Some Truths About Publishing

I’m reading a fantastic book. It’s been on a shelf here for a few years, but I hadn’t looked at it until a recent series of duds from the library left me casting about for something engaging. The Truth About Publishing, by Sir Stanley Unwin, was first published in 1926. The book is written from the publisher’s perspective, which is the one with the most expansive view of everything it means to publish books, from the intangible, to the practical, to the unsustainable. It was reprinted many times; I’m reading a revised edition from 1960. Despite the changes in technologies and commerce over the past century, it remains the most comprehensive primer for people interested in any aspect of publishing I’ve encountered. I’d particularly recommend it to authors, for its insights to production (costs), contracts and all the other non-creative parts of publishing a book. Much of it could also be easily extrapolated for any kind of business that involves agreements and partnerships with artists for the distribution or presentation of their creations, e.g. music, games, performance. Here are a few of the pearls to be found:

“It is probably true that anyone who could make money at book publishing could make more in other business…it is possible that the better work you do [at publishing], the less monetary reward you will receive.”

“…the one time practise of throwing in the Canadian market with the American rights is unjustified. The rule is for the Canadian market to be retained by the publisher in the country of origin.”
Damn straight!

“It is one thing to produce a book, quite another to sell it, though some authors one meets regard the two as synonymous.” Some publishers too, but they tend to disappear after a book or two.

I managed to get down to the annual Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend. For once it wasn’t held on the Thanksgiving weekend, which is never a time one wants to have to cross the border. The absence of two long-time regulars - Michael R. Thompson and Louis Collins - was felt by everyone, but not morosely so. Saw lots of cool books. Eastons Books, of Mt Vernon, had a number of books from the estate of a Washington-state binder named Derek Lowe. Many were books about binding that he had rebound in quarter or full leather; some were books he’d purchased in sheets and bound. I got John Ryder’s Intimate Leaves from a Designer’s Notebook (Gregynog, 1993) in a lovely leather binding with inlay to the front board. I’ve only dipped into the book so far (one problem with books bound like this is you can’t just leave them lying on the floor by the bed…); Ryder may be a little pedantic and humorless for my taste, but we’ll see.

Speaking of nice bindings, here’s a surprise that came my way recently: a copy of Gill’s Hamlet, printed by him for the Limited Editions Club (1933), rebound by Claudia Cohen. For years she’d been sitting on three copies (mine + 2 more) in busted bindings, and I’d long ago given up pestering her to bind one up for me, so when she said she had a surprise for me this was the last thing on my radar. Subsequent to acquiring my busted copy, I came to learn about, and grapple with, Gill’s complete failure as a human. I didn't have to grapple much: he was, and should be remembered (if at all) primarily as an evil narcissist. I confess to finding Perpetua a masterpiece that cannot be denied, and that his book Typography contains many opinions that resonate and inspire. His art, compared to what else was going on during his lifetime, never particularly interested me. But I admire this Hamlet for its production, and Claudia's binding is much more elegant than the original. Told you I’d find something to set me off for this month’s post!

One of the aforementioned library duds I tried reading this past month defeated me on purely typographic grounds: its 400+ pages were set in Optima, very generously leaded. I could not get past the second page. I like Optima very much, but the combination of the face, the leading, and the content (magic realism, to use the easiest label) proved unbearable. It wasn’t ugly, just not conducive to extended reading.

Work on the Kelmscott & Doves leaf book proceeds on schedule. Not much more to be said about it right now.


More Writing Please

I started printing the new book last week; that, & a lack of anything worthwhile to report or rage against left me with little time or interest for posting. As I knew it would be, this project is a bit of a logistical hassle due to the sheets' large size (20 x 15"). They're so big that they make the Ostrander-Seymour Extra Heavy press look compact, which is an alarming thought.

Due to unexpectedly enthusiastic response to the plan for some of the 50 copies to have all of Martin Jackson's calligraphy actually written out by him, i.e. true calligraphic copies, with the agreement of all involved (including those who'd placed orders), the number has been increased from 12 to 20. Above is shown the sheet with the title page. The ones at left will go to Martin, when all printing is completed, and he will add his parts (in red). The ones at right are for the "Printed" copies, which will be cased at HM.

It takes three days to work off a sheet - one for each side in black, then a third for the addition of red to both sides - so we're more or less on schedule.


Unrelated: encountered a printing term I'd never heard before - chalcography, as in "a chalgographic frontispiece" (above). As far as I can tell, the process is synonymous with intaglio, so I don't understand if the term implies some difference.

I'll try to have something more interesting than just a progress report next month. With luck I'll encounter something book-related that will set me off...


Garage Sale (con't)

Just added a few new items to the ongoing HM garage sale/fundraiser. Proceeds will go toward acquisition of a few choice reference books I want for the Francesco Griffo project. Check out the work-up on the (near fine) jacket of Oriental Assembly!


Michael R. Thompson Was Cool


I was slow to hear the sad news that the great Los Angeles bookseller Michael R. Thompson passed away in August. Michael was a valued supporter of HM (it was through him that our books first got into the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Library), and a source of advice on more than one occasion. He also provided a number of the high-spots on my bookshelves: the three-volume Grabhorn bibliography, the Laguna Verde bibliography, and the copy of William Andrews Clark’s Kelmscott and Doves press collections from which the text for HM’s next book was set are just a few of the titles. He loved helping collectors acquire coveted items, but he hated when I sold one book to buy another - he felt it diminished the long-term process and goal of building a personal collection.

Much of my early education in books, collecting, printing and publishing came from booksellers, either directly or through their catalogues. When I started HM, I knew the handful of booksellers who specialized in fine press books, and I judged my progress by if and when HM books got  into their catalogues. Michael was one of those booksellers, and it was tremendously satisfying when, around 2005, our work caught his attention. Michael’s business will continue, under the direction of his long-time associate Carol Sandburg, who has also been a tireless promoter of HM. We look forward to the continued connection, and the memories of Michael it will always stir. There’s a good tribute to Michael by Bruce McKinney here, with links to a few other memorials.


Details of the next book have been finalized and it will hit the press this month. The Kelmscott & Doves Presses, an essay by Alfred Pollard with leaves from The Golden Legend (1892) and the English Bible (Vol. 1, 1903) will be set in Centaur and feature original calligraphy on the title page, the essay’s opening, page numbers and initial letters throughout by Martin Jackson. It will be printed in two colors (the calligraphy in red) with the handpress on dampened Arches wove (160 g) paper. Each of the leaves will be presented in its own opening, hinged and sewn to the gathering to allow for easy turning. It will be a large book (10 x 15 inches, 30 pp.) to accommodate the Bible leaf. The edition of 50 copies (plus 5 H/C) will be issued in two states: copies 1-12 will form the “Written” issue, with all of the calligraphy in each copy scribed by Martin. These copies will include the best leaves available, and be bound by Claudia Cohen, in a handmade-paper binding tooled in gilt, with a box. Copies 13-50 (the “Printed” issue) will reproduce his calligraphy from polymer plates, and be cased at HM in decorated paper over boards. The issue price for the Printed issue will be $750. We anticipate having copies ready to ship in January, 2019 (followed a few months later by the Written copies).


One More Day

Gimme till tomorrow for this month's post. Back to school etc etc. Till then, have a look at this.


Everything's Gone Green

Got a company vehicle. Could do deliveries now. Won't. Vespas are one of the greatest designs ever.

Can't spend all my time riding. Contrary to the normal schedule for this blog, there may be a couple of brief post-scripts during August. FYI.

The paper for HM’s next project has been on order for the past few months, with no guarantee it would materialize anytime soon. Yesterday I received notice that it has shipped, and so I can broadcast details of the project. As previously mentioned, it will be another leaf book, this time featuring pages from the Kelmscott Press’s Golden Legend (1894) and the Doves Press’s English Bible (vol. I, 1901), with an essay about the two presses written by the English bibliophile Edward Pollard.

Pollard’s essay was written for the catalogue of William Andrews Clark Jr.’s collection, published in 1921 by John Henry Nash. Rather than a straight historical account of the two presses, Pollard offers a meditation on their influences and influence, particularly in matters of design and typography. He also makes specific, & reverential, mention of Edward Johnston’s opening calligraphy for the Doves Press’s edition of Paradise Lost, which sparked in me the idea to recruit Canadian calligrapher Martin Jackson for the project. Martin and his wife emigrated from England in 1968, and he established a career and reputation as a versatile and creative calligrapher. He has helped on a few HM projects (most recently editioning copies of Aurora Teardrops), and I have been looking for a project that would more expansively feature his work. Luckily the Pollard essay, and my ideas for how to incorporate Martin, appealed to him. During May and June we had several meetings to discuss design ideas and options, which for me were like a master class in visual structures, layout and letterforms.

The page for the new book is very large (10 x 15 inches) to accommodate the Doves leaf (about 9 x 13.25 inches). Martin’s calligraphy – printed in red, from polymer plates – will be featured on the title page, the essay’s opening, at least one initial letter in each spread, and the page numbers. He will also edition (number) the books. After trials with a few different types, we settled on Centaur, which may seem a cliché or safe choice, but really was the face that best suited the text, and complimented (rather than clashed with) the calligraphy and the types on the Kelmscott and Doves leaves. The choice of paper was affected by a special consideration: I knew I wanted some small portion of the edition to have the calligraphy actually done by Martin, rather than printed, so the paper had to be suitable for his pens. Arches text (the 120 g weight) has become my preferred commercial paper, and Martin is happy to work on the Arches wove sheets in any weight, but I was concerned that the book’s large page required a heavier sheet. I often find the 200 g feels too heavy – too rigid – for books, and was happy to discover that Arches makes a 160 g weight. Then everything ground to a halt when I was told it was on back-order. 

Printing will start in September. The book runs to just 30 pages, plus the leaves, and each sheet will go through the press four times, so six to eight weeks of printing. Per the number of Golden Legend leaves available, the edition will be 50 copies (1 – 50), plus five hors de commerce (I – V). In the edition’s first 12 copies (& three H/C) Martin will add all of the calligraphic parts by hand, and sign the colophon. We are calling these the “Written” issue. They will be specially bound by Claudia Cohen in handmade paper over boards, embellished with gold tooling, and housed in a box. The “Printed” issue (copies 13 – 50) will be cased at HM with decorated paper over boards. Copies of the Printed issue will ship early in 2019. The Written copies will be issued in the spring.


Augustine Mathewes, Printer (& Rascal)

This month’s post reprints a short preliminary chapter from HM’s recent publication, Labour Vertue Glorie. It’s a biographical sketch of Augustine Mathewes - aka Mathews, Matthews, & A.M. - the man who printed George Wither's A Collection of Emblemes (1635). I won’t be posting any other chapters, and have selected this one simply because it should be of general appeal to anyone interested in printing. Mathewes' printing in A Collection is not an example of the best work being done at the time, not even for England. It’s workmanlike. But the amount of setting and printing involved, with the conditions and equipment of the day (how did anyone see anything?), and his productivity make me feel feeble & lazy. But my printing is better.

The device included on the title page of Labour Vertue Glorie was adapted/appropriated from Mathewes’ own, as it appears on the title pages in A Collection’s four books (i.e. parts). The references included here have been renumbered from what they are in the book, just for simplicity.

AUGUSTINE MATHEWES took his freedom as a Stationer in 1615. The first book he entered to the Register, in 1619, was Thomas Decker’s O per se O, or the belman of London. By 1620 he was working in partnership with John White, who had inherited the printing house of his father, William. In 1624 Mathewes assumed control (“farmes his printing house of John White”) in exchange for an annuity.[1] Mathewes’ name made regular appearances in the Register for the next two decades, sometimes for printing unlicensed works (not an entirely unusual occurrence at the time).


Notable books that Mathewes printed include Lady Mary Wroath’s The Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania (1621), which featured a frontis engraved by Crispin de Passe’s son, Simon, and is considered the first published prose romance written by an English woman; an edition of The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England (1622) with a title page that mis-attributes it to William Shakespeare; and the second quarto of Othello (1630). Mathewes also published two editions of William Haughton’s comedic play Englishmen for My Money, one in 1626 for John Norton (whose name appears as printer on the title page), and the second in 1631 for himself.[2] The original license lay with William White, and must have come to Mathewes when he assumed the business (and its licenses) from son John.

William White had printed George Wither’s fourth book, The Shepherds Hunting, in 1615; it may have been through his association with White that Wither met Mathewes. The printer’s first recorded work with Wither was in 1622, when he printed Cantica Sacra, the publication that prefaced Wither’s protracted patent dispute with the Stationers’ Company.


Things seem to have started going badly for Mathewes in 1636. In the Registers of the Stationers’ Company is a record of Sir John Lambe, who was then investigating London’s printing industry, referring to Mathewes as a “pauper,” followed by the ambiguous statement “(let them agree who shall be, they have now 3: presses:).” The same record states that Marmaduke Parsons “hath kept matthews printing house.”[3]

In 1637 a Star Chamber decree tightening controls on access to presses and printing of all kinds was passed, in part a response to Puritans’ challenges to the Church of England. One of the most notorious Puritan pamphlets inciting the decree was The Holy Table, written and published anonymously by John Williams, bishop of Lincoln. “Williams in essence challenged the policy of calling the holy table an altar and of insisting that parish communion tables must be placed altarwise, at the end of chancels…The revised Short-Title Catalogue lists seven separate editions of this work, all dated 1637, but none of them provide information about stationers in the imprint.”[4] One of the stationers was Mathewes, who was caught printing the tract.

A record in the Stationers’ Register dated July of that year includes a letter written by John Lambe, the Dean of the Arches, addressed to himself. He states that “the forbidden book which must forever be associated with this Decree was The Holy Table,” and lists those “worthy to be authorized printers under the increasing durance to which the Press was now to be subjected.” The letter includes a brief statement about Mathewes: “he was taken reprinting of ye Holy Table. Marmaduke Parsons hath long had his presse and priu[v]ledg[e] made over to him and is most fitt to be in his Roome.”[5] Mathewes was out and Parsons was in. 


States Papers Domestic for July, 1637 includes two entries mentioning Mathewes. The first summarizes Lambe’s letter of printers “worthy to be authorized.” The second summarizes Mathewes’ plea for clemency to the commissioners overseeing the printers of London, for his transgression with The Holy Table: “Understanding he has committed a great error, he prays the commissioners to be a means with Archbishop Laud that he may be admitted as a master printer.”[6]

His plea was unsuccessful, and Mathewes seems to have been made an example for the new decree: his name disappears from the Stationers’ Register for the next fifteen years. In 1653 he entered a copy of William Johnson’s book Vocabula Chimica, then oblivion.

1. Arber, E., ed. A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640 A.D. vol 3. Privately printed, 1876. 700
2. Baugh, A. C. Introduction to Wm. Haughton’s Englishmen For My Money, or A Woman Will Have Her Will. Privately printed, 1917. 92
3. Arber. Registers of the Company of Stationers, vol 3. 704
4. Towers, S. M. Control of Religious Printing in Early Stuart England. Boydell Press, 2003. 241
5. Arber. Registers of the Company of Stationers, vol. 4. 1877. 528
6. Bruce, J., ed. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I, 1637. Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1868. 344 

Here's a P.S. found after publication of LVG...