Pictures, Mostly

More pictures, less words this month. Francesca Lohmann's An Alphabetical Accumulation was published in October, copies sent out. See the usual suspects listed at right if interested in acquiring. The edition is 36 copies, but only 30 were for sale.


The calligraphy on book and box is original, not printed. The book was printed on three different, intermingled papers, the sections then sewn by Claudia Cohen onto a chemise made from old parchment documents. Vellum slips were attached to the chemise, and the sewn block laced into a limp vellum case.


The image above shows the "doublures," with the vellum slips laces through the case and the parchment chemise becoming the equivalent of front and rear pastedowns (though no adhesive is used, just the vellum slips).


Look close & maybe you'll see the embellishments Francesca added to the printed title page.


The first letter. Francesca's calligraphy throughout is in red, the printed facsimiles in black.


And a lovely little coda added by her to the last page of each copy...


A publisher couldn't ask for two more inspiring and easy collaborators than Francesca & Claudia. Preliminary work on another book with a calligrapher, whose identity will be revealed soon, is underway. Possible publication in late 2018; depends how ambitious he gets with the original calligraphy to be added to each copy. 


HM is all about leaf books these days. Progress is being made with Labour Vertue Glorie. Here's a sheet pulled on Halloween, right off the tympan & added to the stack, interleaved with boards for drying:

A couple of leaf books came my way recently. I'm keeping the acquisitions down by focusing primarily on incunabla, and there probably aren't a dozen leaf books with incunables. And of those, some include the leaf in a pocke, or some similar scheme: if they aren't tipped in - preferably to a tab, to make turning the leaf easy - I'm not interested. Anyway, an early Book Club of California title with a leaf from Aldus' Hypnerotomachia Poliphili came my way!


De Vinne's essay was originally published in 1881, and it is one of the first sources that perpetuated the Anthony Panizzi's incorrect assertion that Aldus' types were cut by a goldsmith named Francesco Raibolini. (De Vinne's essay was also published in 1983 by Targ Editions.) The text is set in Poliphilus (natch), and printed (and/or inked) rather heavily on Barcham Green Hammer & Anvil paper. I suspect they didn't dampen the paper, which is a waste, and accounts for the muddy result. (For some good handpress printing, see the Allen Press item mentioned further down this post..)

I justified the purchase as a necessary reference for the expanded second edition of Fragments & Glimpses, which is starting to take form. Here's the leaf:

Vancouver had an antiquarian book fair last month, and it didn't suck! It was a modest affair but included maybe 20 dealers including several from central Canada. For printing nerds, the best stuff was found at Bill Matthews' table. I got a hors commerce Allen Press sheet, printed for a Roxburghers dinner; a copy of the prospectus for volume 2 of the Grabhorn Bibliography, to be tucked into my copy of said volume; and another BCC leaf book, A leaf from the 1583 Rembert Dodoens herbal, printed by Christopher Plantin. Yes, it's outside my preferred timeframe, and its printed on awful, smooth white machine-made paper, but it's Christopher Plantin. And it was cheap.


Finally, remember I mentioned the Florin Press' book of wood engravings by Monica Poole recently, and that there was a deluxe issue with a section about printing the engravings that I wanted to get my hands on? Well, I didn't, but I did get a copy of the text from that section, which is what I'm really interested in anyway. It seems to be some kind of offprint that the printer probably gave away. So, I graingered it right into my copy of the book.


"In Original Binding"

Similar to last month’s post, this one’s about a book, The Allen Press Bibliography (1981). It’s also about a specific copy of that book, one I found in sheets and took the opportunity to grainger. That isn’t a proper verb, but it’ll become clear.

I don’t remember how the Allen Press first became an interest for my collecting pursuits, in the early 1990s. It probably was a result of my education being confined to dealers down the West Coast, especially in California, where Lewis & Dorothy had been at the center of the fine printing clique since the 1950s. I likewise don’t exactly remember why, when I decided to start printing in earnest, it had to be with a handpress, but the Allens’ books certainly must have influenced that prejudice.

In the early aughts, while my collecting muscles were still in regular use, I set my sights on what I considered to be, for me, three foundational contemporary handpress books (i.e. books displaying the excellence that can be achieved only with a handpress, hand inking and dampened paper): Everson’s Psalter, Baskin’s Jewish Artists, and Allen’s Printing with the Handpress. A facsimile of that last book was published shortly after the Allen’s original, but a book about printing on the handpress really needs to be printed on a handpress. I eventually (actually, pretty quickly) got copies of all three, and found myself looking around and wondering, what now?

Press bibliographies are a particular interest to me, especially if they include sample leaves of the books listed. It’s like having a mini-exhibition of the press’s work in your hands. (This is why I still have not acquired a copy of Neil Shaver's Yellow Barn Press bibliography, despite my regard for his work - no sample leaves!!) The model for most press bibliographies has been that of the Ashendene Press (below), although the samples in that book are facsimiles (resettings) of pages, not actual leaves from the original printing. It contains brief comments from Hornby about each title, along with the bibliographic specifics. The Allen’s bibliography received much praise when it was published, enough that the Book Club of California produced a facsimile (which also had sample leaves!) worthy of the original, in execution and materials, just four years later, in a much larger edition (750 copies; see last image below) than was usual for that group.


Binding was the role of Dorothy in the Allen partnership, and she was competent at making flat-spined case bindings. The material or paper used to cover the boards seems to have been the source of greatest interest; the cases are perfectly fine but not quite on par with the printing. Nonetheless, the bindings became part of the Allens’ overall aesthetic, and their books often are immediately identifiable among a row of spines on a shelf. Which makes the matter of my copy of the bibliography, found in sheets, tricky.

The sheets came with 6 original leaves - I think that’s how many each copy contained (more on that in a minute). One of the sheets in my copy was a Picasso lithograph from Goll’s Four Poems of the Occult (1962, shown at top of this page), which is pretty kool. To these I added six more samples, all prospectuses. The technical term for this is “to grainger,” - adding additional (related) content to a book. Originally this generally implied additional copies of prints in the book, e.g. state proofs or colored copies. But it has since been applied more widely, to any additional content that makes a copy unique. 

And I’d lined up a binder worthy of the book: Hélène Francoeur, of Quebec. She and I had both attended the first week-long printing course offered at Barbarian Press (1996?), and she did (does) beautiful work. My budget stretched to a full-goat binding, but with minimal tooling & certainly no inlays etc. I came up with the stylized AP to be debossed in the boards. Dealing with all the salted-in samples was a bit of a challenge, especially the folded prospectuses which added that much more bulk to an opening. And I wanted everything sewn in (i.e. tipped to hinges), at the appropriate place, by the book’s listing, not stuffed in a pouch at the back. She got it all done, lots of shims & guards, and a few months later a beautiful, sober, solid volume arrived.

I can’t remember if it was before or after, but I also got a copy of the BCC facsimile edition. It was never a rare book, given its large edition. I probably thought it would be useful to have a reference copy, to save my graingered copy the wear & tear. A few years ago the price on these facsimiles bottomed out and copies seemed to be everywhere; I see several copies listed online today under $100, which makes them a steal: the book is beautifully produced, and an engaging read for anyone interested in printing & fine-press publishing.

Sometime later, and again I don’t remember when or why, I encountered a bound copy of the original edition, and bought it. It must have been priced cheaply, or come from someone who had an outstanding invoice. It is bound in quarter-cloth, with block-stamped cloth over boards. Dorothy liked block-stamped fabrics. It’s quite plain next to the copy bound by Hélène, but it also is more obviously & genuinely an Allen Press book.

(Taking photos for this post, I discovered this funkiness in Dorothy's sewing of the first signature - what's going on here?! It looks like she was using doubled thread - which I've never encountered - and one has broken but the other is still intact. I dunno.)

Over the past few years I’ve been shedding as much stuff as possible, trying to pare down to just what’s regularly useful or necessary, as opposed to nice to have around. I’ve long had a general rule for non-reference books: if they haven’t been taken off the shelf in over a year, then maybe they can move on to a new home. (And if a book isn’t going to a be useful reference in one way or another, it doesn’t even get into the house now.) All of which brought my attention to the three copies of The Allen Press Bibliography taking up shelf space.

Culling the facsimile would be the easiest decision, but with cheap copies abundant, no one needs mine. Which of the two originals to let go? The one to which I added all the extra samples and had bound in full goat would seem the likely candidate to keep, but there’s something about a press book in the publisher’s original binding. I pretty quickly decided that was the copy to keep. If you disagree with this line of thinking, and are interested in a unique copy of The Allen Press Bibliography, with an original Picasso litho & six extra sample sheets added, in an austere bespoke binding by one of the best binders working in Canada today, it’s yours for US$1000. Lemme know. You didn’t realize this was one long advertisement, did you. The book has moved along to a new home.


Come back next week, I'll have a cool type thing to share...


The Man in the Window...

…and other stories.

This post might atone for the lightweight stuff that’s been going up over the summer.

Sometimes while at work, particularly when doing detailed, picky stuff, my brain needs a break. If I’m at the computer, one distraction I occasionally indulge is surfing the local craigslist for “letterpress,” or “book press,” or my favorite, “etching.”

I happened to have heard recently an interview on Fresh Air with Robert Wright. He’s a visiting professor of science and theology at Union Theological Seminary, and the author of a recent book (Why Buddhism Is True) that examines connections between Buddhism and Darwin’s theory of evolution, to explain why we seek pleasure but are never satisfied. Speaking to Terry Gross he said:

“The problem of paying attention is a problem of controlling your feelings. If I’m working on a piece of writing, and it’s getting to this problematic stage where I don’t know what to do next, that starts feeling unpleasant. Then suddenly it pops into my mind that there’s this smartphone I want to research because I need a new smartphone. And I enjoy that, I like researching smartphones, and that’s a good feeling. If you really pay attention to what’s going on, when you get distracted and fire up your browser, it’s just a contest of feelings. There’s a kind of thirst you’re surrendering to.”

So that explains the craigslist surfing. But just for printing equipment and prints, nothing else. 

I got distracted from the point of this post, which is a print I found: Scrolling through the dreck posted for sale, I spotted one print unlike the others, most immediately because of the shape of the image area: the top was arched. I’d seen prints like this years ago, the shape and the style, at the home of Jan and Crispin Elsted, aka Barbarian Press. I recognized the artist’s name from their prints: Graham Clarke. I’m not a particular fan of his work, it’s too folksy in content and execution for me. (Folk, as an adjective, is a word I pronounce with a sustained short U substituted for the ol: uuuuu…) It reminds me of Rigby Graham, and I never understood his appeal either.

This particular print of Clarke's also reminds me of the newspaper cartoonist Giles, for the level of activity crammed in. Every anglo kid who grew up in Canada in the ‘70s had at least one, often many, copies of the Giles annuals published at Christmas. They often ended up in the bathroom, and with nothing else to do, kids looked through them. We were oblivious to the specific political or social topics, but his cartoons were great for being packed with all kinds of visual gags and details. There was a shaggy little doughboy with a jacket that was held closed with a safety pin. He didn’t seem to be part of the “Giles” family, but he was always in the background. A proto-Bart Simpson without any speaking lines. I liked him.

Anyway, what really caught my attention about this Clarke print on offer was a sheet attached to the back of the frame. I append it here; see if you can spot what caught my attention…

Pip is what Crispin’s family and friends call him. I knew he and Jan were in the UK in 1978, that’s when they first got into printing. And they were introduced to it by Graham Williams, of the Florin Press. Now we’re getting to what really interested me about this print: not so much the etching, but this sheet on the back, printed by Williams.

One of the first press books I bought, and to this day one of the best I’ve ever bought, was a copy of Monica Poole, Wood Engraver, beautifully printed by Williams on not just one but three handpresses - a Columbian and two Albions. Poole’s work was stunning in detail and execution, and not dull pastoral studies seen in too much wood engraving. Even when her images do stray to the countryside, there’s a sense of menace, and often details that almost seem surreal. Very kool.

The book was set in Optima, which might seem an incongruous choice but it works. Fantastic book, immaculate printing. A cornerstone of the HM Handpress Library. I’d love to get my hands on a deluxe copy, which includes an extra section by Williams about printing the blocks. He was actively printing and publishing through the 1980s, but seems to have devoted himself primarily to sculpting.

I sent Crispin a photo of the print and sheet, and asked specifically about the plans for Clarke & Elsted. My inquiry generated one of his charming notes in reply, part of which I share here (with his blessing): 

"I remember the print. In fact we have one inscribed to us by Graham with its original title, which was "Restoration Comedy", but his dealer in Cranbrook, Kent, thought that it was a bit too lofty, so Graham changed it. We were staying with Graham and Wendy when he made the etching (we were looking in the area for a place to live) and I guess he thought the two names sounded euphonius! The job in question was in fact some restoration work on the front of their cottage, which dates from the 15th century (there’s a date carved in the mantel) in which they still live.

Graham Clarke continues to issue prints, and prices for earlier ones (his career seems to date from around 1971) start at a few hundred pounds. The print on craigslist was just a few pounds, so I bought the thing. I’d thought of laying the text sheet into my copy of the Poole book, a kool piece of (unrelated) Florin ephemera, but it’s slightly too big for that. The print I extracted from its acidic matting. I’ve wondered if finding someone who can cut the arched window in a mat would be difficult, but it’s moot for now.


Francesca's An Alphabetical Accumulation is being sewn & stuffed into limp vellum covers as this is being posted. Copies should be on display at next month's book fair in Seattle. I've added a page on the HM site, under books, with some photos.

I have likewise added a pre-publication page for the Rollenhagen/Wither leaf book, Labour Vertue Glorie, with some production and edition details. I'll be posting images of the book as work progresses, illustrating some of the specific parts, like the working lotterie volvelles.

Anyone interested in either book should get in touch with one of HM's booksellers; they'll have all the details and can assist in reserving a copy.


Paper Post

Got my first chance to actually spend time with a complete copy of Folding Paper this past week. It's hot in July, half of B.C. is on fire, and the smoke has started to blow west, giving Vancouver a martian-orange haze (surely the end of times...), so let's be lazy & just look at some shots of the book...

The book was printed by David Clifford at Black Stone Press. The title page, however, was printed at HM (on the handpress) because the sheet, which gets folded down to book size, was too large for David's Vandercook.

The book's text is interspersed and illustrated with dozens of tipped or inserted samples of the structures and techniques discussed...

The colophon employs the same folding technique used for the book's prospectus (hint: open & close by holding from the top right edge, and the sheet will open and close as required).


Folding Paper Unfolded

The tale of Folding Paper is now almost told: the second batch of copies (out of three) will be going out over the next few weeks. The first copies that went out, in May, enjoyed instant and enthusiastic reactions:

“FOLDING PAPER just arrived here and it is gorgeous, marvellous and WONDERFUL!!! If I weren’t already prepared by opening several of your other previous miracles I wouldn’t have believed it!”

Michael R. Thompson
Michael R. Thompson Rare Books

“Another absolutely wonderful production.”
Bill & Vicky Stewart
Vamp & Tramp Booksellers

It is a stunning achievement. You and Claudia and all who worked on it should be so proud. I see the volume with all its parts as a work of art fused with scholarship. Thank you for creating such beauty.
Anne Bromer
Bromer Booksellers

Presented in a box with a lift-off top (similar in structure to The WunderCabinet), the 80-page book rests on top of compartments holding 15 folded-paper structures described in the book, along with a magical Chinese thread box. Barbara Hodgson researched, wrote and designed the book (in collaboration with Claudia Cohen) over a two-year period. Before, during and after this process, Barbara and Claudia folded their way through 450+ paper samples needed for the edition.

After the book was printed at Black Stone Press in late 2016, Claudia tackled the challenge of making boxes and binding the books. Like their previous books on related topics - Cutting Paper, Decorated Paper, and the color series - it’s this tremendous amount of hand-work required to complete each copy that limits the number of copies in each edition. The letterpress is the easiest (or at least, most straight forward) part!

The through-line for all of Barbara & Claudia’s collaborations has been expanding the book form to explore and display a vein of the graphic & decorative arts, often one that has become outmoded or commercially unfeasible in contemporary applications. The book provides the history and context, while the embellishments - from tip-ins to peripherals - provide the opportunity to actually hold what is being described, to see how it’s constructed and how it works.

As with some previous projects, we took the new publication as an opportunity to ask Barbara some questions about the creative process behind it…

Which of the pieces/samples in the book proved to be the most technically difficult?

There were several kinds of technical difficulties that we had to overcome. Number one was our own abilities to fold paper with accuracy and precision. We practiced a lot before we reached the point of being confident that we had achieved sufficient proficiency. Practice also included trials on various types of paper, since a model might be successfully folded on one type of paper only to fail miserably on another. 

The second difficulty was figuring out how to place now-bulky pieces of paper within a book that must lie flat. Solutions included eliminating the bulkier models;* folding the models from the thinnest papers possibly; building up the spine through the use of shims; using thick, rigid paper for the book’s pages; and distributing the models judiciously. (* Some of these “bulkier models” ended up in compartments that sit underneath the book, in the box.) 

From the point of view of individual pieces being technically difficult to fold, many were worth the effort. One was the tessellated hydrangea [shown here], designed by Shuzo Fujimoto. It incorporates a number of ingenious folding techniques, making an intricate, three-dimensional yet flat model. Another challenger was a family of folded puzzles known as flexagons. These chains of equilateral triangles are assembled in such a way as to shift faces when folded.” 

How important is paper in the art form? Are there some techniques that work only with specific papers? And given the increasing decline in paper varieties available, how if the art form being affected?

Paper is 90% of the success of the art form. If the paper is inappropriate, the result will always be failure, no matter how proficient the folder. We found that many Japanese papers will work well for making envelopes but will be too soft for making pleats. Glassine is terrific for tessellations (repeated regular polygons) because it is thin, strong and translucent, but it is not appropriate for most containers. Lowly kraft paper is perfect for practice, as it can be folded into almost anything, but it is not a good choice when the aesthetics are important. In general,   strong, thin papers (with long fibres) were the best choice. In the book, we include three pages of paper samples, showing the kinds of papers we experimented with. 

The decline in the availability of papers is more of a concern when it comes to visual appeal. Widely available common papers, such as cotton bond and the kraft paper mentioned above, fold well but are not as appealing as other, harder to come by papers.

Are there any contemporary fine artists doing work with folded paper that you find engaging?

There are a number of contemporary artists and non-artists making amazing objects from folded paper. One of the wonderful things about folded paper is its appeal to architects, engineers, mathematicians, and others outside of the arts. They are using folded paper and its techniques to solve problems, create structures, design packaging, and so on. 

How, or when, do you two decide when a sample is bound into a book vs being separate (in the box)?

Any sample that can’t be folded flat goes into the box instead of being bound in the book. Some examples include certain three-dimensional pleats and tessellations, such as a pleated piece known as a trouble-wit [above], which collapses, expands, and revolves, but never lies flat; and a tessellation known as a waterbomb [below], in which a piece of paper is folded into a field of three-dimensional cubes.

Where would a person interested in collecting (old) folded-paper art or pieces look for them? 

“One of the existing sources of older pieces of folded paper can be found as children’s kindergarten exercises, once known as Froebel gifts and occupations. These are generally found in albums, dating from the late-19th to early-20th century. Outside of these albums, certain vintage Japanese origami books incorporate actual folded origami models. Otherwise, we found very little, in spite of our best efforts. Because of this paucity of material, we made all of the pieces we include in Folding Paper.”

You two have done two previous book similar in scope & concept, Decorating Paper & Cutting Paper. When you finish one of these projects, which take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, do you find that, having delved as deeply as possible into the subject, you just naturally move on to something new? (I’m doing a poor job of asking, once completed, are you done with the topic & ready to move on? Or possibly worse, do you find yourself thinking of one more thing you could have included…?

None of our books let us go when we have finished.

is a quarto-sized book, 80 pages plus tip-ins, set in Monotype Fournier and printed letterpress on Arches Cover paper. Each copy contains some 150 tipped-in examples from pleating, education, computational geometry, toymaking, origami and packaging. Included will be examples shown in progress, as well as finished pieces, in a variety of papers. Brief essays discuss approaches to folding techniques, the process of creating illustrated pieces, and paper choices.

The book is bound in quarter leather and paste paper with onlays, leather fore edges and extensive gold tooling. The design and combination of materials is repeated on the box, with interior compartments arranged to snugly fit the samples included.

The edition is 30 numbered copies signed by the creators, plus six A.P. copies. The edition was fully subscribed before publication, but copies may still be available from  HM’s regular booksellers; please contact them (see list at right) directly for details.

Claudia & Barbara promise their next book (publishing 2019-ish) will be equally imaginative, but no details offered yet...


See U

I'll be posting a regular monthly update in a few days, featuring info and images from the just-released Folding Paper. Until then, here are a couple of images of HM's next publication, currently being bound (in a non-adhesive limp vellum structure) at Claudia's studio: Francesca Lohmann's An Alphabetical Accumulation. See you before the end of the week...