There is no etymological trail to follow when it comes to trying to figure out where the word letterarian comes from. The trail begins and ends in my little studio, and the story of this word is a simple one…
Several years ago, while I was at work shaping letters in my studio, the thought occurred to me that my studio is a place full of letters (I am surrounded by them!), and that these letters are kept within various forms: letters that I have shaped, letters contemporary artists and medieval scribes have shaped, and numerous books filled with letters that make up the words that fill their narratives. Within my studio, depending on the project, I have dealt with calligraphy, typography, book design, and printmaking. I also write essays and poetry, do research (with relish!), and have read many novels, essays, poems, nonfiction, academic texts, etc. Each of the elements I work with is full of letters letters letters… With the daily interaction of all these elements based on letters it seemed natural to think of my studio as a library of letters to which I was the keeper of.
This thought of a library of letters led me to view, and coin (with a tinge of mirth) the term letterary. It became my view that where a library(place for books) is kept by a person called a librarian(keeper of books), then my keeping of my letterary(place for letters) might make me a letterarian(keeper of letters).
I was certainly playing with words in my mind that day in my studio – a hazard of my profession that I am prone to! This play on the words ‘library’ and ‘room of letters’ has stuck to me, and I can’t imagine any other term that would fit what it is that I involve myself in with my work. Therefore, I’m afraid I can’t shake the term letterarian, for I feel that I am truly a keeper of letters!
…and that is the story of the word letterarian.
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