Lynd Ward: ‘The Pleasure That Only Books Can Give’

By Jason Boog Comment

Today the Library of America (LOA) published a collection of six wordless “novel in woodcuts” by Lynd Warda great artist, author, and publisher.

In the 1930s, Ward channeled his frustration with traditional publishing and helped create Equinox Cooperative Press. He used the indie press to create a beautiful line of hand-crafted books.

Two woodcuts from Ward’s wordless novel, God’s Man, are included in this post. Click to enlarge and visit the LOA site to see more.We caught up with Library of America editor Christopher Carduff to find out more about the life and work of this publishing visionary.

Carduff explained: “I think it’s there are still things that only books can do, despite the arrival of new forms of media. There are still delights that only ink and paper and light reflected off the page can do. Ward made beautiful art objects that weren’t for the few, they were for the many. He gave pleasure that only books can give. It should be a reassurance for publishers, especially publishers who care about books as aesthetic objects. He’s an excellent example of a total book artist, somebody who really understood what a book can be.”

Carduff continued: “Ward went away to Germany to learn wood engraving. Part of his academy education wasn’t just about engravings, but also a lot of history of book design and bookmaking. He took classes about book binding and book illustration. He was very frustrated by the way art was being handled by commercial publishing houses–he was being asked to decorate books after they were finished and he was frustrated by the lack of any thoughtful inclusion of art in the bookmaking process.”

He concluded: “Equinox was born of this frustration. Ward wanted to do things that were editorially noncommercial. Every editorial decision was made about treating the book as artifact. They assigned books and illustrators, and the illustrators were instrumental in deciding these things for themselves. The idea was to hand craft books with an art element in them, books that commercial publishers wouldn’t touch; to create a handmade work of art and raise the standards of commercial publishing at the time.”