396. The X Pipe – Peterson Connection

UPDATE, 1:47pm CST: There was a glitch in the Google Form. Gigi says it is open again.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to report The X Pipe and Other Mystagogic Stories for the Pipe Smoker will be available from Smokingpipes.com in just a few weeks. Clocking in at 364 pages, this is not your typical easy-reader pipe book—it’s crafted from start to finish for the thinking man, even more so since since Charles Peterson and his P-Lip and NAP Patent Systems play important roles, as do the Irish Illuminati (see Post #276).

As the back jacket cover reads, “The X Pipe is a blend of pipe lore, historical fiction and contemplative practice, aged, pressed, stoved and sliced into seven stories of two pipemen on a quest to discover the maker of a mysterious pipe in the Vatican Secret Archives”—and yes, before you ask, there really is a Vatican Secret Archives.

The novel’s quest unfolds (like everything else in the world of pipes and tobaccos) over several decades as the main characters put their puzzle pieces together in a journey taking them back in time and across the globe. They range from Pipe Shrine House at Mesa Verde, across the ocean aboard the last convict ship to Australia, join two others for an idyllic pipeman’s holiday across Europe, then back to the 19th century Imperial British Fort George on the Indian coast, back further to J. S. Bach’s 18th century Leipzig, forward to Boston for black cake with poet Emily Dickinson, and finally to a Christmas adventure in Vatican City.




While I hope there’s something entertaining and edifying for everyone, the book is actually intended for the pipeman who has finished his “catechism” or basic instruction in the art of smoking and ready for something more.  The word for “something more” is “Mystagogy”:  “to lead through the mysteries: advanced instruction which follows introductory guidance.” If you’re reading Peterson Pipe Notes, then you’re probably the pipe smoker I’m writing for.




“Pooh never idolized the White Spot.”

Like you, I’ve been absorbing pipe lore ever since I began smoking a pipe in 1974. For the X Pipe I wanted to craft a story that embodies the most important issues we face as pipe smokers. My approach is to “tell it slant,” like Emily Dickinson suggests, that is, to be descriptive rather than prescriptive.  That is, there’s a lot of dialogue between various pipe smokers on what they think works and what doesn’t work, but in the end it’s left up to you to decide.  These issues feature most prominently in ch. 2, “The Five Laws of Pipe Companioning” (a revision and expansion of my little 2013 book) and ch. 4, “The Bad Smoke,” but are found throughout the book.




I’ve been a fan of the fiction of Jorge Luis Borges and Thomas Pynchon for so long that I can’t help crafting my own fictional and graphic arts pranks like the Shannon Air System and the Irish Illuminati.  For The X Pipe  I wanted to seamlessly blend faux documentary artifacts with real ones:

Thus, the illustration of Bach’s pipes seen above is, in fact, of real pipes he would have smoked in Leipzig in the 1720s, as dug, researched and drawn for me by German material archaeologist Sabrina Leibetrau.

Thus, a “reproduction” of the X Pipe, created by celebrated pipe artisan Silver Gray just for the book (and now in the custodianship of Roland Doll CPG). Silver graciously allowed me to draft her into the fictions of the book as well, as you’ll find in her travels to the Vatican Secret Archives to examine the pipe in the Apostolic Archives. I owe her an immense debt of gratitude for undertaking such a strange commission. Her artistic imagination blew me away, adding layer upon layer of intricate symbolism to my original idea.

Thus, an advertisement from Harper’s Magazine for Friar briar-wood pipes and Friars tobacco, which I created to accompany the endorsement of same by Mark Twain.




Desert Father Holy John Cassian (c. 360 – c. 465) smoking his 605 Harp


Woven through the fiction and pipe lore is a continual conversation on how pipe smoking and the contemplative life naturally go together. My Ph.D. many decades ago was in the interrelationship of religion and culture, and as I entered on the contemplative path almost the same year I became a pipe smoker, it’s no surprise that in addition to a lifelong passion for Peterson pipes, I’ve also been continuously drawn to pipe smoking as a spiritual practice.

The vintage bakelite rod Silver used is unbelievable in its striations from blood red to veins of pink rose, imbued with smbols long familiar to the Christian contemplative tradition.

I hope there’s whimsy and fun as well as a whiff of seriousness in The X Pipe and its argument that pipe smoking can help ground us as healthier, happier human beings.   As Brito and Swait write in Christian Pipe Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense, “it is difficult not to believe that whatever one is doing while smoking a pipe is spiritual. That it is done for and before God. . . . Blow a smoke ring and watch it rise up to heaven. Discover that pipe smoking, for all intents and purposes, is a form of prayer.” [1]



I have to say something about the achievement of Gigi (“Girl Genius”), the book’s designer, and what she’s done.  With her background in academic librarianship, web and book design, Gigi has been responsible for the look of all my  books.  When when you hold a copy of X Pipe in your hands you’ll see and feel what an achievement this one is, and if you companion any of my other books, you already know.

As a bibliophile, I’ve always loved a well-made book. This one is designed for maximum reading enjoyment. It opens easily, has wide thumb margins and features one of the most readable fonts ever cut, known these days as Adobe Caslon Pro but originating in a design created by English typefounder William Caslon in the 18th century.

The paper Gigi chose is a 60# FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified, lead-free, acid free buffered paper. What you’ll feel is something comfortable and easy to read; what you’ll see—because of Gigi’s expertise with layout and work with the printer—is clear, crisp and easy-on-the-eyes.



Smokingpipes.com will have the book in stock within a few weeks. In the meantime, we brought back from the Chicago show a partial box, the remainder of the first printing of 100 copies. You can order them at the show price of $25 plus $8 postage for US delivery, $22 overseas.  Fill out the Google Form Link below and Gigi will invoice you via PayPal.  Want it autographed? Just say the word.  Fumare in pax!




X Pipe Tobacco Mat



[1]Brito and Swait, Christian Pipe Smoking: An Introduction to Holy Incense, Loc. 177.



John Umpherville CPG is looking to find good homes for these two unsmoked Plateaus, which come with original socks and boxes. You can reach him at iconoclast85@gmail.com .



See you in a few weeks!


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