29.1.15

Decorating Paper at Codex



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

AND ANOTHER THING

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


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


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


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


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


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

19.1.15

This Is Bordering



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


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


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


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


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


So far so good. Check back in a week.

12.1.15

Volume Status



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


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

9.1.15

This Hamlet is a Fakesimile



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

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


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

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


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

AND ANOTHER THING

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




29.12.14

A Couple Sheets of Paper for Christmas



That's (mostly) all I got. They are, however, pieces of Dard Hunter's watermarked Mountain House paper, and printed upon them are announcements for two of his publications, Old Papermaking in China & Japan (1932) and Papermaking in Indo-China (1947). Nice accompaniments to Dard Jr's type-casting pamphlet discussed last fall.

I like the typed addendum at the top of the Old Papermaking. It's a beatutiful, crisp white laid sheet, with the chain lines running horizontally. Both of the prospectuses are single sheets folded once. Pin marks can be seen along the top of Indo-China, telling is it was printed on the handpress four up (i.e. in quarto).


Indo-China is a slightly heavier, cream wove sheet with a small USA watermark. Interesting bit of parenthetical promotion on the last page, regarding the post-publication supply and demand of Hunter's books. There are a couple of copies of Indo-China offered online right now, both at $5,500. No copies of the China & Japan volume are currently listed. One sold at Bonhams in 2010, with an estimate between $2,500 and $3,500 (although that copy was in a custom binding by Gray Parrot).


Checking Dard's investment prognosticating, adjusted for inflation eighty years after publication, the price for a copy of China & Japan comes in around $1,200, which makes the book look like a good play. But as always, compound interest beats everything: $75 in 1932, left rolling over in a bank, would be around $13,500 now. But wouldn't you rather have the book?

15.12.14

Old Family Letters



Sorry about no post last week: nothing to say but lots to do. Besides, that Eno/Mills post seemed to attract lots of interest. This week still not much to say, but some interesting images to share from a disbound late-19th century book about the art of illumination. It bubbled up from the unpacking. Been in the family since around 1859 (see below).


The Art of Illumination as Practised in Europe From the Earliest Times, Illustrated with Borders, Initial Letters and Alphabets Selected & Chromolithographed by W.R. Tymms With An Essay and Instructions by M.D. Wyatt, Arch., London, Published April 2nd 1860 by Day & Son, Lithographers to the Queen.


A phantasmagoria of chromolithography. Over 100 vibrant pages reproducing letters and illuminations, arranged chronologically from the 6th to the 19th centuries. Printed rectos only.


At the back is a long two-part essay by Wyatt about the art. The second part is particularly interesting, with detailed instructions and discussions of colors, materials and techniques.


He also includes several pages of useful inscriptions categorized by the room or setting for which they are suited...


This copy is accompanied by a second volume, also disbound & lacking a title page or any identifying information. It consists of bifoliums each producing a decorative alphabet (none of them very interesting), printed in one color (not always black, & generally not very well printed).


The most interesting part of this collection is the signature on the front flyleaf of its first owner - Emma Stebbins, the noted American sculptor (and HM relative, much to her probable chagrin).


So there's something to look at this week.

1.12.14

A Frank Look at More Dark



From its very start in 1929, the English publisher Faber & Faber has issued the occasional title it deems sufficiently important in a deluxe, limited edition format: James Joyce, T.S. Eliot and Siegfried Sassoon were the authors at the top of the roster whose work received special publishing attention. (There were a lot of other authors during the firm’s first decade, whose work hasn’t necessarily aged so well: several pages of pre-1940 Faber limited editions for under $25 on Abe. The boon for limited editions, and book collecting in general, started to decline right around the time Faber went into business.) It’s a tradition the firm continues to this day, albeit in a more select fashion. The limited edition page on Faber’s site currently includes a series of broadsides by four contemporary poets, specially commissioned by Faber and printed at Hand & Eye Letterpress in London. Today’s topic, in general, is limited editions issued by trade publishers; specifically, it’s about More Dark Than Shark, a book published by Faber in 1986.


More Dark Than Shark reproduces works of art by Russell Mills inspired by Brian Eno songs, along with detailed notes by Mills and five insightful essays by Rick Poynor. It is perhaps the definitive study of the work that is the foundation for Eno’s ongoing influence in music, art and culture to this day. (The book was issued concurrent with an Eno compilation album, titled More Blank Than Frank; "Blank Frank" is the title of a song from his 1973 debut album Here Comes The Warm Jets.) The book is beautifully designed, by Malcolm Garrett (interesting to note that he’s credited on title page) and his team at assorted iMaGes, in a square format slightly smaller than an LP. Conzett & Huber of Zurich printed the book on a white coated paper. (Interesting factoid: the book was commissioned by Pete Townsend, who at the time was on sabbatical from The Who and working as an editor at Faber.)


I found a copy of the book the year it came out, in Montreal at Cheap Thrills. It basically was a shop in the second-floor sitting/dining room of a brownstone walk-up near the gates to McGill. (Think it's still in the same location.) Sold used CDs, records and books, and lots of new imports, mostly from the UK. The copy of More Dark Than Shark I found there was wrapped like a package in a coated blue paper with the title and some rules printed letterpress, in darker blue. I was smart enough to keep the paper: I’ve not seen another copy with it, nor met anyone who’s seen it.


Inside the wrapping was a Smythe-sewn softcover of 144 pages. This isn’t a review of the contents or design, but suffice to say it’s a joy to look at and a trove for Eno fans to read. But paperbacks can be a pain: you’re always having to cradle the spine while reading, to prevent it from opening so much that the spine cracks, followed soon after by a book that falls apart. I wished I could find a hardcover, to have something both more readable and permanent. The publishing info indicated there was a hardcover, but all pre-1990 inquiries turned up nothing.


Some years later, post-World Wide Web, I learned that the hardcover actually was a limited edition of just 150 copies, signed by Eno and Mills, and issued with a print. Huh. No idea what the issue price was, but twenty years later it hovered around $2,000, if you found a copy.


Long story short, I recently found a copy, or it found me. (A few seem to have turned up in the last two months.) It was very interesting to compare it to the softcover. (No idea if Garrett was involved in designing the hardcover, but for reasons that follow I suspect he was not, and that its format was ultimately determined by someone more like a production manager.)


The softcover features a stunning wrap incorporating images by Mills; this wasn’t used anywhere in the hardcover, and it’s a shame and a loss. (If nothing else, it could have been used for the endpapers. The book was simply cased in black cloth, with the title stamped on the front board in white (a different design than that used for the paper wrap on my softcover copy.) It’s a perfectly serviceable trade case binding, but nothing special. The book comes in a heavy kraft paper slipcase, with the title stamp repeated on the front.


The signatures of Eno and Mills appear on the half title page, but there is no colophon, limitation statement, or other indication that the book is a limited edition. There is a slip of paper laid in, identifying the book as a Faber limited edition, and the spine of the slipcase has the number matching that of the print (i.e. from the edition of 150) pencilled in lightly at the top.

Perhaps most inexplicable is how Mill’s print was treated: The book is wrapped in a clear acetate jacket, and the print was simply sandwiched between the back board and the acetate! Worse even, it has to be turned sideways to fit, because its dimensions don’t match the book’s!


The intaglio print is titled “Warm Jets.” A bookseller’s description (for a copy no longer available) describes the print: “ 'Warm Jets' was printed at Curwen Studio, London from three plates on Curwen Special mould-made paper with additional hand coloring in amber wash ground watercolor, nail varnish overpainting, and rubber stamp by Harriet Hill and Russell Mills.” It has been torn right to the four edges of the image, leaving no plate mark or border. I wondered if it was a piece of a larger print, torn down to make smaller ones; the abstract nature of the image, plus the addition of elements by hand to each print, would lend itself to subdivision, but this probably was not the case. Nonetheless, the print should have been done on a sheet of appropriate dimensions for the book, and been bound in (e.g. as a frontis).


Unlike the softcover issue, which benefited from a cohesive design and direction from cover to cover, the limited edition hardcover seems to have been the result of a series of decisions that did not take each other into account. This is usually what happens when trade publisher’s issue a limited edition: it’s an afterthought, & generally just a slightly more elaborate package for the author’s signature, nothing more. But it can be more, without a lot of extra work or expense - just some creative thought.


Reaching for the nearest example, take the deluxe issue of The Gehenna Press - The Work of Fifty Years. This invaluable bibliography of Leonard Baskin’s imprint was published in collaboration with the Bridwell Library for a 1992 exhibition, in an edition of 2000 copies. Most of those were issued in wraps, but some were cased in black cloth. There also was a deluxe issue of 50 copies, signed & numbered by Baskin, but that’s the least interesting difference.


The deluxe copies were bound by David Bourbeau in a rough handmade paper, with simple gilt tooling on the front board and spine. The text block was sewn in a long-stitch format on a paper support, and opens beautifully flat. The pages were left untrimmed.


The book was expertly printed (offset*) by Oxbow Press, but these 50 copies include at the back an extra section of 14 pressmarks printed from the original blocks (i.e. letterpress) by Art Larson. Their absence from the main edition does not weaken its reference value; but their addition in the deluxe copies, especially being printed by long-time Baskin printer Larson, is an appropriate and pleasing extra for the collector.


* Oxbow printed a number of projects for Baskin through the 1980s and '90s, including Hermaika (1986), featuring photo-litho reproductions of drawings. In The Work of Fifty Years, Baskin’s note about the project begins with the statement “…The prejudiced cognoscenti pronounce the gospel that no typographic excellence can be achieved by photo-lithographic means. This is utter nonsense…” and goes on to make a case for the process, particularly when it is the most appropriate for the job at hand (as it was for Hermaika) and performed by a skilled printer (as was Oxbow).

So, a plea to publishers who want to piggyback a “deluxe” issue on to a trade publication: make it more than a slightly better case binding with a signature inside. Take advantage of the additional design opportunities offered by the form. And don’t make it a Frankenstein’s monster, a collection of extra parts that don’t add up to a cohesive whole. All that aside, still happy to have the hardcover, if only so it can lie flat on the desk while being read. 


None of that has anything to do with HM, at least not directly. I’m gonna go put on The Pearl (cover art by Mills)...