The Tradition of Letterpress Printing at Yale
Arts of the Book Collection

A wayzgoose is a long standing tradition in the history of printing. Currently it is practiced as a dinner, with or without other entertainment, where printers gather to talk about the art they love. A keepsake is often printed to commemorate the occasion. It can be printed ahead of time, or the printing can be part of the evening's activities. 

The practice of a dinner and evening of entertainment goes back at least as far as the first known mention of the dinner in 1683. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Mechanick Exercises by Joseph Moxon describes the event as such: 

"It is also customary for all the Journey-men to make every Year new Paper Windows...; Because that day they make them, the Master Printer gives them a Way-goose; that is, he makes them a good Feast, and not only entertains them at his own House, but besides, gives them Money to spend at the Ale-house or Tavern at Night. These Way-gooses, are always kept about Bartholomew-tide. And till the Master-Printer have given this Way-goose, the Journey-men do not use to Work by Candle Light." 

The OED entry also shows several more quotations concerning a dinner given by the master to his journeymen. It is not until 1857 that the quotation describes the event as "an annual feast among printers."

The origins of the word are unsubstantiated, but the OED does include some information on how it supposedly developed. The first part of the word is a misspelling of "wase," which is a bundle of straw. A "way-goose" or "stubble-goose" is a type of fowl, and may have been eaten at this feast. The OED entry for Waygoose states, "It seems clear that the genuine traditional form among printers was waygoose, and that the form wayzgoose, now prevailing, is a supposed correction ... The statement that goose was 'the principal dish' (or even that it was eaten at all) at the 'waygoose' dinner is destitute of evidence." But it sure makes a good story!

The items pictured here are keepsakes that were created for Wayzgoose dinners held at Yale. These and other keepsakes are part of the Arts of the Book Collection archive of student printing.

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© 2001 Yale University Library
Last modified: 16 November 2001 11:58:23 AM.
 by Jae Williams and D.L.Nolting