Books As
Aesthetic Objects
A unique collection of contemporary
rare books The core of the original
gift to FAU in 1998


By W.S Merwin
Images and visual design by Charles Hobson

w. s Merwin; charles hobson; trees; artist book(Click to view larger image)

"Trees has been made as a limited edition of thirty copies in the spring and summer of 2010. The images of palm trees have been made as monotypes that have been reproduced as high-resolution digital prints on transparent film. They are hinged between pages of Strathmore 2-ply museum board and acid free foamcore with architectural model trees. The windows in the foamcore were cut at Magnolia Editions,Oakland, CA. The text pages were printed letterpress at JR Press, San Francisco, and the title on the side of the box was foil-stamped by John DeMerritt, Emeryville, California. The typeface is Poppl-Laudatio. Charles Hobson made the monotypes and designed and assembled the edition with the assistance of Alice Shaw." (From Charles Hobson's website.) The Jaffe Collection has # 6.

Book? Of course book. Poem? Certainly poem. Tree? Magically, that too. Charles Hobson takes book and poem and combines them with the essence of tree in a work of imagination and splendid craftsmanship. He presents it to the viewer in a wooden box to which he attaches a tiny flashlight so that light projection enlarges the project even further . His website (on Trees' specific page) details everything you would want to know about the project, including a link to a Youtube stop-action video about the making of Trees, but the presence of the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.

W.S. Merwin is currently (2010-2011) the 17th United States Poet Laureate. He wrote “Trees,” the poem with which Hobson works, in 2007 when he was 80 years old. The poem sounds its lyrical note of regret smoothly until a point two-thirds of the way through when the syntax gnarls and two lines merge viewer and viewed: the speaker has listened to trees’ names but never touched them, and their names have never touched the trees either.

Hobson now has picked up on the place where the poem thrusts out most forcefully, and he accentuates touch in all its permutations. The poem is now a book you can touch, and it includes not only images of trees, but tiny tree-models. It rests in a box made from the product of trees, of course, and it includes images of palm trees (making it especially apt for our location in South Florida.) But it is the abstract meaning of ‘touching’ that works most strongly as the poem and the book evoke not only the concrete palm tree, but also fleeting hours and fleeting memories, the full present and the empty future. While Bill Merwin tells us how quickly time is going by, Charles Hobson has done his best to make it stand still.

Trees by Bill Merwin
I am looking at trees
they may be one of the things I will miss
most from the earth
though many of the ones I have seen
already I cannot remember
and though I seldom embrace the ones I see
and have never been able to speak
with one
I listen to them tenderly
their names have never touched them
they have stood round my sleep
and when it was forbidden to climb them
they have carried me in their branches

The Jaffe Collection acquired this book to honor the inauguration of Dr. M.J. Saunders as President of Florida Atlantic University on June 7, 2010, and especially to recognize her affinity for the subject matter. Coincidentally, On July 1, 2010, the poet W.S. Merwin was named the 17th Poet Laureate of the United States.

Judith Klau