An Anticipated History

Printing a 12-page pamphlet chronicling HM's plans for the next two years. First out will the XI LXIVMOS, copies of which are being bound up by Sarah Creighton as I type. As soon as the pamphlet is finished I'll start printing a new book by Barbara Hodgson (see image below); more about that next week. Then a new collection of poems by Harold Budd, to be issued early next year. I tried out my can of very expensive bronze ink for the first time (and yes, there was a titling figure mixed in with the ranging two's)...

Unrelated, I was going through a stack of old Type & Press that David Clifford gave me years ago, copies 84 to 100 (the last issue published, Summer 2000). Tucked into a couple of the older copies were elaborate promotional broadsides from Phillip Ambrosi. Based in Regina, Saskatchewan he was a job printer who also specialized in (Linotype) rule casting. The broadsides are beautifully printed on an onion skin-type paper. He closed his shop down just last year; there's a brief article about him on the last page of this paper.

This stack of Type & Press makes for great reading. Nothing precious or "fine" about it, just old-school job printing, with headlines like "Moving Printing Equipment Easily!" (but no mention of handpresses in that one) and "The Pearl - A Jewel of a Press." One headline that caught my eye was on the front of issue 94 - Who Designed Times Roman? The article detailed American typographer Mike Parker's research & claim that the face had been "designed by an obscure American artist and produced by the Lanston Monotype Co. of Philadelphia, and not by the British Monotype Co., which for over 50 years had claimed credit for designing this famous face."

I particularly enjoyed this paragraph, in which the odious Giampa™ appears:

"Parker's interest was ignited when Canadian designer Gerald Giampa, owner of the remnants of the Lanston Monotype Machine Co. of Philadelphia, showed him a set of letters representing a familiar roman and an unfamiliar italic. Together they discovered that the letters were linked with a W. Starling Burgess, better known as a 'naval designer.' When Giampa found documents that bound him to silence of the subject of Burgess and his typefaces as owner of the Lanston remnants, he was forced to bow out."

Whatever reason Giampa had for bailing, it wasn't respect a contractual requirement. A summary of Parker's research is included in this history of Times Roman.


After All This Time, WTF!

This week's blog is at best tangentially related to HM. A glimpse behind the curtain, & perhaps amusing for those who know the studio's work (avoision) habits...

For an edition of 50 copies, a single run (i.e. one side of a sheet) on a handpress takes me at least 10 hours, often 12. It's nothing like the exciting scene shown above; it gets really boring. There's nothing you can do to make it happen faster. (This is the main reason our editions are getting smaller: printing is boring, and a handpress is taxing on the muscles.) Distractions can lead to carelessness, so whatever accompaniment you allow cannot demand your ongoing full attention. That explains a lot of the music played here: glacial wall-of-sound, sustained rhythms. No singing. Luckily there's a lot of really interesting contemporary chamber-type music that does the trick.


While printing's solitary nature usually is part of its appeal, things can get a little lonely or dull during a long run, and the sound of people having an interesting conversation helps keep momentum. Back when all we had was radio, the pickings were awfully thin (NPR doesn't reach quite this far). Podcasts have helped, if only in freeing people from the tyranny of prescribed time limits, but like most things on the Web, there's a lot of content but little substance. One of the few that has been a staple at HM for several years now is Marc Maron's WTF. (There's a HM connection here; bear with.)

Maron is one of the best, most engaging interviewers working right now. I started listening around episode 150, when he was still working through his Rolodex of comedians. The show has trended away from its initial premise over the past year, with more musicians and actors being booked (and one President), usually ones who have a PR angle. It's become more mainstream and less unpredictable, but he still manages to have engaging conversations. Every book published by HM since 2011 has been produced with significant WTF support.

Today, while looking through project files for something, I found a folded sheet from a local weekly. Wondering why I'd kept it, I opened it out and scanned the articles, finding a short mention of HM's first publication with Barbara Hodgson, in 2004. Interestingly, on the other side, I saw a profile of Maron for his upcoming debut in Vancouver. I don't recall ever noticing it before, and his podcast was my first exposure to him anyway.

How's that for provocative headline writing? Sadly this weekly is nothing like The Stranger.

Just a weird story of coincidence. On his podcast Maron has discussed several times a long-running hassle he had with Canadian Immigration: he'd been blacklisted after being "caught" coming up for a gig without the proper work permits in place. I wonder if this was the gig? Boomer lives.


A Golden Hind Trove

Received 250 full & 200 quarter sheets of Golden Hind mouldmade paper, courtesy of Takao Tanabe. It's a beautiful text-weight laid sheet that prints beautifully. Perhaps the best surprise was that the paper retained its original wrapping, with the maker's label, thereby answering my long-standing question of who made Golden Hind.

I know of Golden Hind because it's what Robert Reid had Kuthan's Menagerie of Interesting Zoo Animals printed on in 1960. As Bob explained in the introduction for Kuthan's Menagerie Completed, he felt the paper was too translucent for George Kuthan's bold & colorful linocuts, so he printed on one side of the sheet only, and bound the book along the open edge.


When Tak called to tell me about the stash of Golden Hind he'd found in his studio, it got me wondering what mill it came from. Tak got into job printing in the '50s, initially being mentored by Bob. Tak's artistic talents quickly showed through in a series of typographically creative and playful broadsides and poetry chapbooks he designed and printed. In the early '60s he got a Canada Council grant to study in Japan, and his vocation as a printer was displaced by a career as one of Canada's most important painters.

Tak guessed that the Golden Hind he dropped off last week was purchased mid- to late-1950s, when he was printing. It was being distributed by a paper supplier in Toronto. I asked Bob Reid about how the paper came to his attention:

"Somebody in Toronto alerted me to the fact that a paper house there had this gorgeous mould-made British paper that was mouldering in their warehouse because nobody in Toronto wanted to use it. So we bought all they had. They must have kept stocking it for us, if Tak was buying more of it years later. You are so lucky to be able to get some of it now."

A search for "Golden Hind paper" yields surprisingly few results. The most useful is Papermaking at Tuckenhay Mill, a reasonably full account of the mill's history, which ended in 1970. I can't find any specific mentions of Golden Hind on the site.

I initially wondered if the paper had any connection to Arthur Rushmore's press, but apparently not. An Abe keyword search for the paper turns up just one other book printed on the paper: Philip Levine's On The Edge, printed by Kim Merker in 1963. Interesting that it's around the same time that Bob and Tak were using it. Perhaps the paper was a new sheet introduced by the mill in the '50s to complement (or as an alternative to) its handmade products. Will Rueter printed 10 special copies of Ten Songs (The Aliquando Press, 1987) on Golden Hind; he may have gotten it from Gus Rueter, whose private press was active in the late '50s and early '60s.

I've printed on Golden Hind twice so far. The first time was Kuthan's Menagerie Completed, which included a two-page intro by Bob printed on blank sheets that had been stored with the unbound copies we were releasing. Some printed sheets had been balled up and used as packing in the box; these we used for the colophon. They were dampened for printing, and dried in the usual manner, under pressure, which helped smooth out the wrinkles.

The second time I printed on Golden Hind was for Metal Type. For some reason, one page of text (set in Perpetua) from Kuthan's Menagerie had been overprinted; I guess they didn't like something about it. So I had all these copies of the same page of text on one side and blank on the other (They'd been stuffed in with the unbound copies I had in 2003). Metal Type combined a number of different papers, so it provided an opportunity to use up the Menagerie waste sheets: I used the blank side to print a Muhammad Ali quote I've always liked. On the printed side I displayed my own 18-pt Perpetua, intermingled with Bob's original.

The paper prints beautifully. It's relatively soft, but not too much. Like most papers, it prints better damp, but it doesn't require a lot of damping.

So, huge thanks to Tak for thinking of HM. I've promised him a copy of whatever I print on the paper. The problem is, when you get a stash like this, once it's used you'll never get more so you never use it! We'll see...


Lankes, Hunter & A Redemption Aversion

Received an announcement for a book to be published by the Tampa Book Arts Studio: an unpublished short story by artist J. J. Lankes. "The Rich Mouse [is an] allegorical fable emphasizing the snares of materialism versus the redeeming strength of love and forgiveness, written in 1950, but set aside and never published."

The studio is running a Kickstarter campaign for the project, with details of the publication here. It will be set in Goudy's Village type (see previous post regarding Goudy types...) and printed on the studio's Washington press, which happens to have previously belonged to Lankes. It's also oblong in format, but I guess they have their reasons.

Poking around, I found this 1931 profile of Lankes written by Sherwood Anderson. The Tampa project caught my eye primarily because I'd recently acquired a book that included several Lankes engravings: Dard Hunter's Papermaking in Japan, China & Korea (1935). At least, the illustrations were attributed to him in the catalogue's bibliographic description, but looking through the book I can find no mention of the artist. Lankes and Hunter certainly knew each other and were in contact during the period of the book's publication, so it's possible.

(One of my favorite parts of the book is the addendum inserted loose, regarding the paper upon which the text was printed. Imagine overlooking that detail in a book about paper!)

Papermaking in Japan... is one of two Hunter limited editions that were published by Pynson Printers. As momentous as Hunter's Mountain House Press book were, in terms of all the work being done under his own roof, the quality of production is better in the Pynson book. The type he designed, and his sun cut & cast, can get difficult to read, the presswork wasn't always great, and he sometimes used ruinous adhesives to mount paper samples. Nonetheless, I covet my copies of Papermaking by Hand in America and The Literature of Papermaking as much for their shortcoming as for their achievements. If Hunter could get a few things wrong, there's hope for HM yet.

Redemption stories aren't really my thing - I naturally gravitate more to things that go in the other direction - but the Tampa Book Arts Studio is doing valuable outreach work. Consider showing your support by ordering a copy of the Lankes book.


Labor Day: Blackout

Not working on Labor Day seems in congruous. Here's the story of an experiment conducted at the studio earlier this summer...

For several years I have been thinking about the many pre-1800 broken books that can be found in the back rooms of bookshops, that they're rarely worth the cost of restoring (if it's even possible), but also that they can't just be put in the recycling bin. So they pile up.

At the same time I've watched the supply of good (handmade) paper dwindle. Reg is retired now, and every time a package of Barcham Green turns up it causes a frenzy. And so, I wondered how the beautiful papers in broken books could be recycled.

Simply pulping the pages to make new sheets could be done, but the fibers would be quite short by the time they went through a beater a second time, plus the ink would still be there, so pure white sheets wouldn't happen, plus there's the potential for impurities to cause degradation. All in all, not worth the effort.

Instead of pulping the sheets, I wondered about just printing on them. It could be possible to print over existing text blocks, perhaps using larger type printed in a vibrant color that stands out from the printed background. But there's still be a lot of visual interference that would work against extended reading.

Then I wondered about obscuring the existing text, creating a new (blank) field to print on. The easiest solution would be to make the white parts of the paper match the black (printed) parts - i.e. to create a black sheet - and then use metallic inks for printing.

This past summer I finally got around to conducting a few experiments. I found an incomplete copy of Ancient Ballads and Songs of the North of Scotland (volume 2 only), printed in Edinburgh in 1828. Half of the remaining text block was badly foxed, but I harvested the cleanest pages. The paper is a laid sheet of approximately 90 g weight.

My first thought was to try dyeing the sheets. I got two 1-oz jars of Procion MX dye, one jet black and one navy (the shop had only one jar of black, so I went with the next dark color on hand; I doubted one jar would be enough, and assumed the black would overpower the blue).

I dyed the sheets in the same plastic tub I use for damping paper. The sheets were submerged, left soaking for about 10 minutes, then removed & stacked between sheets of waste paper to absorb the excess water.

Drying the sheets down took several days and was very messy. I probably should have pressed them, but didn't have a way to deal with the run-off. When dry, the sheets had a distinctly blue hue, and the text remained unobscured (above).

Even if I could get a dye solution that was intense enough to make the sheets a pure, deep black (and I doubted I could), it would be a messy and time-consuming process. So I turned to my second idea, using HM's new etching press.
A sheet of Plexiglass larger than the book pages was inked with black relief ink.* A page was laid over the inked plate, followed by a piece of Mylar (covering all of the inked portions of the plate, beyond the edges of the page), and then the press blanket. The bed was run through the press, and the page peeled off the Plexiglass. After one side of all the pages was printed, the same was done to the verso.

(* I used rubber-based ink, because I knew the experiment would consume a lot of ink and I didn't want to waste my good (oil-based) ink. I should have, however, thought that miserly idea through: rubber ink dries by absorption, oil by oxidation. Since a dense layer of ink was applied across the entire surface of a 200-year-old sheet of relatively thin paper, it took a long time to dry. Oxidation would have been a more efficient process. Plus rubber ink stinks, while oil has a lovely aroma. Remember: ink should be sticky, not bouncy.)

With enough ink applied to the plate, the text was completely occluded, although the impression remained. However, once the sheets had fully dried, they no longer had the feel of paper: they felt like a thin sheets of rubber. So, from the perspective of processing the paper in a way that retained its essential qualities, the method was a failure.

Nonetheless, to test how these sheets printed, I printed four haiku from an ongoing exchange between two authors of my acquaintance (they were copying me on their exchange, for archiving if nothing else). The text was set in 12-, 18- & 36-pt Perpetua.

There seemed no point in damping the pages for printing: the paper was as floppy and soft as waterleaf. One author's parts were printed in silver, the other's in gold. A few lines were printed in black. Adjusting the inking for the processed paper took some doing: the gold is a much looser ink than the silver and it was easy to over-ink.

I bound up 10 press-numbered copies, having found some lovely Japanese papers in gold and silver versions, and sent the entire edition to the authors. (There also were four A.P. copies, which I used for trial bindings.) That's where the experimenting has stalled to date.

Screen printing might be a faster method for laying down fields of obliterating color, but I think it would still eliminate the paper's fundamental tactile qualities. I'm inclined to think the answer lies with dye: I just have to find the right kind and intensity. Once dyed, the paper could even be re-sized. I'll keep playing and let you know.


Henry Roth & the Second Oldest Profession

Received a broadcast notice from NYC bookselller Abby Schoolman last week with a list of books from the library of Henry Roth being sold on behalf of the author's Trust. Included is one of the titles William Targ published from his private press. He also published a short piece by Roth - Nature's First Green - which probably was the first time I encountered his writing. It caught my eye because of the cheeky inscription Targ had added to the colophon (above) - "the second oldest profession."

Targ was an interesting guy, with a long career in publishing. The books he published under Targ Editions varied widely in format and content, from Roth to Issac Asimov. And he commissioned many of the day's best "fine press" printers to produce his books. Worth having a look if you don't know his imprint.

I acquired my copy of Nature's First Green around the same time (1994) the literary world was abuzz with the news of Roth's return to writing, with the first volume of Mercy of a Rude Stream. He'd produced nothing since his acclaimed debut in 1934 with Call It Sleep. I remember very clearly a statement from the publisher that it was part of a six-volume series, all of which had been completed. Mercy did not enjoy strong reviews, and publication of the second volume (A Diving Rock on the Hudson) didn't make things better. Roth died before the third volume's publication, and some time after that the publisher (quietly) revised the publishing program from six to four volumes. The only (easily found) online reference to this change I can find is on Roth's Wikipedia page:

"Before his death, Roth commented numerous times that Mercy of a Rude Stream comprised six volumes. In fact, Roth did write six separate books. He called the first four “Batch One,” and the last two, “Batch Two.” Roth's editor at St. Martin's, Robert Weil, along with Felicia Steele, Larry Fox, and Roth's agent, Roslyn Targ, found the epic would be best served in four volumes, as the four books of "Batch One" contained a stylistic and thematic unity inconsistent with the remaining two books."


That smells a bit: why didn't people make this argument before the presses started running? Maybe it was a convenient way for the publisher to cut losses on a project that was trending down. The two "Batch Two" books were eventually edited and published in 2010 under the title An American Type.


Speaking of Call It Sleep and Targ, above is a first edition inscribed to him, currently on offer at $48,500. I read the novel back around the time that Targ book landed on my shelf. Eh. Arion published an edition, signed by Roth, in 1995. Not one of their hottest titles, despite the usual Arion attention to detail and production. Roth's not an easy read, and he didn't publish enough stuff to keep the modern first collectors engaged. But have a look at Abby's list, maybe you'll find some common ground with Roth in his library.



Not a Huge Goudy Fan, But...

By coincidence two Frederic Goudy items landed on my shelves this past week, which prompted me to look about for what they were joining. He's never been my guy when it comes to types, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading about him and his work.

The primo of the two new items is all the more primo for being a gift. It's a copy of Goudy Greek, issued from Barry Moser's Pennyroyal Press in 1976. Not a terribly common book; I've never seen a copy before. The spread above describes all that follows: four spreads set in Goudy Greek (24- and 30-point, looks like), with the photo-enlarged logotypes printed in shades of gold and copper. Beautiful presswork by Harold McGrath, with a characteristically sublime binding by Gray Parrot (leather or vellum tips are not seen nearly enough in contemporary edition bindings). Seems there may be a slight typo in the colophon, where Gray is identified as E.G. Parrot III, unless his kid did the binding. I like the way the book is padded with blanks at the back, so it would be thick enough to provide a nicely rounded spine. I have no problem with blanks when the paper's nice (this is Nideggen, which is nice enough).

The other new Goudy title is A Goudy Memoir - Essays By & About America's Great Type Designer, published by Neil Shaver's Yellow Barn Press in 1987. The edition of consists of 75 copies printed on Mohawk (yawn) and 75 printed on dampened Rives (yum). Neil was one of the few printers of his time and place who made the effort to print damp. I met him once and he was a prince. I'll devote a post to his press some time soon.

As I said already, Goudy's types have never excited me, and this collection doesn't change that opinion. I do like the Deepdene italic used for the section that includes John DePol's two-color wood engraving.

All this Goudying got me to thinking of Jim Rimmer, for whom Goudy was an inspiration and icon. He designed and printed several pieces celebrating Goudy's work. One was this broadside printed for "the Seattle Book Arts Guild and the Typochondriacs" (?) in 1993.

Jim had used a smaller version of the same image for a three-color (near as I can tell) linocut cover for the Alcuin Society's journal, Amphora in 1989.

In 1987 Jim also produced this broadside. That was more than a decade before I first visited the shop at the back of his home in New Westminster.

Every time you'd visit him, you'd come away with "scraps" of things that he'd take off a bench or pick up from the floor and offer.

This proof (above) of the Goudy linocut from the broadside was found on the floor & still bears the marks of dirty shoes - it may have been on the floor those years. But more likely he'd just reprinted it.

To wrap things up, a cautionary tale for those embarking on their education in collecting books. The first significant Goudy-related book I purchased was Typologia, in a quarter-leather binding with paper vellum over boards. Found in a shop while on vacation in the U.S. This was around 1995, the earliest days of my interest in printing and books about books. It wasn't cheap, especially for someone still getting used to books with triple-digit prices. But it was lovely and of interest. Only when I got home did I realize that a leaf following the last printed page of the book appeared to have been cut out - the remnants of a stub were just discernible. I dug around in my collection of booksellers' catalogues (this was before the Internet obliterated the need & fun of building your own reference library), and discovered that what I had was the limited edition of Typologia, but with the colophon removed!

Calls to the bookseller - who was not a member of the AABA, but sadly remains in business while his betters have moved on - to inquire brought no joy. He did not return calls. When finally run to ground, he expressed surprise, then postulated that the copy must have come from another famous California printer who was famous for excising colophons (??), and finally simply said it was no longer his problem. I guess I could have travelled all the way back there and made him blah blah blah, but I still liked the book - it's a great account of how a typeface was created - and I decided to chalk it up as a learning experience: if you're going to buy expensive books, know what you're buying, or at least buy from a professional who stands by (& accurately describes) what they sell. Like all the good folks listed at right under Find Our Books!