Library Excavations #14: Earth, Wings & Fire

Half Letter Press

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Almost two years since the last issue, Library Excavations from Public Collectors is back with a new issue tackling the US Patent and Trademark Office gazettes. Trademark themes explored here are: Birth, Life, Air, Metal, Love, Sex, Food, Fire, Earth, Water, Time, Shit, and Death. 

On the masthead of the US Patent and Trademark Office website, we are told, “As the federal agency that grants patents and registers trademarks, we hold a treasure trove of data. Now we’re giving it to you - faster and easier than before.” I came to know this trove more slowly in the series of printed volumes that line many shelves on the fourth floor of Chicago’s Harold Washington Library Center. This booklet started in those stacks and then moved over to where I could more easily copy selections of abbreviated entries. The full listings include the names of trademark owners and other information. Looking through those volumes and the Patent and Trademark Office website, all of the goods and services of the United States of America feel present and in conversation with each other. The absurdities are abundant. In America, even the word “shit” as it relates to many forms of clothing, warrants a trademark, lest someone else apply it to their golf shirts or lounge pants first. 

On the government’s website, a search for a single word can easily register 15,000 results or more. The deformations and abstractions of language and common phrases provide hours of fascination. While the entirety of what people have trademarked is impossibly vast, I hope this booklet gives you a taste of the curiosities that exist on this online resource and in the library’s collection. 

Library Excavations is a project and publication series by Public Collectors that highlights and activates physical materials found in public libraries. Library Excavations encourages intensive browsing of paper and print resources, particularly those that are under-utilized, or at risk of being withdrawn and discarded. During the COVID-19 pandemic, excavations have moved to the digital realm of public storage. 
Dimensions: 5.5" X 8.5 in, 32 pages
Materials: Softcover book


Half Letter Press

Half Letter Press is a publishing imprint and online store initiated by Temporary Services—Brett Bloom & Marc Fischer, who have published booklets as an element of their collaborative work since 1998. Half Letter Press was created to publish and distribute book and booklet length works by themselves and others, and to use this endeavor to build long-term support and expanded audiences for people that work creatively in experimental ways.