de brevitate vitae
By Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Chicago, Illinois: Jack of all Trades Press, 2008. Edition of 20.
7 x 4.875"; 18 pages. Letterpress printed using handset Monotype Centaur. Printed on dampened handmade pigmented paper. Bugra Burgundy endpapers. Drumleaf binding in Japanese mohair bookcloth with title on front board. Housed in cloth covered slipcase with colophon in separate portfolio.
Meditation on the quick passage of life: as the pages proceed from brilliant white to occluded black "we are forced at last by death's final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing."
Daniel Mellis: "de brevitate vitæ is a meditation on the shortness of life. Paired with handmade paper that changes color gradually from white to black is the beginning of the essay On the Shortness of Life by the Roman author Seneca. Each spread contains a phrase from the work which exhorts the reader to make much of life. The transformation of the paper’s color creates a metaphorical equivalence between a book read and a life lived. The text of the last page, black ink on black paper, cements this conclusion: We are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that [life] has passed away before we realized it was passing. The ending of the book presents the reader with his or her own mortality.
"The experience of reading this book is integral to its meaning. I wanted to preserve this unitary experience and so I made a separate portfolio to house the colophon and a slipcase to house both items. To print the label and colophon, I printed in red ink and then rubbed on dry gold pigment. For each impression of the colophon, I reset the type indicating the number of the book in the edition."