A Brief Story of Noah’s Ark and the Renaissance of Handmade American Paper

Cotsen 96522

While rehousing a number of prints and original artworks I came across this curious piece. It’s a custom-made card (in the shape of Noah’s ark when folded along the seam) that tells a silly story full of animal puns in which Noah deprecates Japheth into working on the Ark; “in the year 1977.”  The illustrations consist of pairs of animals stamped in burgundy and blue ink, complete with the dove and olive branch in the top left. The card is signed “All the best, Kathryn and Howard Clark,” whom I first assumed were  friends of Mr. Cotsen’s.

Cotsen 96522 text

But upon closer inspection of the item and further research into its provenance, I discovered more fascinating facts about this really unique work! The paper is deckle- edged and clearly handmade (complete with the papermaker’s watermark to the left of the elephants). If this fact wasn’t already obvious from the paper’s appearance and texture, it was definitely brought home after I discovered just who Kathryn and Howard Clark are. When printmaker and fine artist Kathryn Clark discovered that all fine handmade paper was being imported from Europe, she and her industrial designer husband Howard Clark sought to build and establish the first fine papermaking mill in America since the nineteenth century. The Clarks are the founders of Twinrocker Handmade Paper (thus the logo resembling symmetrical rocking chairs). Established in 1971, and operating out of rural Brookston, Indiana since 1972, Twinrocker Handmade Paper is largely responsible for a renaissance of fine American handmade papermaking.

Cotsen 96522 watermark

Here at Cotsen, we’re just happy to have an excellent example and early artifact of this important legacy.


For more about Kathryn and Howard Clark, American papermaking, and Twinrocker Handmade Paper, visit this article by the American Printing History Association and Twinrocker’s own website.

The Truth Within: A Harlequinade About Inner Virtue

Cotsen 14167

The juxtaposed irony of a work with the above title being contained in a slip case covered with beautiful marbled paper isn’t lost on us. But that doesn’t make the actual content of the case any less externally impressive either! Probably published in England around 1775 by an unknown publisher, The Falsehood of External Appearances is a harlequinade that shows how the true state of one’s inner virtue and heavenly merit (or moral turpitude) might not superficially appear to the naked eye.

A Harlequinade, so named because many works featured the comic Harlequin character, is created when two engraved sheets are paste together. Each sheet contains four vignette engravings. What makes the Harlequinade so unique, however, is that the top sheet is cut into eight separate sections which reveal the sheet beneath when one turns up the flaps of each section (thus, why the harlequinade is also called a metamorphic book, flap-book, or turn-up book)Each vignette is accompanied by simple verse, usually containing instructions to turn the flaps and reveal the transformative accompanying image (and last verse) underneath.

Harlequinades are usually didactic and interactive. Although this particular work doesn’t contain the Harlequin character, it is nevertheless a finely preserved example both in form, and for its moral. A fitting medium for revealing the falsehoods of external appearances, click on the video below to see the true spiritual state of the characters shown above:

The hidden last verse of each panel cannot be easily viewed (the top flap is pasted very close to the text). So I’ve transcribed the final verse of each panel below:

Panel 1:

He’s chaind secure until a Shameful Death,/ Shall put a Period to the Villains breath,/ When all his knavery will be unfurld,/ And a vile monster quit an injur’d world.

Panel 2:

Complete & perfect is his peace of mind,/ And all his troubles leave no sting behind,/ Such ever will be honest Virtues fate,/ And such it’s sure reward be soon or late.

Panel 3:

Pure earthly Pleasures of each fort and kind,/ You at the mansion of the Just will find,/ Plenty smiles round them & their doors enfold,/ Treasures more precious far than Ophir’s gold.

Panel 4:

Thus merit shall to high distinction rise,/ And claim the highest blessings of the Skies,/ Respect shall on its footsteps still attend,/ And every worthy mortal be its Friend.