Specimens is a book in four parts. The narrative compares the speaker’s romantic relationship to the behaviors of poisonous and carnivorous insects. Or, more accurately, the speaker relays the ways in which her lover, an entomologist, compares her behavior to that of said insects. The idea came to me one day when I’d retreated outside to soak up some sunlight and await the muses. The original story is here, but the short version is that I was bitten in the yard by an unidentifiable insect, and somehow that led me to thinking about other things that came along to bite me, like love, and well, the rest is in the edition. The mantis was an obvious choice, but I was itching to carve a praying mantis, and the way my original statistics presented themselves made me laugh out loud. My source was in defense of the female mantis, who had such a bad rap, and came to her aid by saying, that in this particular study, which included a large sampling, males were devoured less than 5-31% of the time.


I knew I had to incorporate the carnivorous species of firefly, because it’s still so surprising to me that they have this behavior. The monarch butterfly was another good candidate, and of course the grasshopper nymph, which was the mysterious creature who bit me so fiercely each time I went sunbathing in the yard.

This series was letterpress printed using a variety of materials–some are reduction linoleum prints, some incorporate photopolymer plates. The text is printed using metal type. I’d never done a project using this simple single-sheet book before, and so for this project, it seemed like a good fit. I wanted these to read a bit like the captioned illustrations that I remember from science textbooks from my youth–the old “Fig. 1” style of describing processes in the natural world. The result is tiny slices of a love story, told in four illustrations that make use of the “figure” and caption.


I found that I quite like the single-sheet booklet structure. I like that you can fold it out and see a large image, then read it as a tiny codex that only reveals bits of the whole image (not unlike a young relationship, right?). This let me play around with how much to reveal at any given moment–something else I like to think about with books. As an added challenge, I told myself I would make these in miniature, which means that, closed, they must measure less than three inches in every direction.


I did a split edition for this book: the size of the main edition is 35. These are printed on four different colors of ingres paper. Each sheet is just under 6″ x 12″ and folds down to just under 3″ square. These are $20 each, or $60 for the whole set. The set includes a slip case to keep your four volumes together.

The deluxe edition is the same size, printed on Japanese Sakamoto paper. The deluxe edition comes in a cloth-covered box with an origami butterfly pinned inside (see top picture: boxes may vary in coloration). There are 14 copies of the deluxe edition, priced at $175. The standard edition includes 35 copies. To place an order, please email me at firebrandpress{at}gmail{dot}com.