MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Nearly every year from 1934–1962, the poet Robert Frost produced a holiday card to be distributed to his friends and supporters. The card typically took the form of a small booklet and contained some of the poet’s recent work along with illustrations by various artists.
The Davis Family Library’s Special Collections and Archives has created an exhibit of the 28 historic cards, which will remain on display through January 2018, in the library atrium. The cards were a collaboration between Frost and printer Joe Blumenthal at the Spiral Press.
According to College archivist Danielle Rougeau, Frost was quite taken with the letterpress printing that Blumenthal produced and became a big fan of the printed card.
For his greeting cards, the physical qualities of the paper and printing were part of the artistry. “With some of the imprints, it almost feels like low-relief sculpture,” said Rougeau. “You feel the words as well as the paper. They were so beautiful and so well done—what a wonderful way to see your work.”
Rougeau says Frost’s enthusiasm for letterpress was the impetus for Bread Loaf Printers, an actual printer’s cabin and press created for the Bread Loaf School of English.
“It speaks to his passion for the poem as an image,” said Jay Parini, professor of English and Frost biographer. “It all emerges from Frost’s interests in the visual art of poetry.”
The artwork on the cards generally depicts the New England landscapes Frost described in his poems. Several artists of note, including Leonard Baskin, founder of the Gehenna Press, created artwork for the holiday cards.
Initially, Frost sent the cards to a small circle of people, printing fewer than 300. But by the final year of production, the company printed more than 17,000 cards.
Robert Frost’s ties to Middlebury date back to the early 1920s, when he became involved with the Bread Loaf School of English in its second year. He returned to the school each summer for 42 years. Middlebury College owns and maintains the Robert Frost Farm as a national historic site near the Bread Loaf campus in Ripton, Vermont. Frost was also instrumental in the founding of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 1926.
The public is invited to an opening reception for the exhibit on Thursday, December 14, at 4 p.m. in the library atrium.