"The Pictorial Webster's is, in simplest terms, an artistic visual reference of what was important to 19th Century America.The 400 plus page volume is printed with the original wood engravings and copper electrotypes of the Merriam-Webster dictionaries of the 19th Century; namely the 1859 American Dictionary of the English Language (the 1st illustrated dictionary in America), the 1864 edition of that same Dictionary, and the 1890 International Dictionary. The Engravings are arranged alphabetically, a system of organization long shunned by lexicographers because alphabetical order grants no intrinsic meaning to any given grouping of words, but it is perfect for a book that creates its own immersive experience in imagery of a time gone by.
"The Pictorial Webster's is not to be undestood as mere visual reference. I believe a person instinctively tries to find the connection between things when they are grouped together, and so when confronted by combinations of two or more images the mind looks for a link to give their grouping meaning. My hope is readers will "read the text" by relaxing their minds in studying the pages to allow their subconscious-ness to supply the connective meaning between images. The key-words at the tops of the pages might supply a theme to a reader, or merely be worked into one's own narrative. In this way the book becomes a true surrealist experience."
John Carrera has a series of handmade editions of Pictorial Webster's like in the video. This is the Standard Edition which is $3500. There is another more expensive and a couple of less expensive editions of the hand-made letterpress editions. The books themselves are works of art.
Fortunately there is a trade edition for a bit less. I have one on order.
Do check out the website.
update: My Pictorial Webster's arrived and it's much better than I thought it would be. The images in the trade edition are enlarged to about 115% of the original size. The paper stock is very smooth making for sharp reproductions. They scan very well. There is also text that gives the background to these engravings and the author's thoughts on viewing these disparate images. These engravings are all carved on small wood blocks. Amazing! This is a book that is not read in a single sitting. You view bits of it at a time and keep coming back. To try and view it all at once would only put your brain into sensory overload and your head would explode. It must be savored a bit at a time. I'm looking forward to many fine savorings.
I will be posting scans from this book daily on the top of the home page.