Bringhurst, Robert

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Bringhurst, Robert

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Robert Bringhurst was born in Los Angeles, California on October 16, 1946, to Marion Jeanette Bringhurst (née Large) (1917-2006) and George Herber Bringhurst (1915-1992), and grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and Salt Lake City, Utah. He studied linguistics and literature at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1963-1964, 1970-1971), philosophy and Oriental languages at the University of Utah (1964-1965), comparative literature and linguistics at Indiana University (BA, 1973), and poetry the University of British Columbia (MFA, 1975). His master's thesis was titled "Carmina Propria et Opuscula Translata" and includes original poems as well as those translated from several other languages.

He is perhaps best known for his book "The Elements of Typographic Style" (1992, revised 1996, 2004, 2005 and 2008), a history of and guide to typography. He has also published many other works on design, typography, and the book, including "Boats is Saintlier than Captains: Thirteen Ways of Looking at Morality, Language, and Design" (1997); "A Short History of the Printed Word" (1999, with Warren Chappell); "The Solid Form Of Language: An Essay On Writing And Meaning" (2004); and "The Surface of Meaning: Books and Book Design in Canada" (2008). His book of essays, "Everywhere Being is Dancing" (2007), was awarded the 2008 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize.

He has written widely about First Nations art, story, and culture, chiefly about the Haida people of coastal British Columbia. He collaborated with Haida artist Bill Reid on the book "The Raven Steals the Light" (1984), and with photographer Ulli Steltzer on "The Black Canoe: Bill Reid and the Spirit of Haida Gwaii" (1991), which received the Bill Duthie Bookseller's Choice Award. He has also written "Native American Oral Literatures and the Unity of the Humanities" (1998); "A Story as Sharp as a Knife: The Classical Haida Mythtellers and Their World" (1999, revised 2011), which was nominated for a Governor General's Award, and has translated two collections of stories from Haida storytellers, as part of a trilogy entitled "Masterworks of the Classical Haida Mythtellers": "Nine Visits to the Mythworld: Ghandl of the Qayahl Llaanas" (2000), which was shortlisted for the 2001 Canadian Griffin Poetry Prize; and "Being in Being: The Collected Works of a Master Haida Mythteller" (2001). In 2004, he and his posthumous co-authors Ghandl and Skaay were awarded the Edward Sapir Book Prize for Linguistic Anthropology for this trilogy.

Bringhurst is also a well-known poet, and has published many volumes of poetry, including "Deuteronomy" (1974); "The Beauty of the Weapons: Selected Poems 1972-1982" (1982), which was shortlisted for a Governor General’s Award;"The Blue Roofs of Japan" (1986); "Conversations with a Toad" (1987); "The Calling: Selected Poems 1970-95" (1995); and "Ursa Major: A Polyphonic Masque for Speakers & Dancers" (2003), which was shortlisted for the 2004 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize.

He taught creative writing as visiting lecturer at University of British Columbia (1975-77), and taught typography at the University of Alberta (2005). He was appointed adjunct professor at the Frost Centre for Native Studies and Canadian Studies at Trent University in 1998, and adjunct professor in the Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University in 2000. He has been a writer in residence at several universities in Canada, the United States, and Europe, as well as at the Library of Congress. He has also lectured internationally on Haida literature, poetry, typography and book design, delivering many keynote addresses at professional and academic conferences. In 2005, he was awarded the British Columbia Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence. He was awarded the American Printing History Association's Laureate Award in 2009. In 2013, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Bringhurst was married to Miki Sheffield from 1974 to 1981. In 2007, he married Jan Zwicky. He has resided in various parts of British Columbia, including Vancouver, Vancouver Island, and Quadra Island.


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Prepared by NT (November 2014)


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