A Flash of Red

XI LXIVMOS update: that's one of the deluxe copies above, being sewn up by Sarah Creighton. Check out the peak at Francesca Lohmann's calligraphy on the title page... All of the deluxe copies available from HM are reserved; Bromers may still have one or two available. We expect to be shipping them in early January.

Recently acquired a copy of Dard Hunter's Papermaking in India. It came with a pre-publication letter from the publisher, which was accompanied by a clipping from the New York Times Magazine from May 15, 1938. It's an article by DH about his trip. Kool. I'll post something about this book & its companion (Japan, Korea & China), specifically about the challenges of binding paper samples of different sizes into a book.


The Roman Empire All Stitched Up

Why buy an orphaned volume from an 1833 American four-volume edition of Gibbon's The History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire? Especially one printed on such poor paper? Because of this map!

More precisely, because of the restoration done to the paper on the map's lower right corner (verso shown below)...

UNESCO's RAMP (Records & Archives Management Program?) site tells us, "The oldest method of repairing tears in parchment was by stitching, preferably using herring-bone stitch and twine, gut or in more modern times, nylon. However, this method is clearly not suitable as it involves perforating the original support and, despite the remarkable nature of some of the sewing, it is always an anti-aesthetic solution."

That last bit is much too dogmatic. For example, Sherwin Beach Press' edition of Ballet for Opening Day (2002) is one of the koolest books produced ever, in no small part because of the ingenious way they married the text sheets to the (different paper) etching sheets (I believe this was the idea of Trisha Hammer). Beautiful. One of the few remaining books on my Wish-I-Had list. 


Piling Up & Cutting Out

Entering a less verbal, more visual period for the blog ... Sheets for Barbara Hodgson's Mrs Delany Meets Herr Haeckel are piling up. Most (i.e. the ones shown here that are mostly border, with just brief captions at the bottom) will have her original papercuts mounted on them. Same for a frontis across from the title page.

She comes by once a week to pick up the latest batch, goes home & sets to the painstaking work of finishing & mounting the cuts.

Found this gem about rocks last week. Should probably go to Barbara's color reference library. We'll see. For now it's mine.

Not only is it a kool color-related book, it was printed by Enschedé! Sort of: I can't find anything in English that explains what Huyskes-Enschedé was, but it seems to have been some kind of publisher specializing in geological topics. In Holland with Enschedé attached, it has to be tied to the foundry somehow.

Barbara never reads this blog, so I have no fear about her finding out I have the thing & demanding I had it over. Same with Claudia.

Remember, if you're in LA tomorrow, that Barbara will be giving this year's Lieberman Lecture, talking about The WunderCabinet. Claudia, who claims she can't speak in public, will be hiding in the audience, no doubt piping up with questions & comments.


Just Say No to Perfect Binding

Last summer I spotted a spine that stood out from all the thrift-shop tattered & dull ones around it: Luna Bella Luna - A Portrait of Vesale, Italy (1997). It's fundamentally a book of photos - black & white, duotone & color - by Paul Elledge taken in the northern Italian city, with some fun typography and printer's flowers thrown in. Flipping through, what caught my interest was the imprint: published by Mohawk Paper Mills Inc. Paper companies have long sponsored projects that show off their products, but LBL is interesting for being a showcase also of printing and, more to today's point, binding.

The 96-page book employs five variations/kinds of Mohawk's Superfine paper (an admirable paper for this kind of trade publication, but its use in letterpress limited editions reflects a lack of imagination). It was printed at the Stinehour Press, and while the extensive colophon even includes details about the inks, there is no mention of who did the binding, only that the book is "bound by the lay-flat Otabind process. The ability to open this book at any place, and it will remain open, is due to advanced adhesive binding technology and a patented free-floating cover, of this type of binding."

I'd first read about Otabind on the site of Hyphen Press, an English publisher with a long list of interesting & beautifully-produced books related to typography & design. Even before the disappearance of bookstores, Hyphen's title weren't commonly encountered, and they tended to go out of print quickly. You had to look in shops that specialized in design, architecture etc. Most are issued in softcover (i.e. stiff wrap) with a printed jacket.

The Hyphen site includes a long article by publisher Robin Kinross about Otabind, written in 2007. In it he makes passing mention to softcover being his preferred format, but doesn't explain why. I share a fondness for softcovers if & when they are sewn, and especially when a jacket is added. Perfect binding is an abomination that should never be used. So I was surprised & highly skeptical when I read Kinross' article about Otabind, and the fact that despite relying entirely on glue to hold the pages in (like perfect binding), it also allows the book to open flat (which only happens with perfect-bound books when you crack the spine) without destroying the adhesive connection between spine and page. So, the Vesale book, found in a thrift shop for a few bucks, offered an opportunity to test Otabind's claims.

As Kinross explains in his article (and as a trade binder who offers the process also describes, here), the difference between Otabind and perfect binding lies in the type of glue, how it's applied, and the structure of the cover. Here's another article about it, from a Dutch design periodical (Works That Work) that switched to Otabind in 2014.

Interesting to note in Kinross' article that he seems to prefer a variation in which a book is still sewn, and the sections then glued-up using the Otabind process, which really just means the spine is lined (but with cold glue, leaving it flexible), as it should be anyway. Casing-in (whether in boards or a stiff wrap) still relies entirely on the pastedowns, which is asking quite a bit (e.g. like the topic of last week's post, David Sylvian's new 600+ page opus). The Vesale book, in comparison, had had the section folds sheared off - there is no sewing.

Having experimented with Vesale - holding it up by a single page, flattening it open in a manner that would instantly crack a perfect-bound spine - it does seem to hold up to the claims made for it. There are a few binderies in the U.S. that offer the proprietary process; none I could find in Canada. But I still disdain bindings that rely entirely on adhesive: it's lazy & inelegant. A sewn book can open flat when properly constructed (here's a tip - don't put so many sheets in a signature!).

So that's the story of Otabind. There really is no excuse for publishers to be using perfect binding. One way or another, sew your books.

The koolest Hyphen Press book I have is Morton Feldman Says... It's also one of the scarcest Hyphen titles. Not an Otabind (think it predates the imprints shift to the technique).


Hypergraphia, anticipated

It's not supposed to be released until next week, but my copy of David Sylvian's massive, beautiful, incredible new book Hypergraphia arrived via Royal Mail today. I've had a chance only to flip through it; what follows is superficial, except for the enthusiasm.

Sylvian's longtime designer, Chris Bigg, did a brilliant job with what must have been a mind-boggling amount of source material. Sylvian's art has always extended to the visual, both his own work and in collaborations with painters, photographers and graphic designers. The image below might sum up the degree of detail invested in the publication of Hypergraphia: the outside of the jacket is Sylvian's characteristic hazy cool, and the inside is also printed, with a contrasting collage of darks.

Look who appears neat the front of the book - Atsushi Fukui's original painting of "The Botanist," which previously appeared as a simple line drawing in HM's publication of Sylvian's prose poem Uncommon Deities (of which I still have one copy of, FYI...).

The book is published in an edition of 3,000 copies, and seems to already be nearing depletion. (Five hundred copies from the edition were signed by Sylvian and Bigg, & if you have one of those, call me.) It's priced just over C$100, which is nothing considering what producing the thing must have cost. (My only quibble is that the thing is so thick - over 600 pages of heavy coated paper - the text block is already straining from its case. Rounding could have helped tremendously, but who knows if that's even something commercial binderies can do these days.) Hypergraphia could genuinely be called an artist's book, a term I generally despise but which seems apropos here, in content & form. If you have any interest in Sylvian, 23 Envelope/Chris Bigg, or just kool things, hunt a copy down.


Though it is dull & meager by comparison, I finally got around to printing the "jackets" for the 12 deluxe large-paper copies of An Anticipated History.

It's a lovely handmade gampi, with the printed title positioned to perfectly overlay the same line on the Roma wrap. Because the gampi is so thin, it's a little tricky fitting it around the book & getting it to stay in place - keeping the two lines in register - while sewing.

Here's the extra sheet included, with the leaf from a deluxe copy of XI LXIVMOS hinged to the verso.


Vintage Papers in the Stacks

Had to kill some time at the University of British Columbia last weekend. Went to the general stacks to peruse the "history of printing" section. In about 10 lateral feet of shelving was a fantastic cross-section of vintage European handmade papers, many used in relatively pedestrian books. For example, the above census of books printed by William Caxton.

A census basically is simply a list of all known copies in collections. The book contains about a dozen facsimile pages from Caxton books, primarily illustrating the different types, but after that it makes for very dull reading. Nonetheless, the publisher deemed it worthy of printing on a lovely laid paper bearing the watermark Chiers. That's the name of a river that passes through Belgium and France, but a lazy Google search turns up no specific references (there were numerous papermills along the river). Pulling out Le Clert's Le Papier is always fun, but shed no light on the question (probably because his book focuses on papermaking in a different part of France).

On another shelf I spotted some lovely deckles poking out from a tattered buckram case binding, inside which was a more engaging book than the Caxton census, printed on an even lovelier paper. H.C. Brooks' 1927 study of books printed by Giovanni Bodoni remains a primary resource on the influential Italian printer, in part because it was produced in a manner appropriate for the topic.

The bulk of the edition was printed on a handmade laid (vergata) sheet, but this copy is one of 50 printed on a opaque wove sheet with a hard, smooth surface (e.g. calendered) and a large gothic watermark (all were partials, along the fore edges). A few copies of this book are listed on Abe, but all seem to be from the main edition.

As shown above, the name of the recipient (probably a subscriber) was printed on the limitation page, and it gives this copy an interesting provenance. Winship was a famous American librarian and scholar of printing history. He also was a private pressman who published under the imprint Sign of the George. How his copy of Brooks' Bodoni got to Vancouver is a wonder (or not; bookseller catalogue issued some time after his death in 1952?).

The smooth Fabriano sheet shows off the facsimiles, some of which include intaglio illustrations, beautifully.

There's a brief section on types at the back, plus - for those of you excited by Barbarian Press' current fundraising campaign for their book about Curwen Press borders - a few pages showing samples of borders used by Bodoni. If you've seen the horrible Taschen edition of Bodoni's Manual of Typography, indifferently printed on blinding-white paper & stuffed into a case binding that isn't up to the task, Brooks' book is a balm for your eyes.

Both the Caxton & the Bodoni books are in the most mundane and purely functional case bindings that reflect exactly what these books are: reference materials. At the time they were published, handmade paper was sufficiently available and affordable that using it for a book was not a deluxe affair.

Barbara Hodgson has been invited to give this year's J. Ben Lieberman Lecture for the American Printing History Assoc! She'll be talking about her collaboration with Claudia Cohen for The WunderCabinet. She's an engaging public speaker, and this will be a rare opportunity to gain first-hand insight to their work. Claudia will there but I can't go: have to stay home & work at printing her next book...


A Future History

Spent the past week printing up an 8-page advance history of HM's anticipated doings for the next two years. Will be sending copies out to our regular booksellers this week. Ended up with forty-some completed; some will be available to purchase for a nominal sum.

Most were printed on off-cuts of the afore-mentioned Golden Hind, along with a sheet of Arches Wove (about the best over-the-counter text sheet for letterpress around these days, in our opinion).

Had some slightly larger offcuts of BG Bodleian 80 g handmade from some previous project (Metal Types? dunno), enough to make up 12 copies, so I did. These "large paper" copies include a leaf from the Deluxe edition of XI LXIVMOS hinged in.

The cover paper is Roma Fabriano. It's a bizarre sheet in a patently non-HM color (pink), purchased for pennies on the dollar at the bankruptcy sale. The laid sheet (probably machine-made, doubtfully mould) has an exaggerated screen side that makes it useless for printing. It's been in the studio for ages. But the color matches nicely with HM's newly acquired stock of bronze ink, which will be re-appearing in the upcoming Harold Budd project.