My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir, Yolla Bolly Press

{Ed Note: This is the last installment from DlphcOracl looking at the wonderful work done by the Yolla Bolly Press.  In this article, we look at My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir.  Previous posts on Yolla Bolly Press are herehere and here.}

John Muir (1838-1914) was born in Scotland and in 1849 his family emigrated to the United States, starting a farm in Wisconsin.  In 1864 Muir traveled to Canada to avoid the draft for the Civil War and spent his time wandering in the woods and swamps around Lake Huron collecting plants. After returning to the U.S. in 1866, he eventually found his way to California in early 1868. After arriving in San Francisco, Muir immediately took a week-long visit to Yosemite in which he referred to Yosemite as “the grandest of all special temples of Nature.”

Muir returned to Yosemite in the summer of 1869 to work as a shepherd for a season, supervising a San Joaquin sheep owner’s flock at the headwaters of the Merced and Tuolumne rivers, guiding the flock into the high country.  He climbed a number of mountains in the Sierra range including Cathedral Peak and hiked the old Indian trail down Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake. This experience proved to be a seminal event for John Muir as he subsequently built and lived in a cabin along Yosemite Creek for two years.  Muir recorded his experiences and sketches  in a blue notebook but would not organize his writings into a book until 40 years later. This book, My First Summer in the Sierra, is a celebration of nature and it is filled with the awe and excitement of a man seeing a uniquely beautiful and unfamiliar corner of the world for the first time.  It remains one of the greatest works of literature in the genre of nature writing.

Muir subsequently became a passionate preservationist and on September 30, 1890, he was instrumental in the passage of a U.S. Congressional bill excluding domestic livestock from Yosemite Valley and the Sierra.  In 1892 he co-founded the Sierra Club, subsequently becoming increasingly active politically to preserve wilderness.  In 1903 Muir accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt on a visit to Yosemite, convincing Roosevelt that federal control and management of Yosemite Valley was essential for its protection.

About the Edition

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Muir’s birth, the Yolla Bolly press printed a deluxe limited edition of Muir’s first work, My First Summer in the Sierra.  They commissioned a set of original illustrations made from wood engravings by Michael McCurdy.  In preparation, McCurdy spent the summer of 1987 in the Sierra retracing Muir’s footsteps nearly one hundred years later, taking his own set of photographs and sketches.  Using these, in combination with Muir’s original sketches, McCurdy produced an extraordinary set of twelve woodcut illustrations for this edition.

  • Designed and printed in 1988 by James and Carolyn Robertson at The Yolla Bolly Press in Covelo, California
  • The book is folio-sized measuring 14 1/2″ height x 10 1/2″ width
  • The printing is letterpress on an Italian waterleaf  paper called Incisioni, an especially heavy cream-colored paper mouldmade by the Magnani family in Pescia, Italy, using a perfectly matte-black ink that was especially formulated for this book
  • Typefaces are Jan Van Krimpen’s Van Dijck and Caslon, set by hand at the Press and by Monotype at Mackenzie-Harris Corporation, San Francisco
  • Michael McCurdy’s illustrations are wood engravings that were drawn from his and Muir’s sketches, engraved in end-grain maple blocks, then shipped to the Yolla Bolly Press where they were printed on a hand press to produce the illustrations
  • Frederick Turner, a biographer of John Muir, contributes a foreword examining Muir’s transformation into a man of nature
  • Of 155 copies were printed, 110 copies were bound in hand loomed linen from nationally recognized fabric designer Myung Jin of Sausalito, using a rough linen fabric with an ikat pattern on the spine to simulate the Yosemite woodlands
  • End sheets were made by hand in Mexico by the Otomi Indians from native tree bark
  • 25 copies were bound in brushed cowhide accompanied by an extra suite of prints, enclosed in a handmade wooden box made of yellow pine
  • Bound by Schuberth Bookbindery, San Francisco
  • The linen-covered book is enclosed in a slipcase made of heavy board and covered with German Ingres paper
  • Each of the volumes was signed by the artist and numbered.

Pictures

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My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Prospectus Page 1
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Prospectus Last Page
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Slipcase, paper over boards
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Spine of slipcase with paper label
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Handwoven linen fabric over boards, book spine, with abstract design simulating a forest
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Handwoven linen fabric over boards, front cover
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Bark paper end sheets handmade in Mexico
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Title Page
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Table of Contents
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Opening page, chapter one
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample Page with Text
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Opening Page, Chapter Two
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample woodcut illustration #1
My Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Sample woodcut illustration #2
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Opening Page, Chapter Five
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Opening Page, Sample Woodcut Illustration #3
My First Summer in the Sierra, Yolla Bolly Press, Opening Page, Colophon

5 thoughts on “My First Summer in the Sierra, by John Muir, Yolla Bolly Press

  1. Have you posted anywhere the titles and number of the Yollo Bolly folios? These are beautiful books, but I have never heard of them before. I would love to know where unique linens, silk, etc book cloths are available. I am going to rebind the LEC Faust using a Japanese silk cloth from Asahi in combination with a Nigerian goatskin. I even e-mailed the binder for many of Shiff’s LEC works, but she couldn’t tell me where the beautiful Japanese linens used on Shiff’s books were obtained.

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