by Jen Bervin, Marta Werner
The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner is a limited edition artist book based on Emily Dickinson's late compositions on envelopes. The edition includes a portfolio of nearly fifty high-resolution double-sided color facsimiles with visual transcriptions. Marta Werner's lyric essay, "Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems," provides the scholarly, historic, and poetic context for these exquisite late writings by Dickinson. The edition is accompanied by a guide with a bibliographic directory for the fragments and a series of visual indexes.
In the postscript, Bervin writes: "The title, The Gorgeous Nothings, is an excerpt from Emily Dickinson's manuscript A 821, 'the gorgeous | nothings | which | compose | the | sunset | keep'. In choosing it, I was thinking of Dickinson's own definition for nothing: 'the force that renovates | the World –'1 and her definition for 'no': 'the wildest word we consign to language.'2 These 'gorgeous nothings' are that kind of nothing…I think of these manuscripts as the sort of 'small fabric' Dickinson writes of in A 636: 'Excuse | Emily and | her Atoms | the North | Star is | of small | fabric but it | implies | much | presides | yet.' […] This poem exemplifies Dickinson's relationship to scale so perfectly. When we say small, we often mean less. When Dickinson says small, she means atoms, the North Star."
Each copy of The Gorgeous Nothings includes:
A portfolio of 48 unbound double-sided color manuscript facsimiles on Red River Aurora Natural paper. The 47 manuscript facsimiles show the front and back of each Dickinson fragment at 100% scale accompanied by smaller visual transcriptions in blue; one index print is included. The portfolio wrap replicates page forms from manuscript A 821 / A 821a, and is made from Ruscombe David Cox with a cotton tape lift. The portfolio interior base is lined with royal blue Shikibu Gampi-shi paper over lignin free conservation board.
Portfolio dimensions: 11 1/2" x 14 3/4"
Print dimensions: 11" x 14"
A 52-page essay by Marta Werner: "Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson's Envelope-Poems" with seven digital prints tipped-in. The bound soft cover in Saint Armand Dark Linen with royal blue Shikibu Gampi-shi endpapers replicates page forms from A 821 / A 821a. The text is printed letterpress by Friedrich Kerksieck on Byron Weston Linen Ledger White.
Essay dimensions: 10" x 7 1/2"
A 32-page guide with visual indexes, a directory of manuscripts, a postscript and a colophon. The cover paper is Ruscombe Vert Forêt, the interior paper is Byron Weston Linen Ledger Bright White.
Guide dimensions: 9" x 11 1/2"
All of the above housed in a lignin-free archival box with an original line drawing in blue pencil, and a hand-painted seal of gum arabic, and gouache.
Box dimensions: 11 3/4" x 15” x 1 1/2"
The Gorgeous Nothings is published in an edition of 50 + 10 hors commerce.
1 See Letters 1958, L1563 to Susan Dickinson: “By homely /gifts and / hindered Words the human / heart is told of nothing – ‘Nothing’ is / the force that renovates / the World – / Emily”
2 See Letters 1958, L562 to Judge Otis Lord: “Dont you know you are happiest while I withhold and not confer—dont you know that “No” is the wildest word we consign to Language?” The proximity of "know" to "no" is of note here.
**The images of the manuscripts of Emily Dickinson are reproduced courtesy of Amherst College Library, Archives & Special Collections, The Houghton Library, Harvard University, and the Harvard University Press. The President and Fellows of Harvard College claim the sole ownership of and sole right of literary rights and copyrights therein to the texts of Emily Dickinson.