Written and Photographed by Michael Alan Basham
One steps off of the warmer westward exposure of the more modern day Victorian Tremont Street sidewalk into the wonderfully cooler shady quaintness of an elegant little shop assisted gratefully by “Ye old air conditioner.” It is immediately as though you have been transported even further back in time in H.G. Well’s own time machine and have landed smack dab in the middle of William Shakespeare’s 15th Century medieval England. It is not until Taylor Lauryn greets you in a polite, enthusiastic but modern day speak, that you realize that you are still at least somewhat in the present period…at least somewhat. You are standing in a place in many ways akin to some ancient apothecary or some lair of an early scribe, surrounded by delicate instruments, brightly lighted against rich colors and textures and in hand-tanned leathers and tung oiled warm woods.
Alas, on the wall above is a Certificate of Authenticity, so to speak. A finely illuminated specimen of fine penmanship elegantly framed and positioned as if to authorize the very presence of this establishment. It is an accolade heralding a former age bearing the name of the owner’s ancestry, who were themselves masters of the craft of word styling, illumination and delicately crafted calligraphy.
It is a more modern day word, a sign of “Street Cred,” and it just quietly seems to state that “I have been here for many hundreds of years, and I was painstakingly and artfully trained in this all but lost craft of the hand.“ Me thinks it doth profess, but not too loudly, the official nature of this establishment drawing all those inspired, and artfully trained in the tradition handed down and who have officially, or otherwise been ordained to write inspired things and to write them beautifully, in a hand that speaks of the wisdom and knowledges of the enlightened ages. No muse hath ever had greater tools than these to express verse and prose.
The establishment is owned by husband and wife team Julie Bersinger and Brian “Visker” Mahanney, and here you will find fine feathered quills and inks in well-presented box sets, along with scrolls, books of fine binding and other delicate things, along with hand milled papers and parchments for the doing of letters and intimate thoughts. Julie and Brian also participate in The Renaissance Festival and other similar festivals and shows around the New World Continent.
On the finely carved hanging street shingle (sign) proudly and prominently reads Handcrafted Quills & Oddities. Well, I was keenly on guard and always scouting about for the “oddities.” Let us just say that none stood out more than a real, yes real, two-headed duckling wearing a little wire hat, that without a doubt, was the most curious specimen that any taxidermist has ever stuffed and puffed. In all, I personally thought it was just as “cute as The Dickens,” but with that, I knew it was time for me to step back through the looking glass and into the present day. Back to my computer and keyboard, and ye old spell check and record it all quickly before it all became blurry on my re-entry to the present day world.
Visker & Scriveners is located at 406 23rd Street on the street level, western exposure of The National Hotel Artists’ Lofts (NHAL), otherwise known as the home of The National Weather Service Building of Isaac Cline’s 1900 Storm. The shop is situated right next to the newly opened Proletariat Gallery and Public’s House which corners at 23rd and Market Streets. The shop is open Thursday through Sunday, 11am-4pm.
Mahanney and Bersinger are also partners in Proletariat, along with NAHL Creative Director and building manager Becky Major. The Proletariat is a wonderful, emerging new venue for artists and the arts.