Books Are Will Rueter's Utopia

Printing for HM's next calligraphic book starts today: Books Are My Utopia features 18 full-page (three of them fold-out) quotes on the theme of books, each one rendered by HM's longtime friend and confidant, Will Rueter. The concept and format are similar to 2017's An Alphabetical Accumulation, wherein the calligraphy is reproduced from polymer plates, but a portion of each page is then added by Will's pen (for example, in the mock-up below, the red and blue will be added by him). 

Will would object to being called a calligrapher, but calligraphy has been an important part of his 50+ year career as a designer and printer. All of The Aliquando Press's publications reflect his passion for variations in, & combinations of letterforms, and he's too modest about his skills. Books Are My Utopia  will be the first publication that focuses exclusively on his calligraphy - everything in the book is by his hand.

Most of the printing will be done at HM, on four different papers: F.J. Head, Barcham Green and Twinrocker (all handmades); and a mouldmade that I'm saying is Saunders c.1950s, but that might be a lie. Either way, it's a lovely laid sheet. The three fold-out sheets will be printed on Japanese papers, by Will in Ontario. Below is the original calligraphy (i.e. art from which plates were made) for the list of authors from whom the quotes were taken.

Printing will be finished this month, and then the sheets go to Will for the embellishments. He hopes to have everything ready for binding by the start of 2020. Like An Alphabetical Accumulation, Claudia Cohen will be binding the edition of 36 copies uniformly; the exact structure and design are still being pondered. We'll put up some progress photos once Will starts laying hands on printed sheets, along with some of his thoughts on the importance of learning to make letterforms with a pen for typographers and designers.

HM participated in the Fisher Rare Books Library's bi-annual small press fair last month. The Fisher is a beautiful space, and the University of Toronto campus is a fun place to be in September. I had a table beside Will, so we spent most of the day kibbutzing and finalizing details for the calligraphy book. I also caught up with the excellent Shanty Bay Press duo, and met a few Toronto people whose names I knew but had never encountered in person. I even printed a freebie that (sort of) illustrates how books are printed at HM. Best of all, the day before the fair I spent at the Fisher playing with books for the Griffo project, including a couple of early Aldine octavos, and the library's copy of the stunning Paulina de Recta Pasche (1513, with types cut by Griffo). More about Griffo after Will's book is out of the press...


A Tour of the Shelves

No news to start the new school year. I’ll start printing Will Rueter’s calligraphy book soon, and will post some images and details next month. The Griffo project is getting serious: the manuscript is in the fine-tuning and illustration-selection stages. I am going to Toronto to participate in the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library’s bi-annual small press fair (Saturday 7 September), and will be taking advantage of the Fisher’s collection to look at a few Aldines and related materials. I printed what I’m calling a "thing” for the fair, so if you come by you can see it in person.

I was rambling through my bookshelves recently, looking for a couple of books I knew I had somewhere. Along they way I rediscovered others I’d forgotten I had, or not looked at in a long time. Lacking actual news this month, thought I’d show a couple of the less common ones…

The Vollbehr Incunabula and the Book of Books 
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C, 1932
It’s set in black-letter, but at least it’s set (and printed) well, in the style of a rubricated Gutenberg Bible, a copy of which landed at the U.S.’s Library of Congress with the purchase of Otto Vollbehr’s book collection in 1930. Two copies of this book are currently listed online, and even the more expensive is reasonably priced for the quality of materials and execution.

First Report of a Book-Collector. Followed By an Account of Book-Worms
William Harris Arnold
One of the most exuberant leaf books ever published. Nothing better than a book collector with extra money and a desire to share their passion. An early publication from Frank Hopkins’ Marion Press, an edition of 89 copies (presumably dictated by their most scarce leaf included?) bound in limp vellum. A second edition of 220 copies, without all the leaves, was issued the following year (less luxe but still printed on handmade paper). Typographically it’s a little anemic and very much of its time, but the printing and materials are good. There’s one copy of the first issue online, for a little less than I think I paid for my copy…

The Introduction of Printing into Canada; A Brief History
Aegidius Fauteux (Rolland Paper Company, 1930)
Not at all scarce, even in this binding. (There seems to have been a plainer leather-bound issue, without any decoration, and most copies were issued as a set of 6 pamphlets.) These “extra-bound” copies have remarkable endpapers. I think they are painted, as the gold parts are definitely raised from the paper’s surface, like a blob of paint. This copy is also notable for the laid-in printed vellum leaf - imagine a big commercial print shop doing a thing like that today! The book itself isn’t a gripping read.

Petrarch Press, 1989
More vellum! The first incarnation of the Petrarch Press issued only a handful of titles, all of them carefully planned and well printed (on a handpress). This copy is one of 8 printed on vellum, and I may have paid less than the issue price for it, which is ridiculous. I’m less beguiled by printing on vellum than I was in the early days, but it’s fun to have a sample or two on the shelves.


Artist's Kitchen
Sybil Andrews
A bizarre publication. Andrews was a British artist whose work first gained attention in the 1920s, as part of the Grosvenor School. She made wonderful modern linocuts, all angles and full of motion (Speedway, above, is among her best). She moved to a remote town on Canada's west coast after WWII, which pretty much removed her & her work from the public eye. In 1985 Artist's Kitchen - "a meditation on the When, the How, the Where and the Why of Art and Artists" - was published. Considering the topic, and her background in printmaking, the book is a turd. I think it was printed by mimeograph. Despite that, it's impossible to find a copy. I was searching for several years before this one copy appeared, and it was priced cheap because the cover had been stuck on upside down. Which might be the most graphically interesting part of the book. All of the chapters are very short, and some offer interesting suggestions for sparking creativity.

An Experiment in Printing
Minne Jane deThomas
Here's a much better book by someone interested in printmaking. It's one of the student publications that came out of the Wesleyan College Art Lab during the 1950s and '60s (most of them printed on a handpress). This single-signature pamphlet prints two original Bewick wood engravings on two different papers, to compare the pros and cons for each. Brilliant, and an elegant publication.

The Technology of Handpress Printing
Harry Duncan (Abattoir Editions, 1980)
This essay was included in The Doors of Perception, but this first publication was set and printed, on a handpress, by Duncan. It’s a good essay. The colophon says it was printed on (damp) Barcham Green paper. I have two copies: one is a tan sheet with faint speckles and a BG1977 watermark, about 100 - 120 g. The other copy is printed on heavier (approx 200 g) white wove paper with no watermark; I have no idea why it exists or how it connects to the edition. I think the type shows better on the white sheet. An uncommon book.

Speaking of significant books about printing with a handpress, printed on a handpress, I had to wait for a decade before a copy of Lewis Allen's Printing With the Handpress came on the market back when I got mine. Now there are three, and one is being offered at basically half price!? Someone grab it…


German Incunable Influences on William Morris's Chaucer Type

Oregon-based bookseller Philip J. Pirages is known for the range and quality of antiquarian books he stocks. If you’re looking for a book printed between 1450 and (say) 1800 that is significant for its content, production or presentation - a book that could legitimately be considered rare - he may not only have a copy, but a copy in the best possible condition. Pirages describes his focus generally as “historical artifacts that are physically attractive in some way - illuminated material, fine bindings, books printed on vellum, fore-edge paintings, beautiful typography and paper, impressive illustration.” An inevitable byproduct of a focus on antiquarian printing is encountering books that have lost leaves over the centuries (and leaves that have lost their books). Because he’s not a barbarian, he gathers these orphans as they come his way, and offers an extensive collection of printed and manuscript leaves.

Incomplete copies of even the most rare and valuable book cannot be “restored” or made whole again. If only a few leaves are missing, it might be possible and worthwhile to have facsimiles made, but that’s tricky and expensive, plus you’re still left with what technically is an incomplete copy. If you found another broken copy that had the leaves you need, you could “make up” a copy, but that also isn’t ideal. And if you’re presented with a copy of a book that is really incomplete (for example, when HM was offered about 70 leaves cut from a Doves Bible, used in the recent Kelmscott & Doves Presses publication), what are your options? That toothpaste cannot be put back in its tube. 

One option in such circumstances is a leaf book - a book about the book, each copy with a leaf from the original included. For students of printing, history, design, etc etc, even the best reproduction does not compare to seeing the actual type on the actual paper. Some people have dismissed leaf books as ghoulish, but these people generally don’t appreciate the reference value they offer, and they typically assume a complete copy was broken up just for the leaves, i.e. these people don’t know anything about antiquarian books: any book worth being the subject of a leaf book, would be more valuable as a complete copy vs what a printer could hope to net from publishing a leaf book. Hence, on Pirages' Web site, is the statement in bold text, “Leaves are acquired individually or as part of a fragment of a book only. WE DO NOT TAKE APART COMPLETE BOOKS IN ORDER TO SELL INDIVIDUAL LEAVES.

All of which is a long-winded introduction to how Pirages has come to publish a fascinating multi-leaf book, Letters From The 15th Century: On The Origins of the Kelmscott Chaucer Typeface - A Study, with Specimen Leaves, of the Influence of the Early German Printers on William Morris’ Masterpiece. Each copy in the edition of 165 includes a leaf from the Chaucer, plus leaves from four German incunables. The text, by Pirages, is a study of Morris’s Chaucer type and how its design was influenced by the types used in the 1470s by the German printers. The book was printed by Art Larson (printer formerly of books for Leonard Baskin, and recently of books for HM’s friend Sarah Horowitz), and bound in three (i.e. four) states by Amy Borezo (who, incidentally, published a really interesting Lovecraft book a few years ago…).

Some of the best leaf books of the 20th century were published by booksellers (the people who end up with the books other people don’t take care of), especially in the first half of the century. But there aren’t a lot of leaf books being published these days, by anyone, so I was interested to ask Pirages some how & why questions about his project. But first, here is a brief summary of the project's genesis from Pirages' Web site:

"The story of the production is heavy on serendipity: in the winter of 2012, after purchasing a very incomplete copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer at auction, we considered the possibility of producing a leaf book, but because the Chaucer--universally considered to be one of the most beautiful books ever printed--had been written about by so many different people in so many different ways, we didn't know what aspect was left for us to explore. The one topic we fastened on as thus far inadequately examined is the origin of the work's typeface. We soon learned that Morris, who is known to have owned more than 500 incunables, most admired--and was, consequently, most likely to have been influenced in his typographic design by--Peter Schoeffer of Mainz, Johann Mentelin of Strassburg, Günther Zainer of Augsburg, and Anton Koberger of Nuremberg. Over the course of the years succeeding the purchase of the defective Chaucer, we were fortunate beyond all expectation to acquire incomplete books from each of these four eminent printers. As a result, the present leaf book will allow the reader not only to read in the accompanying essay about the influence on Morris of his typographic forebears, but also to compare with his or her own eyes the resemblances between the Kelmscott leaf and the leaves from four centuries earlier."

 * * *

HM: The first question you’re faced with when publishing a leaf book is, what text would be appropriate for the presentation of the leaf? It can be especially challenging if the leaf is from a book about which much has already been written - what can you add that is new and of value? For your project you focused on the development of Morris’ Chaucer type, which you felt had been inadequately examined. How did you zero in on that as a topic, and what was involved in telling the story? 

PP: Not enough has been said, and, apart from the commentary of William S. Peterson and John Dreyfus, most of the remarks have been of little value and even bogus. I spent a considerable amount of enjoyable time researching and hypothesizing about the connections between the Chaucer type and the early German printers, specifically those working in the 1470s, and more specifically Peter Schoeffer, Johann Mentelin, Gunter Zainer, and Anton Koberger, who I believe are shown in the text of the leaf book to have been Morris’ gothic All-Stars. The leaf book text includes a chart that quantifies the resemblances between each of the Chaucer letter forms and each of the characters in each of the typecases of the four early printers. It might be mathematical overkill, but I was trying to escape subjectivity and introduce some degree of objectivity.

Without scooping your own book, can you give me a summary the main thesis? 

PP: The design of the Chaucer typeface can clearly be seen as directly linked to the type used by Schoeffer, Mentelin, Gunter Zainer, and Koberger. And the five leaves that are the special part of the leaf book (the Kelmscott Chaucer leaf and a leaf from each of the four early German printers) show this pretty well.

What is your opinion of the Kelmscott Chaucer, as a book? 

PP: It is magnificent, the outstanding achievement of the Arts & Crafts movement and one of the most beautiful and important books ever printed.
Your book also includes four German incunable leaves, illustrating exemplars or influences Morris presumably drew from when conceiving the Chaucer type. The benefit of seeing and touching actual printed leaves, even against the best reproductions, cannot be overstated. A project like this essentially becomes a self-contained course in printing and history - which is what a good leaf book should be. There were some fantastic leaf books issued in the first half of the 20th century, especially by booksellers (presumably because they’re the ones who find/save the broken books). But as a genre, if it can be called one, it seems to have waned in recent decades. What’s your perspective as a bookseller on the role or place of leaf books in the current market, versus (say) 50 years ago?  

PP: I really can’t say why leaf books may be going out of fashion. Perhaps because the emphasis in the marketplace on modern first editions doesn’t really encourage their production?

Some people have a reflexive dislike, or even disdain, for leaf books. In my experience this seems to come from assumptions that something was destroyed - broken - because the bits will be worth more than the whole. Maybe that’s been done, but I suspect the vast majority of leaf books were a response to having a fragment of something with significance to the history of printing, and wanting to make the best use of it. The cost of conserving, or even restoring, a book can quickly exceed its market value, and that’s for a complete copy. What to do when you have just pieces of the book? That’s a long preamble to my questions, which are (1) do you agree with any of that; and (2) how do you explain the value of book like the one you’re publishing to people who are suspicious of the format/concept? 

PP: In 41 years of bookselling I have never taken apart a complete book to sell single leaves.  But we do sell single leaves when we buy fragments or groups of leaves (almost always at auction). I can understand why some persons may say that simply selling such leaves encourages the breaking of complete books, and this may possibly be true. I have no defense to that accusation except to say that the individual leaves we have sold over the years have come from books that, in complete (or even incomplete) form, would be far beyond the ability of the vast majority of buyers to acquire, whereas single leaves offer a very large number of customers the pleasure of ownership of beautiful and at the same time affordable printed or manuscript artifacts.

You published a book in 1991, with a Sweynheym & Pannartz leaf, printed by Henry Morris. Do you have any particular memories or stories of working with him? 

PP: He was always striving for perfection, and he had a vision of what our book should look like. The author, Edwin Hall, and I did not always agree with him, but his way was pretty much the way we did things in the end. His reputation speaks loudly for him.

One challenge when publishing a book about another book, or work by a specific printer, is how much to reflect the aesthetics of that work in the new design. It’s very easy to fall into pastiche. At the same time, one cannot simply ignore the original’s aesthetic. I’ve always thought a complimentary design should be the goal. Your book encompasses Morris’s style and the German incunables, which is some visually heavy company for your design to integrate with in its own distinct way. What were some of the things you considered when designing the book (by “book” I include the entire presentation - binding, box, leaves etc)? 

PP: This is a very good question. I thought about using a typeface that somehow resembled the Chaucer, and it was hopeless. I actually chose something closer to Italian Renaissance (Bembo) than anything else, so little connection there. Where there is a connection is in three of the four bindings used.  The edition has four versions: for the least costly, we use a linen-backed blue paper boards binding that is very like bindings used by Kelmscott; we used flexible vellum with ties (again, echoing Kelmscott bindings) for the next-to-most costly version, and we used a specially designed pigskin binding (echoing those done at the Doves Bindery for the Chaucer) to go with the two super deluxe copies (which sold before we even had a chance to advertise the book). The fourth binding (for the medium-priced version) is cloth over boards, the cloth being the Ebony Cray pattern created by William Morris. (The various prices of the versions are directly related to the degree of decoration on the Kelmscott leaf that is included with each copy.)

The Chaucer is a very large book. Your book is a smaller format, nestled in a clamshell box along with the leaves (loose). At any point did you ponder designing the book in a size that would allow the Chaucer to be tipped in? I confess that my preference is not to have the leaves separate from the book, but I understand the argument for having them separate. The basic question here is one of merging the book design with the leaf, and how much they are integrated or kept separate. 

PP: I had originally thought about the text being bound to a format matching the size of the Chaucer leaf, but there were too many design and logistical issues militating against this. It just didn’t work.

Were there any particular challenges during the design or production stages of the book? 

PP: Where shall I begin? I knew when we started that there would be inevitable problems with something as complex as this production, especially with work being done at different locations. But, fortunately, we had flexible deadlines. The main thing to be said here is that the project succeeded—and was enjoyable—because my main collaborators, Jill Mann, Art Larson, and Amy Borezo, were not only highly skilled, but very patient.

* *

I enjoyed this correspondence with Phil about his new book (but I didn't enjoy having to remove all the extra spaces he put in after a period! Period space, people, not period space space.)

Letters From The 15th Century
has just been issued, and copies of all three states remain available (see here).

And p.s., a note about terminology: a leaf is what you turn when reading a book. A leaf has two pages, one on each side.



I've always thought the small Vandercook proofing presses were cool. They are also completely redundant if you already have a handpress. Nonetheless, one has fallen into my lap. A lap that has no space for it, so what to be done? But it has been cleaned up, the tympan paper - which has been on since at least 1972! - replaced, and the spooky Masonic spirits chased away by a hound.


La Presse à Bras

Found a cool book recently while doing some work on the Griffo project at UBC’s Irving K. Barber Library: La Typographie, by Marcel Valotaire. Published in Paris in 1930, an edition of 1,050 copies. Loose sections in a chemise with ties. A description of letterpress printing on various presses, including the handpress, illustrated with 12 drawings and a suite of 35 fantastic photogravures. Beautiful French production typical of the period. A few copies online at reasonable prices.

I'm sharing just bits about the handpress, because this is HM.

I don't like the kind of roller shown here: the position of the handles makes it harder to balance and control the thing. And what's with the skinny roller? The Takach roller I use has a 4.75 inch diameter, with a roll-out of 15 inches - sufficient even for books as large as our recent Kelmscott/Doves project). Takach rollers are the best (use the harder 60-dur for printing type).

Putting the sheet (damp, hopefully) on the tympan. In the previous photo you can see the two points at the left and right of the makeready, on the tympan. In this photo the printer aligns the sheet, then pierces it with the points. These will be used to ensure registration when backing up. I don't do it quite this way. I've found that sometimes the points will slightly tear the damp paper when piercing it, rather than making a clean hole, and there goes your perfect registration. Instead I use a Mylar jig to make the holes in all the sheets with a pin (usually in batches of 2 or 3), just before I start printing. This ensures a close and consistent fit over the points even with several runs.

This isn't actually the most exciting picture; the bed being rolled into the press...

...the bar being pulled, and he's really working at it! Except for very large forms, just the fall (weight) of the platen is sufficient with HM's Ostrander-Seymour press. Which is great, except when you have to move the thing.

Found a couple of other press images in the library that day: the February 1953 issue of Printing & Graphic Arts had a short article about the history of printing in Canada, with two illustrations by Thoreau MacDonald. That didn't actually excite me that much, but I know he has his fans.


Details for the Francesco Griffo project are slowly coming into focus. As that continues, Will Rueter and I are poised to start production of his calligraphy book, titled Books Are My Utopia - Calligraphic Aphorisms Chosen by William Rueter. Details to follow.

Next month's post with be an interview with bookseller Phillip Pirages, about his just-published leaf-book Letters From the 15th Century.

Remind me to tell you about recent adventures in ordering books from Italy sometime...


An Interview with Martin Jackson

Extending the fun we had working together on HM’s latest publication, The Kelmscott & Doves Presses, Martin Jackson kindly agreed to an interview via email. (In person our conversations are too fast and inclined toward tangents to yield a cohesive interview…). While much of the focus in that book is on the original leaves from the two presses included, it’s Martin’s calligraphy that gives it a spark of contemporary life. The images included with this post are of various trial and test sheets he made during the project (except below, which is from BRC's film).

There’s a short film  by Black Rhino Collective featuring you and your work. In it you mention that the calligraphic spark for you was seeing a letter written by an uncle, and being intrigued by how beautiful it looked. Where you already attuned to reading and writing and designs at that time?

The letter from my Uncle Geoffrey when I was fourteen certainly was the trigger, prior to this I had no awareness of calligraphy, but I had always liked drawing, art was my favourite subject at school.

It is true that initially I copied this letter using an ordinary fountain pen, this gave me some of the ‘italics’ flavour, but there was something missing, but it did become my everyday writing style.

It was a couple of years before I found a small book by Tom Gourdie, I think it was called Italics for Beginners. In this book I discovered one needs a special type of nib that is cut square at the tip, we call this a broad edged nib, it is this feature that allows us to give our letters thicks and thins. What a revelation this was, it was magic.

When did you first study or train in calligraphy? How did it become your vocation?

I have never had any formal training in calligraphy, and it was never my intention to make it anything more than doing something that gave me great joy and satisfaction.

I got my first job (1956) as a junior in a design studio entirely on the strength of my handwritten job application letter, my style of writing set me above any of the other applicants. I worked in this studio for five years while also attending design classes at the Sheffield School of Art. All the senior designers in the studio were skilled at almost everything: design, retouching, lettering, typography etc., I learned so much from them, particularly hand lettering, and the love of type and letterforms, but I also became very good at making tea for them twice a day, a big part of my training.

After this (1961) I had to do two years of compulsory National Service in the RAF. Not fun, but I did get lucky to be posted to the Royal Air Force Design and Display Unit in London.

After these two years I found a job in a small ad agency studio in the south west of England, until they eventually went bankrupt, and in 1966 my wife, Patsy, and I decided to emigrate to Canada, about which we knew very little, having no idea about job prospects, or even knowing anyone here. I found it very hard to find a job, so in desperation tried freelancing. It took some time but eventually I found some clients, one of my strengths being hand lettering and the occasional piece of calligraphy.

Then in the ’70s calligraphy caught fire in California and Oregon and eventually it arrived in British Columbia. Reed College in Portland was a major centre due to two teachers: Father Edward Catich, THE expert on Roman Capitals, and Lloyd Reynolds, an early calligraphy pioneer. Soon after Vancouver caught the calligraphy bug, and instructors were few, and in great demand, so there was lots happening for me. Soon after I spread my wings and began teaching workshops all over the U.S., and also to Australia, Belgium, and Japan.

For our Kelmscott & Doves book, you started by preparing about seven different calligraphy styles. Unlike the calligraphy that appeared in Doves books, the scripts you proposed all were what I would describe as more obviously calligraphic – more obviously written with a pen than drawn (or engraved). Do you recall why that immediately felt like the right choice for the book?

Choosing a style for your book was a challenge. It would have been so easy and too obvious to take one of the beautiful ‘Kelmscott’ typefaces and give it a calligraphic slant, so I decided to give you various different styles to try to find a direction that was pleasing to you. Also, I was always aware that I would be hand writing these letters many time in many books, so it needed to be a style that could be written quite flowingly without having to go back and build up letters or adding too many little extras. Fortunately when decision time came we were in agreement about the final choice.

This style was loosely based on some letter samples a friend in Belgium sent me, from a workshop he had taken with the very talented calligrapher Brody Neuenschwander. It has no name.

A few people have asked me for some technical details on materials used…

The red colour is Holbein Pure Red gouache, which I bought in Japan. I mixed this with distilled water to a consistency that would allow it to flow easily through my pens. The nibs used were Brause, and Mitchell, in various sizes. The gilding is 23.5 carat gold leaf on a gum ammoniac base, applied using a goose quill and burnished with a dog tooth agate burnisher.

Could you describe one or two challenges – in conception or execution – that were unique to this project, and how you approached them?

Any challenges were mainly physical. The sheets were quite large [folios 20 x 15 inches] and I built an extension on my drawing board to accommodate them. I was terrified of putting a crease anywhere, so each time I  finished one spread I had to find somewhere to put it while the ink dried, and making sure they were always in the same sequence, every flat surface in my studio, floor, tables, desks etc were put to use.

Without any doubt this was the most enjoyable project I have ever worked on, for many reasons: You (Rollin) were so open to suggestions and we were able to work together so easily. The paper [Arches wove 120g] was amazing, it was a joy to write on, I was never fighting the paper. And there was no pressure, the deadline was very generous, and with every project there is a budget, and you never questioned my estimate.

Your approach to this project was perfect. You allowed me to make suggestions based on my calligraphy skills about what might or might not work, working together on the timing, keeping me informed so I could make sure I could set aside time for the project, it was all very reasonable and civilized. I would be very happy to work on any project working this way.

Why do you think that revival of calligraphy started in the ’70s, and what place, or role, do you think it has in contemporary design and art?

There has been a fairly strong calligraphy movement in England ever since Edward Johnston ‘rediscovered’ the craft. His monumental book, Writing & Illuminating, & Lettering, which was published in 1906 became the ‘Bible’ for calligraphers, although William Morris also ‘revived’ the craft and was a pioneer in using calligraphy.

In the U.S. there were also some fine calligraphers working, but they did not have such a high profile as in the U.K. It is difficult to determine exactly how and why and when it caught fire in the U.S. It came along at the same time as other crafts such as leather work and macrame etc. became popular, maybe this was all part of the ‘hippie culture’ in the ’70s and ’80s. I do know that when Donald Jackson, the ‘Queen’s Scribe’ made his first visit to the U.S. it brought about a huge response, and I think this may have been the catalyst.

I am not sure if calligraphy has much of a part in contemporary design and art. It’s still associated with something like ‘Auntie Pamela’s knitting class,’ i.e. it is just a little hobby. One very talented and well known calligrapher said that “the word calligraphy is pure poison in the arts community.” He may be right.

I’m not sure what the project will be, but I look forward to working with Martin again.


What? And, Why?

I have an interview with Martin Jackson, about his career and work as a calligrapher, for this month's blog post, but we're just putting the final polish to it; as a placeholder, I present a short bibliomystery...

It was discovered in a recently published book someone brought home from the library. Page 303 has what I initially thought was a cancel inserted, but the verso (page 304) actually is cut about 1 cm short (the cancel is cut to the proper depth). The stub is adhered by a wide strip of rust-colored adhesive tape. A cencel in a modern book would be unusual enough, but peeling the stub back shows that there is nothing printed beneath - no text to cancel.

Then we discovered a similar stub on the leaf with pages 281/282. That leaf also is cut about 1 cm short, and presumably might be the conjugate to leaf 303/304? (Naturally, the book is perfect bound, so it's difficult to tell where a section starts and ends.) The stub is the same height as the other, but the adhesive strip is differently placed (see image of the closed book's fore edge at bottom).

But here's the weirdest part: the paper was like this when it went though the press. You can see the line of text printed across the overlap of the stub on leaf 281/282. Is this simply how one roll of paper is spliced to the next for offset web presses? If so, why doesn't it appear in the whole section of this copy? Something to ponder while waiting for Martin's interview to go up.