by Kat Beyer
The younger typesetters told stories about Samuel: how he had once set the Canon of the Witches in one night, and how when the oil in the lamps had run out, he had gone on in the dark, with only his sure fingers to guide him. Or how when Gundrid of Maesbury lost her temper and turned the mayor into a field vole, then ordered tiny books to be printed for the poor woman by way of apology, Samuel had hired dormice to cast the type, but had composited every page himself, with tweezers and an immense magnifying glass.
Even so, Bridget warned him before she shut up shop. "Sir," she said, "hadn’t it better wait till tomorrow? I mean... when we are all here? So it's a bit—safer?"
The others thought she was brave to say that. He shook his head.
"It's wanted Frida’s Day," he said.
So he opened the book when all the locks were locked, and turned from page to page, both hands working on their own, pulling vowels and consonants, ligatures and punctuation from the case. Under his hands the words of the spell formed themselves in the formes. This job they would have to print blindfolded. But even if he set it in the dark, he still had to shape the words, taking care that they did not shape him. He recited verses from the Canon, interleaving them with the lines he set, like protective leading.
He’d left one window open to let the spring air in, the air of a perfect evening, just free of a soft rain, the cherry tree outside the window covered in blossoms so sweet they seemed to scent the moonlight.
I, H, A, V, E, B, E…
When the words took him he knew. They felt like the touch of his master on his shoulder. He almost expected to hear Old Jack's voice, saying, "Well done, Samuel." Then he knew it was too late. Fear bit him.
It will feel heavy as lead, he thought. Binding as a forme, oily as ink.
But it didn't. It felt light as the words in his mind, soft as the lead between his fingers. It felt fine and funny, like setting text for field voles.
I have become. Let my wings open. Let it always be spring, and I in it, he thought. I did my best.