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Wayzgoose: keeping print tradition alive

Later this month the third annual Wayzgoose print fair takes place at St Bride Foundation just off Fleet Street in London. There are Wayzgoose events all around the world and they mainly involve the print industry, but have you ever wondered why the strange name is used? Why not a print fair? Here are ten things you may not know about this long-standing print tradition.

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Wayzgoose: a chance to buy all manner of printing paraphernalia at St Bride Foundation in London

o 1
The first thing to know is that the next Wayzgoose is on Sunday May 21st, 11am to 4pm and is run by the Friends of St Bride at the St Bride Foundation in St Bride Lane, Fleet Street.

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One of the organisers Mick Clayton who has worked in the print industry all his life says: “There are 30 stalls selling letterpress printing materials, paper, books, and antique items from the print industry. It is a good opportunity for like-minded people to chat and learn about letterpress. There are light refreshments and a bar available. The previous years have shown a foot fall of about 500 visitors. Admission is free. All proceeds go to the workshop and library at the Foundation.”

o 3
Wayzgoose is a word that originates in the Dutch print industry of the late 17th century during the so-called Golden Age of Holland. The print industry was big in Amsterdam, in part due to the liberalisation of censorship and the Protestant Reformation.

o 4
Here’s the tricky part: nobody really knows what the original word actually meant. However it does relates to St Bartholomew’s Day on August 24th, which in those pre-electric times marked the day when candles needed to be lit in print shops as the day light faded in the evening.

o 5
Goose is definitely part of the original meaning and it is thought that on St Bartholomew’s day goose was the chosen roast for a celebration marking the end of summer – literally a harvest goose.

o 6
The goodly saint was the patron of the leather industry – and some bookbinders will tell you in hushed tones that since the early books were leather bound, August 24th became linked to the printing industry by default and the date was marked by a party. Only a theory folks.

o 7
The ‘wayz’ bit is harder to pin down. ‘Wase’ in Middle English is sheaf, but ‘waas’ in East Flanders in Belgium is part of the name of the municipality of Sint-Gillis-Waas which suggests it could have meant ‘goose county’ or ‘waas goose’ implying a fair or market for geese in the area – and a chance for a drink or two as your geese were traded.

o 8
Although we tend to pronounce it ‘way-z-goose’ the Dutch or rather Belgiums in the Flanders region would pronounce it ‘waaz-goose’ – the double ‘a’ being in common use in spelling in the low countries. So the spelling is an Anglicised version of ‘waasgoose’ if we accept that particular theory. Anyway, the print industry took on the word and as the 18th and 19th centuries continued it became synonymous with a party or a get-together for printers. Why Dutch printers hijacked the word – is only known to them – as we know printers are a quirky lot.

o 9
On to the modern usage and in 1979 a Wayzgoose was held in Canada in Ontario’s Public Art Gallery to demonstrate its collection of early hand-made books. Perhaps because of its unusual name the idea of reviving Wayzgoose for print exhibitions and fairs took hold.

o 10
Now there are Wayzgoose events all around the world and of course the best one of all is on Sunday 21 May at St Bride – so pop along and also enjoy the Foundation itself with its amazing letterpress equipment and library. Refreshments are on sale along with cakes.

If you have an interesting story or a view on this news, then please e-mail news@printmonthly.co.uk

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