Rebecca Chamlee, “The Young Manhood of Dave Chamlee”

The spine with longstitch sewing


Inside front cover, map pocket


Page layout with text and marginalia


Page layout with text and photograph




Artist: Rebecca Chamlee (Simi Valley, CA)

Title: The Young Manhood of Dave Chamlee

Medium/technique(s): Letterpress hand-bound artist’s book

Edition size: 33

Number of pages: 40

Dimensions, open: 9″ x 17″ x 1″

Dimensions, closed: 9″ x 6 1/2″ x 1″


Artist Statement:

The Young Manhood of Dave Chamlee is a coming-of-age story about my great grandfather told by my father, William Zane Chamlee, in a Humanities term paper he wrote while attending Claremont Men’s College in the 1950s.

A bildungsroman, this story starts with background on young Dave Chamlee, and then recounts his travels west from Tennessee and his years as a cowboy in Texas—gunfights, boots, and cowboy hats—to his arrival in California where he ultimately settled down and spent the remainder of his days.

Included with the story are research notes by William F. and Adelle A. Chamlee, added in 1998 that are taken from census reports, marriage licenses, and war records. Along with the text of the story I have traced Dave Chamlee’s journey with a map, family photographs and integrate an additional narrative layer that speaks to the notion of memory; family stories passed down through the generations that become personal folklore. The rustic handmade paper and buffalo leather binding add visual surprises and further dimension to the rough, archaic feel of the story.

The Young Manhood of Dave Chamlee is letterpress printed with hand set Centaur and Arrighi, Massey Initials and ornaments on handmade Khadi paper. The map background is a suicide linoleum block; the map details and photographs are printed from polymer plates. The signatures are sewn into a bison leather cover with a wrap band, ties, tackets and deer horn buttons reminiscent of a worn cowboy’s saddlebag. All design, presswork and binding are done by Rebecca Chamlee.

I’m interested not just in the words — the verbal structure of a book — but also in the physical object; the sensation of smelling and touching the paper and feeling the impression of the type; echoing the tone and content of text in accompanying images, the typography and even the binding.