Books On Books Collection – Dave Morice

A Visit from St. Alphabet (2005)

A Visit from St. Alphabet (2005)
Dave Morice
Casebound, H130 x 170 mm. 24 pages unnumbered. Acquired from The Book Depository, 27 August 2021.
Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the publisher Coffee House Press.

In the Books On Books Collection, Dave Morice’s spoof of Clement Moore’s 1822 A Visit from St Nicholas (better known as ‘Twas the night before Christmas) serves several purposes.

First of all, in a collection that has alphabet books and alphabet-related artists’ books as one of its focal points, work by the artist also known as Dr. Alphabet must be included.

Second, Morice is like the definition of book art: he shifts about. He has been the perpetrator of the Joyce Holland literary hoax. Minimalist poet and performance artist Joyce Holland became the publisher of the Matchbook series — one-word poems on one-inch squares of paper bound in matchbook covers — and became famous enough to appear on the Tom Snyder Tomorrow show (Morice and his girlfriend P.J Casteel stood in). With his poetry performance pieces written on scrolls that were stretched the length of a football field and created during half-time, he rivaled Christo and Jean Claude. As publisher of 17 issues of Poetry Comics, he could be said to be the inventor of the comic artist’s book.

Third, Morice’s alphabet book (artist’s book?) demonstrates by letter, wordplay, narrative and image the nature of the alphabet and its elemental inspiration for artists of the book.

Fourth, Morice’s book first appeared in 1980 as a limited letterpress sewn pamphlet published by Allan and Cinda Kornblum’s Toothpaste Press. In the late 1960s, they had studied typography and printing under Harry Duncan at the University of Iowa, then set up their publishing house in 1970. Poetry dominated the list, with output from Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Anselm Hollo, Antonio Machado (translated by Bly), Alice Notley, Carl Rakowski and Anne Waldman. This edition comes from Coffee House Press, founded in 1984 as the nonprofit successor to Toothpaste Press. Although no longer a product of letterpress printing but in a nod toward its predecessor, the book boasts case binding with red cloth over board and dark green textured pastedowns and endleaves (doublures). And this at a time when the doom of the printed book was being regularly forecast. This hints, at least, at the proposition celebrated by the collection that book art forecasts the history of the book.

Fifth and finally, as of publication of this entry, there are only 140 shopping days for book art until Christmas.

Further Reading

Abecedaries I (in progress)“. Books On Books Collection.

Kirch, Claire. 23 November 2014. “Coffee House Founding Publisher Allan Kornblum Dies“. Publisher’s Weekly.

Morice, Dave. 1982. Poetry comics!: a cartooniverse of poems. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Morice, Dave. 1995. The adventures of Dr. Alphabet: 104 unusual ways to write poetry in the classroom and the community. New York: Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

Peterson, Mary. 1982. “Toothpaste Press“. The North American Review267(4), 70–72.