marianne lodge’s practice writing book from 1847 is full of wonderfully instructional old sayings: read good books, venerate old age, wisdom nourishes the mind, gain stimulates industry and, my favorite, quietly bear pain. over the years, i have come across many wonderful examples of ephemera but none quite as remarkable as that of miss lodge. since i collect primarily modern design books by tschichold, bill, sutnar, rand, bayer et al, miss lodge’s practice book stands out. yet it is one of my favorites.
i first moved to new york in 1989 and faithfully attended the antiquarian book fair each spring, a swanky affair for book dealers from around the globe selling rare modern firsts, maps and incunabula. usually there are just a few modernist dealers but each spring it still presents a thrilling prospect. i approach this fair as i would a visit to a museum. the difference being everything is for sale. it was here i happened upon miss lodge’s practice book. i first noticed the wonderful calligraphy horse on the cover but, upon further examination, i realized the practice book was made of real vellum, not paper. as i carefully leafed through the pages, i discovered that miss lodge, or someone at a later date, had carefully pasted a collection of wax seals onto the pages. i turned to page after page, each more beautiful than the next. the dealer was aware of my excitement and asked if I was interested. “sixteen hundred dollars!” he told me when i said i was. wow. a mighty sum. more than i had paid for anything in my collection. i thanked him and said it was way out of my league. i continued on my way touring the other booths. i eventually made my way back to visit miss lodge’s handiwork. the dealer spied me walkingup and was eager for me to take another look. he asked me to make an offer. i declined and told him i had come to the show with a set amount to spend and had purposely left my checkbook behind. (a practice i still keep, by the way.) he asked how much money i had on me. i went through my pockets and pulled out 812 dollars. not a small sum and a great deal to me. “it’s yours,” he said. i was dumbstruck. i hadn’t really made an offer but the deal was struck. he told me that a particularly good customer who was in attendance was interested in miss lodge’s book but had been haggling over the price. i thought maybe my good fortune was due to the dealer wanting to communicate to his customer that “he who hesitates is lost.” i have cherished this piece and have come to regard “quietly bear pain” as an apt phrase on so many levels. i hope you agree.