The Story of the Fisherman; Up Close

The Story of the Fisherman; Up Close

Summary: The Story of the Fisherman is a limited edition hand made letterpress book which I had the honor of illustrating. This blog post is a beginning, the tip of the iceberg, focusing on showing some of the book’s qualities.


Over the course of the past year, I have been doggedly working on a project that is one of the most beautiful projects that I have ever had the honor of being a part of. This book has already found a home in many University Libraries across the US as well as around the globe. There is a copy in the Special Collections at the Stanford University Library, and I am very proud to say that there is a copy in the U. S. Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The Story of the Fisherman is a letterpress book that is hand bound, hand colored, and illustrated by yours truly. The limited edition of 117 (101 of which are for sale) is a project that is produced by Foolscap Press.

You can visit the Foolscap Press website to read more, see more pictures, and purchase a copy of the book.

I am deeply grateful that I am able to work with Master Craftspeople like Peggy Gotthold and Larry Van Velzer who make up Foolscap Press. Their work is, to my eye, of the highest calibre. Ms. Gotthold has done all the accordion fold binding by hand. Mr. Van Velzer is a printer extraordinaire whose printing leaves marks of crystal clarity. They have a long history of creating amazing books.

The Story of the Fisherman title page
The Story of the Fisherman title page, photo credit: Chris Adamson

Part of the incredible satisfaction that came about from this project is the feeling that the final book is an extension of the content of the book. The Story of the Fisherman is a story which is taken from the larger story of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights.)

The overall design, the images, the way that the book is presented all grew naturally from the nesting nature of the The Arabian Nights tales.

If you are unfamiliar with the Arabian Nights, the basic over-arching umbrella story is about Shaharazad, the new Queen telling stories to the King each night. The King, for reasons of his own, has had a virgin each night and has her killed in the morning. However Sharazad’s plan is to tell the King a cliffhanger story each night. So, on their wedding night, the three of them retire to the bedroom… wait, three? Yes, Sharazad’s sister, Dinarizad tags along with them (which, is a little awkward I’d have to imagine.) For the purposes of this book, her role is that of the artist and scribe, who’s drawing pictures all the while her sister is telling stories.

The story and it’s meaning go much deeper than that, but suffice to say that even inside this story of Sharazad, the characters in her stories begin to tell stories about characters who tell stories… and on, and on, and on.

Hand Crafted

There are so many wonderful aspects of this project, one of the key features is that the images are all hand painted for each individual book. In the case of the tittle page and a few other details, the hand illumination was done by me.
The Story of the Husband and the Parrot, photo credit: Chris Adamson
The Story of the Husband and the Parrot, photo credit: Chris Adamson


Parrot painting close up
Parrot painting close up


Painting Parrot Pages
Painting Parrot Pages
The larger image spreads are all hand done by Peggy Gotthold with an age old technique called ‘pochoir’ (French: “stencil“). Ms. Gotthold also hand makes each box that the books come in.
The Story of the Fisherman spread #1, photo credit Chris Adamson
The Story of the Fisherman spread #1, photo credit Chris Adamson

Earlier I mentioned that these stories nest within one another, so there are different levels of within one story. A fantastic design element of this book is that each two page spread connects with the other spreads from the same “depth’ of story! It is a wonderful way to show the connectivity of each story. The true experience and breadth of this cannot be accurately shown in a single picture, but I hope that it begins to give you some sense of the project. When all the spreads are put side by side, the book extends just over six feet! (*I will be posting more about this aspect of the book, so stay tuned!)

The first two spreads side by side.


The book has been receiving rave reviews. Chris Adamson has written an amazingly detailed article about The Story of the Fisherman. I also have to credit Mr. Ademson for these fantastic macro-pictures you see here which allow us to get up close and to see the grain of the paper, and the details of the binding and printing. You can read about it and see more images on the blog Books and Vines.
Macro of the fisherman, photo credit: Chris Adamson
Macro of the fisherman, photo credit: Chris Adamson


Thank you for reading this post.  I do hope that this has been helpful in introducing you to this book. It is a project that I am very proud of, and I hope that you enjoy it as well. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me, I respond well to enthusiasm.

Also, you may be interested in these other blog posts about this project:

Dinarizad Frontispiece

The Story of the Fisherman Final Art Gallery


A Wiley Sage

“The Story of the Fisherman” Sketches and Video


3 Responses to The Story of the Fisherman; Up Close

  1. I am so in awe of your talent. Wow! What an artist! When I watched the video, it didn’t look as though you had any sketch lines and you were drawing straight with the ink. Is that true? Wow! No erasing. I wish I had talent like yours. Thanks for sharing.
    Cheers, Amba from Sydney, Australia

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