Hand-painting, Handmade paper, Leather, Letterpress, Photo
Hand-Painted Emulsion paper, Translucent Kozo paper
12 × 9.25 × 3.5 in
Signs & Wonders is a limited-edition-of-twelve artist book retracing Mark Twain’s 1867 expedition to the Holy Land. A collaboration between American Jacques Menasche and Australian Stephen Dupont, it includes photographs printed on hand-painted emulsion, texts hand-typed on translucent Kozo paper, and maps constructed from pages of an 1870 first-edition of Twain’s The Innocents Abroad. Handstamped with drop-cap wooden letterpress letters, with a leather cover hand-tooled in gold leaf, it comes in a clamshell box and has the dimensions of a family bible.
The collaboration between Dupont and Menasche dates back to 2004, when — a writer/photographer team — they reported from the region during the Second Intifada. Thirteen years later the pair returned for the 150th anniversary of Mark Twain’s trip, following a route that today weaves between Israel and the West Bank. The result is a journey, alternately reverent and comic, that winds through the grottos and deserts and seas and checkpoints and churches, from the volcanic plateau of the Golan Heights to the Old City alleys of Jerusalem.
Driven by a desire to see what has changed in the 150 years since Mark Twain’s visit, textually Signs & Wonders creates a palimpsest of experiences (Twain’s, the artists’ own reportage during the Second Intifada, and the present journey), told through the use of obsolete technologies (typewriter/letterpress).
Mark Twain, problematic politically (he was anti-Arab AND anti-Christian) was an assassin of pieties. And in that regard the book’s text follows in his footsteps, sparing neither Christian pilgrims, Palestinians, Israelis — or Twain himself. Nor do the artists escape unscathed. Despite being practiced observers who’ve made dozens of trips to the region over the past 25 years, they are also, like Twain, innocents abroad, neither Israeli nor Palestinian nor religious. Signs & Wonders reflects all this plus the random contingency of a travelogue.
- Black and white images by Stephen Dupont were taken with a Leica MP, a Mamiya 6, and a Hasselblad Xpan — all using Kodak Tri-X film
- Color images by Jacques Menasche were taken with a Lomo’Instant Automat Glass
- Image pages were printed in the Hunter Valley, Australia using a Devere digital enlarger, and silver gelatin liquid photographic emulsion made by Foma Bohemia hand-painted on Canson Edition 100% cotton rag fine art paper by Stephen Dupont and Chris Reid
- Color images were hand-colored with oil paints in Melbourne, Australia by Lynette Zheng
- Text pages were hand-typed by Jacques Menasche in New York on hand-made 100 % Japanese Kozu paper using a 1964 Olympia SM-4 typewriter
- Maps were constructed using pages from an 1870 first-edition of Mark Twain’s “The Innocents Abroad” and an 1887 edition of “Historical Geography Of The Bible ” by J.L. Hurlbut
- Hand-pressed letters were made using a 1920s art deco wooden letterpress set from Paris, France
- Book design by Jacques Menasche and Stephen Dupont
Cover design and binding by Uriel Cidor, Center for Book Arts, New York