Cotsen Ghosties

book cover 3Last Halloween season we took a stroll through our special collections pumpkin patch. Today, we’re looking for ghosts! And we found them in this amazing optical illusion book titled Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions. Showing ghosts everywhere, and of any color. Published by J.H. Brown in London in 1864, the book teaches the concept of “the persistency of impressions, and the production of complementary colours on, the retina.”

The illusion is very simple. In the image above, stare at the small black dot by the ghost’s neck for 20-30 seconds. Then look away at a white wall or ceiling. Her ghostly image will appear in your vision, except in different colors (in this case green wreath, blue ghost)!

Scientifically speaking, this is called an afterimage. The color receptors in your eyes work in pairs (red/green, blue/yellow, etc.). When you stare at the drawing and one color fatigues your receptors, the other receptor will step in and dominate for a bit.

The book has a very lengthy description of this concept, as well as viewing instructions that include having the “gaslight turned low.”

Spectropia also has a disclaimer at the beginning: “As an apology for the apparent disregard of taste and fine art in the plates, such figures are selected as best serve the purpose for which they are intended.”

I wish they might have reprinted the disclaimer before THIS image, which honestly is going to haunt me clear through December:

The book concludes with a grand finale image that is not a ghost, but a rainbow! Definitely try this one, because it is so cool to see the colors flip in the afterimage!

Looking more more optical spooky fun? Try making our tabletop Pepper’s Ghost illusion!


Images from Spectropia; or, Surprising Spectral Illusions. Showing ghosts everywhere, and of any color. J.H. Brown, London. Griffith and Farran.1864. Cotsen Children’s Library, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

The VIPS of RSVP

In the picturesque mountain town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, lies a gorgeous and amazing gem…Somersault, an independently-owned letterpress studio and card shop! From their vintage presses, to their gorgeous retail space, to their beautiful cards, Somersault is unique in every regard. I’ll pause here while you enjoy their amazing Instagram.

Owned and operated by Mitch Hanson and Amy Pienta (and adorably supervised by the Hammish, aka Hammie Noodle, seen below), what began as a side project in 2011 has bloomed into a multiple award-winning studio and retail venture.

How did this remarkable adventure start?

Believe it or not, our letterpress business began because we were planning on becoming farmers and cheese makers, LOL. We were spending our vacations on a friend’s farm learning about Icelandic sheep and how to make cheese, but everyone kept telling us we needed to do something else from the farm in the first few years of business to make money. In the meantime, we ran into an old acquaintance who was retiring their design + letterpress printing business. They did not want to sell to a commercial printer and hoped instead that someone would pick up where they were leaving off.

Naturally, we thought this would be a good fit for the farm venture. So we started learning about letterpress printing and running the business and instead ended up just finding our niche and falling in love.

What types of presses/equipment do you have?

10×15 Heidelberg Windmills from the 50s & 60’s, one with hot foil stamping & 1 Chandler & Price 12×18 handfed press from 1932. We also have a small 5×7 Kelsey Pilot press (used for fun), a 1970s Challenge cutter, a stitcher, drill press, and photo polymer plate maker.

black printer 2

 

Please tell us about your philosophy on paper, products, and process…

We are not a traditional letterpress printer in that we are using carved lino blocks or lead type. Before we started Somersault, we were already working in the commercial print and design world and very accustomed to working with all different types of papers and processes, so naturally that habit just stuck with us. We use our vintage presses in conjunction with modern day design programs.

When it comes to paper, we love to push the envelope and try new things. When it comes to our clients’ projects, we feel it’s important for them to have products that tell their story in their own way, so we constantly strive for uniqueness. Using unlimited colors and textures and options allows us the artistic freedom we look forward to, and allows our clients to stand out in a crowd.

Why did you decide to relocate from Las Vegas, NV to Jim Thorpe, PA?

A culmination of reasons, really – a little tired of the incessant heat, one of us wanting to be closer to family after being in the desert for 15 years, one of us wanting to explore the East Coast for the first time ever, and A LOT of needing to be around four seasons again. Traveling from Philly to Wilkes-Barre to see family, we always took a detour through Jim Thorpe and when thinking about places we’d like to live and have a retail space (we didn’t have retail in Las Vegas – just the studio), Jim Thorpe kept coming back to mind.

What’s one unexpected thing about working with vintage equipment?

Almost everyday we’re blown away by the engineering of these awesome presses and their versatility to print, foil, emboss, deboss and die cut on everything from super thin rice paper to triple thick cover stocks – even plexiglass and leather – over and over and over again. They are both heavy beasts with pressure and at the same time very delicate delivering precision with nothing but iron and steel… no circuit boards, or rebooting, or service calls needed… and if something isn’t printing correctly, it’s ALWAYS operator error.

You have an incredibly interesting and unique space. Please tell us about one of your favorite objects in your store or studio!

Our favorite object in our studio is our front counter – hand-built by the two of us – and seemingly the heart of the retail space. We wanted a unique way to highlight collected mementos and small pieces of our work in California type cases – yet never quite expected it to become such a communication tool. Friends and neighbors have brought items to be shared for the case, visitors have left foreign currency or little bits of their travels, and patrons are constantly fascinated by what they find there and feel compelled to share their own stories. Connecting with people across the counter in such a way has made the shop feel even more like home.

What’s one of the most challenging projects you’ve completed?

The most challenging in scope had to be the Bejeti Wallet media kit boxes. Working with an agency in Harrisburg, we developed and engineered a small multilayered box with a magnetic lid. The project involved producing die-cut insets and inserts that were hot stamped with holographic foil on a soft-touch black stock, embossing, hand assembly – all to showcase a piece of actual meteorite sitting prominently on a small magnetic stem. For our small studio, it was an intense amount of engineering and labor but it all paid off in the end – the project just won a national award for GDUSA’s Packaging Competition.

Please finish this sentence…if there’s one weird thing I’m obsessed with at work, it’s…

On a constant daily basis we are obsessed with the wonderfully weird phenomenon of watching an idea – literally conjured up out of nothing – transformed into this remarkable, tangible product. Watching this perfectly modern and beautiful piece come together on these old presses is like watching magic happen. We never get tired of it.


Many thanks to Mitch Hanson and Amy Pienta for allowing me to photograph their shop and studio!

Cotsen Pumpkin Patch

Denslow’s ABC Book. Denslow, W. W. New York : G.W. Dillingham Co., 1903. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Halloween is just around the corner, which means it’s time to head to the pumpkin patch for your favorite festive gourd! Katie and I thought it would be fun to venture into the Cotsen Children’s Library’s special collections vaults and pull a few pumpkin treasures. Enjoy some historic pumpkins from 1900-1990!

Halloween ABC, poems by Eve Merriam ; illustrations by Lane Smith. New York : Macmillan, c1987. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

See My Lovely Poison Ivy : and Other Verses About Witches, Ghosts, and Things. By Lilian Moore, pictures by Diane Dawson.New York : Atheneum, c1975. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

The Sun-Bonnet Babies. by Bertha L. Corbett. Minneapolis, Minnesota (no publisher given). c1900. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library

Halloween. Written and with photographs selected by Katherine Leiner. New York : Atheneum, c1993. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library. Photograph by Sylvia Plachy.

One quick note about the pumpkin patch photographed above. It’s from a book titled Halloween (Atheneum, 1993). Written and with photographs selected by Katherine Leiner, it features amazing photographers like Sylvia Plachy, William Wegman, Sally Mann, and Phyllis Galembo. All the royalties and profits were donated to the Pediatric AIDS Foundation. There is a touching introduction to the work of the Pediatric AIDS Foundation by Francesca DeLaurentis, age 10. The book is an incredible collaboration on so many levels.

Halloween. Written and with photographs selected by Katherine Leiner. New York : Atheneum, c1993. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library. Photograph by William Wegman.

Halloween. Written and with photographs selected by Katherine Leiner. New York : Atheneum, c1993. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library. Photograph by Sally Mann.

Halloween. Written and with photographs selected by Katherine Leiner. New York : Atheneum, c1993. Cotsen Children’s Library, Princeton University Library. Photograph by Phyllis Galembo.


Images  may be subject to copyright. Please contact danas@princeton.edu if you are the author of one or more of images used here and have objection in such a use.