COVER STORY CONTEST: The Orb Weaver by Robert Francis

Recovered by BINDER #7
The Orb Weaver
by Robert Francis
Wesleyan University Press, Third printing: 1967 (first printed in 1960)
Artist’s Statement: I recently discovered the poetry of Robert Francis (1901-1987), a New Englander whose writing is reminiscent of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson: simple, expressive, and understated. Frost described Francis as “of all the great neglected poets, the greatest.” He was not entirely unsung; in 1984 he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Award for distinguished achievement.

The book I recovered was a former library book. Although the text block was in very good condition, the illustrated dust cover was missing and the plain cloth cover had markings and residue from stickers and adhesives. The original endpapers were undecorated, of a heavier stock that matched the text pages. A library card pocket was affixed to the inside cover.

In designing a new cover, I focused on the title poem of the collection, “The Orb Weaver,” in which the poet observes the natural world and then ponders deeper human analogies. He begins simply – “Here is the spinner, the orb weaver” – but his tone darkens as he considers the grasshopper ensnared in its “winding-sheet.” The silver-on-black spider web represents that dichotomy: dewy but deadly.

I digitally altered a photo of an orb spider’s web to create line art, then letterpress-printed the title, art and spine text on the cover using a polymer plate. I chose decorative endpapers infused with ivory kozo fibers to bring together the palette and various book elements. I saved and replaced the original head and tail bands when I cased in the text block to the new covers.
Materials used: Letterpress-printed cloth on boards; altered photograph; photopolymer plate; mulberry/chiri bark endpapers (machine-made in Thailand)