A secret 17th Century tradition revealed

>> BY  Peter Worden

It’s the question I had when I first heard it, too.

The short answer is it’s an expedition followed by a feast in the name of print. The longer answer is that it’s pretty much whatever you want it to be.

Historically, it was an autumn party in the name of print, dating  back to the17th-Century or even earlier. A Master Printer, or in my case, functional hack, would celebrate the end of the year and get set for the next by making ink, boiling fritters and getting wayzgoosted. Not necessarily in that order. In fact, certainly not in that order.



A master printer would lead his staff on an expedition that would accomplish several things:

• First, it celebrated the end of the printing season and the start of working by candlelight.

• It also allowed workers to imbibe heavily, or (to use a localism) “get dickered.”

• They could fry fritters in oil, then use the oil to make ink.


Not surprisingly, drunk people with hot oil around an open flame make a dangerous combination, so holding a wayzgoose was one way of getting goosed without burning the whole print shop (or city of London) down. Out in the countryside, safely away from endangering anyone but themselves, printers and book makers began the annual tradition of sojourning to an Enlightenment Era kegger, followed by a fritter fry in a vat of oil. Or what I call a solid weekend.


Wayzgoose” is probably an Anglicized Dutch word, which is why it sounds weird. According to English professor Ted Bishop, the year of the first wayzgoose is  unverifiable. A time, anyway, when presses made their own ink by process of bringing linseed oil to boil without spontaneously combusting. They mixed it with pine soot for pigment, all in all, risky beeswax. Bishop quite literally wrote the book on ink. We talked about his book The Social Life of Ink when we attended the same wayzgoose a few years back in Vancouver. It was the Turtle Press’s 20th annual wayzgoose. I imagined it to be a wild event with masks (probably) and mutton or pigeon and mugs of warm ale to wash it al down. However, what I initially imagined as a pagan frenzy around a bonfire, turned out to be fairly refined get-together of septuagenarian books-lovers at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club. They’re a group of wonderfully knowledgeable collectors, professors and printmakers, of whom, Ted and I somehow found ourselves a part.



This Fall, Reved held a wayzgoose with 100 per cent more fire, fritters and ale than before. But, as waygoosers arrived, their confusion was apparent.

“Where’s the goose?” said Josh.

“We gotta kill it,”  said Fred.

“We’re not killing any geese,” I said.

“Where’s the ink?” said Dana.

“We gotta make our own ink,” I said.

Dana: “Where do we get the squid?”

Josh:“How do we melt the octopus is what I’m curious about. And when do I get naked?

Fred: “So far this is the best time I’ve had all day.”

Josh: “I was under the impression this was a nudist thing.”

Dana: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”



We boiled some oil and managed to fry one fritter before, as expected, the oil caught fire. The little I know about wayzgooses is that they had them way out in the country: This would happen.

All: (Screaming.)

Fred: “Put it out, put it out!”

Rosetta: “Oh god.”

I pulled the oil from the fire still flaming.

Rosetta: “How do we put that out now?”

Dana: “We need to smother it.”

Josh: “Pee on it.”

Dana: “Use the metal lid.”

Pete: “Right, the lid.”


(Lid goes on. It’s still flaming)

Josh: “It’s going to blow.”

Fred: “Do you have magnesium shavings?”

I dumped the oil in the fire, the flames flew up and I stumbled back managing miraculously to retain my eyebrows.

Dana: “This is such a wayzgoose.”

Josh: “I love wayzgooses.”

Fred: “Truer wayzgeese were never had.”

Rosetta: “There’s a reason they don’t call them waysgeese. It’s a one-time thing.”

Above all, a wayzgoose is a party in honour of print.

Printing and making ink, after all, is one of the most useful human inventions, at least on par for usefulness with unlocking fire or forming the wheel. Like those basic technologies, we use print all the time in a million different modern ways such as this paper you’re reading, for example. So why shouldn’t we honour it in some spectacular and drunken fashion with fire and fritters and ink-making?

Professor Bishop and I actually went to the same wayzgoose in Vancouver two years ago. At first, I imagined it would be a wild event with mutton and mugs of warm ale. However, it turned out to be fairly reserved together of ordinary book-lovers. No ink-making. No drunken revelry. No dangerous bonfire.

“The only one I went to was the one we went to at the Royal Yacht Club, which was way too refined. Your Revelstoke wayzgoose, where things got out of control, sounds much more authentic,” he said, explaining the historical messiness of wayzgeese. “You have this bread and some booze and you stagger about and people were getting in fights and then you make the ink, which makes civilization continue, that’s part of the printer’s arts. So what you did is central to civilization in ensuring that it continues.”

The Print World is an increasingly  distant world to our Digital Age. However, many of the same principles and tools are still used—we all type (or text) on QWERTY layouts. And printing software still uses leading and kerning. But many tools and principles and, most importantly, drunken traditions, of the Print World are long gone. Do you know what a ‘turtle’ is? It’s what the  very heavy square frame that once held all the lead text in place is called. Similarly, ask anyone what’s  a wayzgoose is and you get funny stares. (Host one and friends show up naked.)

So, in honour of all those who have risked their eyebrows before us, we say thank you, and WHOOOO—!! Waygoooooooooooooose!! 



It’s like Weight Watchers, but for geese.









It’s a quill pen with a goose feather.









It’s a made-up word. 









It’s a type of musical instrument with strings, but you blow into it and it makes a high pitch double-tone zing. (Me: What’s a Stasieczek?)










It’s some new technology for snowboarders.






Mark hartley

Am I able to interweb that?






Streeters—wayzgoose3LERRITT ROBINSON

A what? Yea, I dunno. Is it street slang for Thanksgiving?








Jocoah Sorensen: It’s a wasted goose.

And his Mom ♥ Cedar Sorensen: It’s a goose that still has a ways to go.





weɪzɡuːs| n. — The most likely origin is the word “Weghuis” (literally, “way house”) that meant “a banquet”. The early terminology was borrowed from Low Country printers by English apprentices. The variety of pronunciations indicate it is an orally-borrowed Dutch word that fit somewhat uneasily in the mouth of English speakers. — Wikipedia


No one really knows when the first wayzgoose was. (For bookmakers, they weren’t very good note takers.) It may have been August 24, 1456 after printing the Gutenberg Bible was completed in Mainz.

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