31.10.13

What a Typographic Book Should Be



Let's take a much-needed break from blather about HM, to look at a truly inspiring book: A Glossary of Typographical Terms, with text by Oliver Simon, published by the Blackmore Press of art school student Bev Leech, Vancouver, 1961 (oblong 8vo, [90] pp.). A limited edition of 56 numbered copies, set in Garamond and printed on Golden Hind laid paper (same as our Kuthan goof from a few weeks back). 


A tour-de-force of letterpress design, creativity and printing. This was Bev Leech’s graduation project from the Vancouver School of Art, where Bob Reid was one of his instructors. As Bob recounts, no one knew what Bev was up to that whole semester, until he presented this book, completed, to tremendous applause. 


Per the title, the book is an illustrated glossary, starting with Ampersand and concluding with Wrong Fount. Each recto presents between three and six brief definitions, with one of them being illustrated on the facing verso. The term being illustrated on each spread is printed in black; the other terms are printed in gold. The bold illustrations were created using a variety of techniques, including linocuts, metal plates, metal types, wood types, tipped-in samples (i.e. deckle edge, hand-made paper, marbled paper), flowers, and rules, all printed in a variety of colors.

Not only is the book artistically conceived and beautifully printed, but Bev had the sensitivity to have it bound by a professional. The endsheets are made, not tipped on, and the back has been rounded. Oblong books really aren't our scene - ever & emphatically - but this one works. 


A very kool book, all the more so for being essentially unobtainable now. (Three copies are known to have been available in the past 15 years: one is HM's, one is ex-library & was picked up for a song by a printing friend, and one passed through our hands, on the way to a Special Collections. If one is offered to you, don't dicker over price, just buy.) 


Bev Leech went on to have a long career as a graphic designer. In the later 1960s he followed Bob Reid and Ib Kristensen to Montreal, and then returned to B.C. (with a bunch of the wood type, Caslon in all sizes from 8-pt up to 72, and thousands of sheets of Guarro paper, which ended up at HM a few years ago and upon which we have since printed a number of books, including the recent Types/Paper/Print). In Victoria he worked as an in-house designer with the famed Morriss Printing, but the glossary was the one and only publication of the Blackmore Press: he did no subsequent “fine press” work. With pleasing symmetry, he designed a new, limited-edition of Roderick Haig-Brown's Pool & Rapid (scroll down a bit & you'll see copies of the book still available at issue price, $100), published by the Haig-Brown Fly Fishing Association in 1996 (remember our previous post about kool H-B books?). It was the last book printed at Morriss Printing. Bev is now retired, much of his type and his printing equipment is in the hands of Strathcona Press, an hour up-island, in Cedar. We met him a few years ago at an event celebrating the career of Bob Reid, and he graciously signed our copy of A Glossary of Typographical Terms.


Visually, Metal Type & Some Paper will look nothing like Bev's book, but hopefully it will share some of its joie de vie. Had another idea for a possible title: Monkey Metal. Thoughts?