Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Father Edward Michael Catich (1906-1979)

Reverend Edward Michael Catich remains the leading authority of the Imperial Roman letter as found at the Trajan Column in Rome, Italy. The Trajan Inscription has been generally regarded by paleographers, calligraphers and others interested in the letter arts as the finest example of the best period of Roman monumental lettering. It is accepted as the basic model of the Roman alphabet. Until Father Catich, the majority of the studies made of this inscription were not based on the original stone, but on reproductions of it which were in many ways misleading.

E. M. Catich began his intensive paleographic and epigraphic research throughout Europe and the Middle East in 1935 as he studied for the priesthood in Rome. After his ordination in December of 1938, he returned innumerable times over the course of his life to gather facts which he published in two major works; Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription (1961) and Origin of the Serif (1968). Both books were published by his own Catfish Press at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa where he was chairman of the Art Department. Father Catich did more than just write about the letters on the Trajan Inscription, he made an actual full-sized cast* directly from the monument itself. A feat that will, most likely, never be repeated.

Father Catich is well known as an author, stonecutter, calligrapher, photographer, musician, liturgical artist, historian and lecturer. He taught at St. Ambrose College (now University) for over forty years, to include the years he attended as an undergraduate student when he taught music. He taught Art at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery an equal number of years and offered calligraphy workshops all across the country during his lifetime.

*located at the RR Donnelley Corporate offices in Chicago, Illinois

Father Catich’s private press was located on St. Ambrose campus but it was not funded by the university. Therefore, he could not call it the St. Ambrose College Press. His initial reasoning behind the press was the advancement of the Pictorial Apostolate and so the name should reflect its religious roots. The logotype incorporates the initial letters CP (Catfish Press) which are also designed to read as the Greek letter phi and the Chi-Rho ligature (XP) combined with the catfish and read as “Jesus Christ our Light,” to signify the guiding beacon for the Catfish Press.

The Art Legacy League has been formed to ensure that Catich and his legacy are not forgotten.