printing company was sold to the city of Antwerp in 1876. Within a year the public was able to visit the living areas and the printing presses. In 2002 the Plantin-Moretus museum was nominated as UNESCO World Heritage Site and in 2005 was inscribed onto the World Heritage list.

The Museum has an exceptional collection of typographical material, the two oldest surviving printing presses in the world, many sets of dies and matrices, and an extensive library. All sorts of typographic masterpieces originated here, including the Biblia Regia, the Bibla Polyglotta and Ortelius’s atlases.

By some miracle the museum, located only feet from the river, twice escaped destruction. First during the Spanish invasion of 1576, second in 1945 when V1 bomb exploded outside the building. It should be mentioned that during the autumn of 1914 the Brits dispatched troops to protect Antwerp, among them were volunteers including Rupert Brooke, Douglas Jerrold and Charles Morgan. Ford Modox Ford published a poem entitled Antwerp in 1915. You can read it here.

Visitor information on Antwerp can be found here.