Beinecke Top Ten: Jen Bervin

January 1, 2019

By Nancy Kuhl

Unique and editioned works by artist, poet, and scholar Jen Bervin.

Copy 1/21; signed by Jen Bervin. Accompanied by a hand-written note from Jen Bervin (with title, “Hello Yale!”) that gives instructions on where to mark and stamp library-specific information. An artist’s book created by Jen Bervin that grew out of a research workshop held at Yale University’s Beinecke Library in the spring of 2015. Each participant wrote a sonnet about the archival materials reviewed in the workshop. In addition to the sonnets, the book contains an account of the genesis of the workshop, a list of the materials presented, a sketch of the physical set-up of the classroom, and emails about the classification and cataloging of the final publication of the poems. The printed materials in the book are bound into an inner cover made from a blue envelope, and the whole is further bound into a folded outer cover. Title from outer cover; poets’ names from blue inner cover. The first two leaves in the book are blank. Printed in an edition of 21 copies, each numbered and signed by Jen Bervin.


Copy 5 of 30. Original perforated paper wrappers. In muslin cloth as issued. Composed and sewn at James Turrell’s Roden Crater on the Wave Books Poetry Bus Tour in October, 2006. Stitching inspired by John Beckman’s “There Is an Ocean” Issued in wrapper of white muslin cloth and white felt stitched together with blue thread. Title on cover in perforated print. Reprint of the first seven chapters of Van Dyke’s 1901 edition with text overlayed by zig zag stitches of pale blue colored thread. Digitally printed by Jan Drojarski on bleached abaca paper by Twinrocker Handmade Papers. Binding sewed by Susan Mills.”Edition comprises 40 signed and numbered books: 30 of which are bound in abaca, 10 of which are bound in vellum”–Colophon.
Number 17 of 50 copies. “The Dickinson Composites is an artist book that focuses on a series of large-scale quilts Jen Bervin made by embroidering the poet Emily Dickinson’s unusual punctuation markings from her fascicles. The box, printed with enigmatic red crosses and dashes, contains two sewn samples (excerpts made at the same scale, in the same materials using the same methods as the quilts), large prints of each quilt, and a nested booklet. Like Dickinson’s manuscripts, the box and the works therein are encountered entirely without titles. In the booklet, an essay by Bervin elucidates Dickinson’s variant marking system in her poetry manuscripts and provides further context for the quilts.”–Publisher’s web catalog. Each box includes: A lignin-free 11 1/2 x 15 x 1 1/2 inch drop-front archival box printed with quilt-scale fascicle marks in red. Two machine sewn and hand-embroidered samples–excerpts from Composites 28 and 38, made at the same scale, in the same materials using the same methods as the quilts. Images in the booklet show the hand-sewn sample in relation to the full quilt, with the excerpt area marked. Large color prints of all six quilts: The Composite Marks of Emily Dickinson’s Fascicle 16, 19, 28, 34, 38, and 40. An unbound 16-page booklet with an essay on the variant marks, images of Dickinson’s manuscript poems, and process and installation images of the quilts. The booklet is housed in a pocket printed with marks and sewn with a cotton tape lift. Edition of 50 copies.
Number 04 in an edition of 75 numbered copies. “Each copy comprises: 1) four pale green books with a total of fifty-seven typed studies reproduced in letterpress; 2) a numbered, unique typing on red board; 3) facsimiles of nine studies made on different typewriters; 4) a typed process note; and 5) a colophon all contained in a sailcloth-covered clamshell box.”–Publisher’s website. “The art of weaving dates back to 7000 BC and is one of the earliest grid forms. Though both conceptual and concrete poets have used the typewriter extensively, my interest is in Anni Albers’ typed designs. … Anni Albers’ typings were my impetus to study weaving, which I hoped would teach me about typing. … The title, Draft Notation, refers to the pre-weaving design diagrams a weaver creates or consults to plan her work on the loom. I think of these studies as textile scores …”–Process note. “Letterpress printing by Friedrich Kerksieck”–Colophon.
The Gorgeous Nothings, editions of Emily Dickinson’s envelope poems
Copy 3/50. “Each copy of The Gorgeous Nothings includes: A portfolio of 48 unbound double-sided color manuscript facsimiles on Red River Aurora Natural paper. The 47 manuscript facsimiles show the front and back of each Dickinson fragment at 100% scale accompanied by smaller visual transcriptions in blue; one index print is included. A 52-page essay by Marta Werner: “Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope-Poems” with seven digital prints tipped-in. A 32-page guide with visual indexes, a directory of manuscripts, a postscript and a colophon. “The Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope-Poems by Jen Bervin and Marta Werner is a limited edition artist book based on Emily Dickinson’s late compositions on envelopes. The edition includes a portfolio of nearly fifty high-resolution double-sided color facsimiles with visual transcriptions. Marta Werner’s lyric essay, “Itineraries of Escape: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope-Poems,” provides the scholarly, historic, and poetic context for these exquisite late writings by Dickinson. The edition is accompanied by a guide with a bibliographic directory for the fragments and a series of visual indexes.”–Publisher’s web catalogue.
Summary:”The first full-color facsimile publication of Emily Dickinson’s manuscripts, [presenting] this important, experimental work exactly as Dickinson wrote it. These fifty-two envelope writings offer a never before possible glimpse into the process of one of our most important poets”–Dust jacket back.
Summary: “The Envelope Poems is a small gift-book selection of Emily Dickinson’s writings on envelope scraps. A full-color edition, The Envelope Poems presents a selection in facsimile publication of her crucially important, most experimental late work. The Envelope Poems is a selection from a larger collection, previously co-published by New Directions and Christine Burgin: Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings, a project created by the visual artist Jen Bervin and the noted Dickinson scholar Marta L. Werner, which presented all of Emily Dickinson’s late compositions on envelopes. The Envelope Poems collects color facsimiles of 30 of her envelope writings with visual transcriptions by Bervin and Werner. This selection of these facsimiles of Dickinson’s late work on envelopes makes this poetry available in a small, affordable gift-size cloth edition”
Works associated with Nets
The texts of Shakespeare’s 150 sonnets have been “stripped … bare … to make the space of the poems open, porous, possible …”–Working note. The full text of Shakespeare is printed in light gray type, with the author’s selected words printed in darker type. The title is derived in this manner from the word Sonnets.
Note: “These four individual broadsides were made for an event in collaboration with PEN and the High Line. Letterpressed in the Ugly Duckling workshop, each features a different UDP poet who read at the May 2011 event. They all fit together, depicting a view of the High Line.”–Publisher’s website. Includes: From “Nets” / Jen Bervin
Nät / Jen Bervin, Swedish translation by Niclas Nilsson, 2017
Drawings and text fragments composed of ink, typewriter text, opaquing film, green correction fluid, watercolor pencil, and machine sewing; issued in a red cloth-bound clamshell case binding.
Editions of Silk Poems

Silk Poems / Jen Bervin. New York : Nightboat Books, [2017]

Seven Silks / Jen Bervin. [New York] : Granary Books, 2018.

Copy number 2 in an edition of 100 numbered copies. Notes:”Lignin-free archival box with metal corners, interior housing in Volara and Ethafoam. Box interior housings by Ansley Joe, Frances Osugi, Karen Jutzi, and Sarah Davis. Edition of 100.”–Colophon. Silk Poems, Nightboat Book, 2017. “This special edition artist book includes: 1. A silk cocoon image printed on silk; 2. Silk Poems strand, printed on silk, folded; 3. Silk Poems, Nightboat Books, signed; 4. A glass jar with a Bombyx Mori silk cocoon; 5. Glass vial with silk skein; 6. Glass vial with silk scroll; 7. Glass vial with liquid silk.”–Colophon.
Publications associated with The River  
Copy 2: No. 34. With initial “b”, of author. Original wrappers w/dust jacket and belly band. “The text was typed by the author on an Olympia de luxe found on Union St. one summer. The covers are printed on the same silver paper used in Bervin’s installation, The river, a 230 ft. panoramic scale model of the Mississippi River…” –Colophon. Limited edition of 500 copies. The first 50 books are numbered and signed.
Iowa Artists 2018: Jen Bervin, October 19, 2018 - January 27, 2019, The Des Moines Art Center, I. M. Pei Gallery
Items are contained in two drop-front archival boxes, as housed by artist. Box [1] is grey, measures 28 x 23 x 8 cm, is stamped on outside of top half: Jen Bervin, and has label affixed to inside of top half: Apiary. Box [2] is black and measures 25 x 33 x8 cm. Items within the boxes are wrapped in cotton batting. Contents: Box [1]. Sculpture for the ear [3 items: photograph in cotton batting enclosure with sewn-on title label; plaster cast, dated 01.23.00, in round metal container; original sculpture in bees-wax in box – Nets – Comb poems – Juniper caesura. Box [2]. Florward – Under what is not under (trade edition) – Under what is not under – Sestina – Funnel combs : Paul Celan and Osip Mandelstam – [Untitled work on yellow transparent paper].
Jen Bervin’s website:

Beinecke Top Tens gather (approximately) ten related items to give an at-a-glance look at some of the Library’s interesting, important, strange, compelling, beautiful holdings. To see more lists, click here: Beinecke Top Tens. To suggest a list subject, contact us: Top Ten Ideas.