Inexplicably, an Interview With HM

It's a Random Notes post this week. I left that Decorating Paper@Codex blog up so people could track down some details after seeing it at the show. I've been surprised at the almost complete lack of social media chatter about the book fair - before, during and after. The Foundation's own site links to a blog, but it hasn't been updated since spring of 2014. Bob McCamant supplied a summary of the four-day event on the FPBA's blog, but that's it. (He mentioned that the talk by Stanford's Robert Trujillo was "controversial among many in the audience," but he doesn't provide details; anyone who can expand, please write...) Seems odd in an age when people tweet or instagram their breakfast that we weren't treated to lots of photos of people & books.

Next: through some terrible lapse in judgment, Books Tell You Why has posted an interview with/about HM. BTYW's blog editor, the lovely Andrea Koczela, probably was desperate for content. But check them out, they carry an interesting and unusually broad range of books for serious collectors. And if you're interested in reserving future HM publications, they're one of our most enthusiastic distributors.

Harry's Duncan's collection of essays, The Doors of Perception, is one of HM's key books about printing with the handpress. This past weekend brought news of a new collection of Duncan's writings, The Inner Tympan. The book was collected and edited by Juan Pascoe, who had been a student/apprentice of Duncan's in the 1970s (I think it was). He describes the book as "an intellectual self-portrait: all the published texts written by him that we could find."

The first 100 copies of the book include a four-page insert hand set in Dante type and printed on Duncan’s Ostrander-Seymour handpress at Pascoe's studio, Taller Martín Pescador. Its text is a previously unpublished recollection of the early days of the Cummington Press by Gloria Goldsmith Gowdy, with a drawing by Paul Wightman Williams printed from the original line-cut used at the press for The Winter Sea, and Duncan’s pressmark,also printed from his original block. 


Bradley Hutchinson, whose name should be known to anyone interested in contemporary letterpress printing, assisted in the book's production. The original layout was done for a privately circulated version of the collection some years ago. Hutchinson used Pascoe's files for the new book, and "followed his typographic lead so the book retains Juan's idiosyncrasies, and a few Duncanisms like numbering blank pages and prefatory material--something already remarked upon by at least one perplexed recipient. We thought that adding the hand-printed insert would add a bit of the hand to an otherwise commercial production." Hutchinson is also coordinating distribution outside of Mexico. 

Copies with the handpress insert remain available, but make haste.

Meanwhile, HM is poised to get back in the game: Details are being finalized for a new collection of (60!) poems by Harold Budd, accompanied by original art from Jane Maru, with whom he collaborated on two recent recordings from Darla Records. Publishing summer-ish? 

But first out of the gate will be a monograph summarizing the results of an investigation conducted over the past year into a bibliographic mystery: what exactly did (and did not) happen with the publication of the 1992 William Gibson/Dennis Ashbaugh collaboration, Agrippa (A Book of the Dead). The 48-pg softcover book (8 x 10.5") is printed in full color, with lots of illustrations, and will be distributed to the various people and institutions who assisted in the research. 

Finally, for anyone who knew or visited the old HM studio, here's this:


A Paper Riot at Codex 2015

The first trial binding for Vol. 1 of Decorating Paper is on display at the Codex book fair in Berkeley today (thanks to Vamp & Tramp Booksellers). Like the title page (above), many pages in the book present a number of different tipped-on examples of a particular technique. While Claudia knew what she wanted to do, a book combining this many disparate pieces will always pose a few unexpected technical issues, in addition to all the aesthetic ones that arise as one sees how something actually looks and works versus how you imagined it. She took some photos of the result before flying down to the show.

She's particularly fond of (and talented at) using flowers and different gilding tools to create patterns on the spine of a book. I think these semi- and whole circles previously appeared on the binding for Occupied by Colour.

Small specimens, ranging from old Asian and European block printing to contemporary marbling, head many of the text pages.

An example of contemporary ebru, Turkish decorative marbling. Ebru makers traditionally manipulate pigments into flower, blossom, starburst and heart patterns. Barbara created a series of such patterns for this book by marbling with 4-inch diameter paper in a small, round pot of carrageenan solution. She had started the series with the intention of marbling in a standard-size rectangular marbling tray but discovered that the results from the test bath - thanks to the circle shape and the surface tension produced in the small container - were more captivating.

Some of the samples are presented in double gatefolds, as shown above. Larger specimens shown here include pulp manipulation; glazed, traditional false-marbling; and contemporary marbling (below, displayed on some of the 1,200 sheets poor HM spent weeks printing borders on...).

If you are interested in knowing more about Decorating Paper, or want to reserve a copy (publication slated for May, 2015) please contact one of the booksellers listed at right.


To Granger (v)


Go you know what a grangered book is?

I have long been interested in press bibliographies that include original pages and samples (which also puts them in the leaf book category). These probably were the first kinds of private press books I bought. They are technically, aesthetically and historically educational; I also just enjoy the visual intrusion of the samples. The original sheets let you actually see and handle what you're reading about (books about printing techniques that don't include actual samples, as opposed to reproductions, are a waste of time). The best press bibliographies probably are the Ashendene and the Allen, for a number of reasons, a significant one being the way the samples are incorporated into the binding, i.e. hinged and sewn in. Too many presses simply tip a sheet to a page (I've even heard of glue sticks being used!), making it impossible to view the verso. Others sidestep the binding issue by leaving the samples loose, in a pocket at the back (never an elegant solution) or in a separate folder (better than a pocket, but I prefer everything to be contained, secured between boards, and inserted where discussed in the text).

To answer my initial question, grangered "or extra-illustrated books...are copies which have had added to them, either by a private owner or professionally, engraved portraits, prints, etc., usually cut out of other books [!] and sometimes also autograph letters, documents or drawings" (ABC for Book Collectors, John Carter, 6th ed., pg. 92).

This comes up because a friend asked a question last week about Jim Rimmer's cutting of Carl Dair's type Cartier. I thought I had a proof of it, and so went looking in the box containing my supplemented copy of Jim's Leaves from the Pie Tree (not really grangered because the extras are all loose). Couldn't find the phantom proof, but I had fun looking through the various pieces I'd accumulated from and by Jim over the years. Every time you went to his shop he'd send you away with a proof of what he was working on, or something fun on paper. I helped a little with Leaves, being one of the galley "proof" readers. I very clearly remember the day I took my marked-up galleys back to Jim. It turned out that he followed the Dard Hunter technique for writing his book: he "wrote" it as he set it. This resulted in a number of editorial issues, beyond just typos, and as I went through these with Jim he grew increasingly agitated because there was no way he was going to reset the whole book. I emphasized that some of my comments were just style, his call, etc etc, and he could ignore whatever he wanted.

I can't remember if it was that day or another when he sent me home with a page full of sketches of his coworkers at the shop were he apprenticed, one of which appeared (in a different version) in the book. A copy of my marked-up galleys can be found in the Jim Rimmer archive at Simon Fraser University. 

Another time he sent me home with this kool piece: a bogus frontier newspaper, set & printed for a movie being filmed in town. Unfortunately Jim also rented them his Albion press for use in the scene in which the sheet would be "printed." When they were returning it to his studio, it got dropped and a leg broke.

This Cartier inquiry got me looking through the bookshelves, which include another uncommon Rimmer piece: a bound collection of illustrations he sent out to art directors, probably in the early 1990s.

It includes about a dozen different prints, using a range of techniques, each on a different paper. Unbelievably, this copy was found by in a dumpster by a local book scout.

Having already abandoned plans of doing real work today, I continued the tour of my shelves. Here's a copy of the second Barbarian Press bibliography, which I got from the Elsteds in sheets. Most of the samples included with these deluxe copies were loose, in a box, but I wanted to have as many as possible bound into my copy. I also wanted to add various pieces I'd acquired over the years.

This (above) is a great early piece, from when they were working exclusively with their handpress: an invitation to join them for a series of intimate discussions about Shakespeare. Below is another uncommon early piece, a small broadside poem by Crispin, this copy inscribed to infamous Vancouver bookseller Bill Hoffer.

Simone Mynen, who bound the edition, agreed to do a special binding for my copy. We couldn't bind everything in, and the box is crammed with additional pieces, including the letter I sent them c.1997 inquiring about an apprenticeship, and their long (& generous) reply.

I was at Simone's shop the day she was collating copies, and got to pick out the page from Endgrain I wanted. Naturally I chose Jim Westergard's, and asked him to sign it a few years later when we were working on Oddballs.

I mentioned the Allen Press bibliography as a milestone of the form. (While the Book Club of California's "facsimile" edition is a beautiful work, but I'm talking about the original edition.) I found a copy in sheets in the late 1990s, and spent about a year acquiring additional samples for inclusion. Most of these are just prospectuses for the books, but they're at least as useful for reference as a page from the publication.

When I ran out of acquisition steam, Helene Francoeur kindly agreed to undertake the binding. It's a bit of a hassle for the binder, with all the hinging in and the difficulties with pressing that the samples pose. But she crushed it, including a debossed AP design on the boards.

My copy even came with one of the Picasso lithographs from Four Poems of the Occult (1962)!

A final word about grangering: don't just stuff loose samples into bound books. One or two might be OK, but you'll quickly start causing the spine distress if you sandwich lots of loose sheets between the pages. If you have enough material, have a proper box made to contain the book and the material.


Who throws the ball when you're on the one yard line and you have a tank in the backfield?


Decorating Paper at Codex

Sorry to be late this week, but I had to wait for the content. Before an update on Decorating Paper, however, an appeal: regular visitors will know that one of the musical engines driving HM, especially during long, tedious hours at the press, is loscil. He has just released an EP of three new compositions, with all of the proceeds going to a Vancouver family whose young daughter has been diagnosed with a rare cancer and faces some tough therapy. Suggested donation for the EP is $5, but pay what you can. Like all of his recordings (especially last year's fantastic Sea Island), For Greta is austere: the calm surface of very deep water. Exactly what HM's books aspire to be?


Visitors to the Codex book show in Berkeley next month will be able to see the first few sections of Decorating Paper (Volume 1 - probably text and samples from the materials,  random-patterned & pulp-patterned chapters) bound up, at the table of Vamp & Tramp.

With Volume 1 printing complete, Claudia and Barbara got together this week to review the scheme for how and where all of the samples will be inserted. Each volume will have approximately 300 samples illustrating each of the techniques described in the text.

Some samples they have in sufficient quantity to be full-page sheets; more scarce ones will be tipped in.

I spent the past two weeks printing decorative borders on 1200 sheets. These will be interspersed through the text in each volume, to display numerous samples of each technique.

Most of these specimen sheets are black Arches printed with a gold border; some (in Volume 2) have silver borders, and some are black on white.

This is Claudia's working dummy for Volume 1, with her maquette for the binding (front & back) on top. Volume 2 will have an entirely different binding design. And this (below) is what happens whenever Claudia and Barbara get together: way too much fun, and usually ideas for three more books. Stay tuned...


This Is Bordering

Decorating Paper update: Volume 1 (text) is completed. Here are some photos of David Clifford printing the last sheet (a leaf, actually). Sheets go off to Claudia for collating. Before we launch into Volume 2 text, we will spend a whole bunch of days printing borders, two up, both sides on 1200 sheets of Arches wove paper. About half of the sheets are white (same as the text), which have the borders printed in black; the other half are black, which will have borders printed in gold and silver.

These sheets will be inserted among the text pages in the two volumes, framing the many hundreds of tipped-in original samples. Which sounds really kool, unless you're the person who has to run off 2400 impressions of borders.

David's talents are better spent elsewhere, so the border pages fall to the weakest link in the chain: HM himself will learn how to print with a Vandercook and run them off.

Can he adjust to the breakneck speed of a Vandercook - even a Model 4, which is almost entirely run by hand? (But please folks, don't confuse a hand-operated Vandercook proofing press with hand inking - a discussion for another time perhaps.) We'll see.

As the junior printer in the shop, HM tries to keep quiet and not mess up or break things. Here's a surreptitious shot of the senior printer. She's pretty nice, as long as you don't ask too many questions. 

So far so good. Check back in a week.


Volume Status

Decorating Paper sitrep: David Clifford's well into Volume 1 and should be completed in about a week's time.

Before proceeding to Volume 2, we'll be printing the approximately 1200 sheets that will have borders only (some of them black Arches printed with gold or silver). With these done, while David works on Vol. 2 Barbara and Claudia can start tipping the many samples on to the border sheets. All of the printing is slated to be finished by the end of February.


This Hamlet is a Fakesimile

Is this really a prospectus for the Cranach Press' edition of Hamlet, or a (later) facsimile of one? It's printed on a beautiful cream laid sheet, no watermark. The last page appears, to my high school German, to be a description of the different states in the edition ("eight copies on vellum/parchment...") with prices in Marks. A small addendum at the bottom of that last page tells us the piece is a "keepsake supplied by Gallery 303 to the participants of the Heritage Series."

A quick Abebooks search for "Gallery 303" and "Heritage Series" turns up about a dozen items, a couple listed by the sellers with 1930s dates. Maybe these was a special run of the original prospectus, printed at Cranach, for distribution in America?

No, it's not original. Over at the Dr Leslie Project's site, we learn a bit about Gallery 303 (not to be confused with the current 303 Gallery in NYC) and Heritage Series:

In 1927 Sol Cantor and Robert Leslie founded The Composing Room with the intention of being "the cream of the crop in typesetting firms." Leslie in particular was an advocate for the printing and graphic arts, and founded several periodicals dedicated to the subjects. "In 1936, Dr. Leslie, with the help of Hortense Mendel, began showing the work of emigre and young artists in an empty room in The Composing Room offices. Called the A-D Gallery, it was the first place in New York City dedicated to exhibiting the graphic and typographic arts." 

The gallery seems to have become inactive some time after that, perhaps during the war, but in 1958 was "reactivated and renamed Gallery 303, after it's room number. In addition to showcasing artist's work, the new gallery was became host to the lecture series, 'Heritage of the Graphic Arts,' held through the sixties." So presumably this Hamlet keepsake is a facsimile produced some time in the '60s. Even without all that, it's not letterpress, so there you go. The other titles that Abebooks showed with 1930s dates also probably were 1960s-era facsimiles of the originals.


Saw this on the (upside down) cover of a blank notebook in a kool shop; wtf?