COVID, Begone. Bring on Cupid.

News subtitle

Book Arts Workshop is reviving the art of handmade valentines.

Letterpress cards from a valentine workshop at the Book Arts studio.
Letterpress cards from a valentine workshop at the Book Arts studio.

In the basement of Dartmouth Library’s Baker-Berry Library, the Book Arts Workshop has been especially popular this month as Program Manager Sarah Smith demonstrates the fine art of making Valentine’s Day cards.

Each student printmaker chooses or composes bons mots, sets them in type, adds a metal plate from the studio’s illustration collection, lays a piece of paper on one the studio’s inked vintage letterpresses, and turns the crank.

Tuck student Katie Shultz prints a letterpress valentine.
Katie Shultz, Tuck ’22, prints a letterpress valentine card during the workshop in the Book Arts studio.

Out comes a card that, a century ago, might have been sealed with a wax kiss.

Last year, when the Book Arts space was closed due to COVID-19, Smith spent hours creating make-your-own pop-up valentines kits and distributing them around campus. This year she’s put some kits on a table in the workshop hallway and posted a link providing instructions and a template. But she’s even happier to be able to welcome printers back in person, a few at a time. 

“I feel like the pandemic has made people realize the value of paper communication, because it’s more tangible and more personal than electronic messages,” says Smith. “If, because of quarantine or some other reason, you can’t actually be with someone you like, making a card, really putting effort into it, says that you care.” 

Among the most affectionate 2022 cards, one, illustrated by a pastoral scene resembling Occom Pond, quotes Hemingway: “When you love, you wish to do things for. You wish to sacrifice for. You wish to serve.”

Katie Shultz, Tuck ’22, placed her own caption beneath the illustration of a well: “Wishing you that deep well of love kind of Valentine’s Day.”

The valentine-making workshops were being followed by another seasonal favorite. On Friday, Smith was planning to help Dartmouth students and employees print their own winter carnival posters on an antique press in the hallway outside the Orozco murals.

“It’s great to be so busy again, and I love the students’ enthusiasm,” she says. 

Charlotte Albright