Beyond Words: 200 Years of Illustrated Diaries

BeyondWords.JPGIt’s the new year, and perhaps, like Pepys, one of your resolutions is to begin a diary or a journal. I’m content to take a peek into the diaries of others, particularly when they are as beautiful as the ones in the new book, Beyond Words: 200 Years of Illustrated Diaries, published late last fall by Heyday Books in association with the University of California at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.
The book reproduces in full color fifty illustrated diaries spanning two centuries--from the ship's log of Francis Phillips from 1813 to the whimsical entries of painter/printer John Brandi. Career sailor William H. Meyers adorned his three-year journal  with incredible watercolor paintings of coffins, flags, and places where they docked. What is remarkable about the four mid-nineteenth-century California journals of Stephen Wing are the mandalas and calligraphic lettering that pepper his entries. The time he must have spent on something designed (ostensibly) for his eyes only! The spread devoted to John Muir's 1879 Alaska journal shows the talent of the naturalist, not just for words but for sketching the flora and fauna of the region. The typed journal of environmentalist David Brower from 1928 and 1931 recorded his early hikes and rock-climbing adventures. He added maps, photographs, and paintings. Each journal presented here is an 'objet d'art.'

Screen shot 2012-01-02 at 1.08.51 PM.pngShow above is a reproduction of poet, publisher, and City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 1965 journal of his time in southwestern Spain.

Susan Snyder, the book's author/editor, was formerly a librarian at the Bancroft Library, where most of these diaries are housed. Her idea to bring all of these diaries together between two covers is nothing short of inspired. The illustrations are not only stunning to look at but interesting to read for the compelling bits of history they reveal. Even Oprah liked it! Yes, Beyond Words was chosen as an Oprah Book of the Week, which I hope means the book is getting the major attention it deserves.
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