Some Truths About Publishing

I’m reading a fantastic book. It’s been on a shelf here for a few years, but I hadn’t looked at it until a recent series of duds from the library left me casting about for something engaging. The Truth About Publishing, by Sir Stanley Unwin, was first published in 1926. The book is written from the publisher’s perspective, which is the one with the most expansive view of everything it means to publish books, from the intangible, to the practical, to the unsustainable. It was reprinted many times; I’m reading a revised edition from 1960. Despite the changes in technologies and commerce over the past century, it remains the most comprehensive primer for people interested in any aspect of publishing I’ve encountered. I’d particularly recommend it to authors, for its insights to production (costs), contracts and all the other non-creative parts of publishing a book. Much of it could also be easily extrapolated for any kind of business that involves agreements and partnerships with artists for the distribution or presentation of their creations, e.g. music, games, performance. Here are a few of the pearls to be found:

“It is probably true that anyone who could make money at book publishing could make more in other business…it is possible that the better work you do [at publishing], the less monetary reward you will receive.”

“…the one time practise of throwing in the Canadian market with the American rights is unjustified. The rule is for the Canadian market to be retained by the publisher in the country of origin.”
Damn straight!

“It is one thing to produce a book, quite another to sell it, though some authors one meets regard the two as synonymous.” Some publishers too, but they tend to disappear after a book or two.

I managed to get down to the annual Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend. For once it wasn’t held on the Thanksgiving weekend, which is never a time one wants to have to cross the border. The absence of two long-time regulars - Michael R. Thompson and Louis Collins - was felt by everyone, but not morosely so. Saw lots of cool books. Eastons Books, of Mt Vernon, had a number of books from the estate of a Washington-state binder named Derek Lowe. Many were books about binding that he had rebound in quarter or full leather; some were books he’d purchased in sheets and bound. I got John Ryder’s Intimate Leaves from a Designer’s Notebook (Gregynog, 1993) in a lovely leather binding with inlay to the front board. I’ve only dipped into the book so far (one problem with books bound like this is you can’t just leave them lying on the floor by the bed…); Ryder may be a little pedantic and humorless for my taste, but we’ll see.

Speaking of nice bindings, here’s a surprise that came my way recently: a copy of Gill’s Hamlet, printed by him for the Limited Editions Club (1933), rebound by Claudia Cohen. For years she’d been sitting on three copies (mine + 2 more) in busted bindings, and I’d long ago given up pestering her to bind one up for me, so when she said she had a surprise for me this was the last thing on my radar. Subsequent to acquiring my busted copy, I came to learn about, and grapple with, Gill’s complete failure as a human. I didn't have to grapple much: he was, and should be remembered (if at all) primarily as an evil narcissist. I confess to finding Perpetua a masterpiece that cannot be denied, and that his book Typography contains many opinions that resonate and inspire. His art, compared to what else was going on during his lifetime, never particularly interested me. But I admire this Hamlet for its production, and Claudia's binding is much more elegant than the original. Told you I’d find something to set me off for this month’s post!

One of the aforementioned library duds I tried reading this past month defeated me on purely typographic grounds: its 400+ pages were set in Optima, very generously leaded. I could not get past the second page. I like Optima very much, but the combination of the face, the leading, and the content (magic realism, to use the easiest label) proved unbearable. It wasn’t ugly, just not conducive to extended reading.

Work on the Kelmscott & Doves leaf book proceeds on schedule. Not much more to be said about it right now.


More Writing Please

I started printing the new book last week; that, & a lack of anything worthwhile to report or rage against left me with little time or interest for posting. As I knew it would be, this project is a bit of a logistical hassle due to the sheets' large size (20 x 15"). They're so big that they make the Ostrander-Seymour Extra Heavy press look compact, which is an alarming thought.

Due to unexpectedly enthusiastic response to the plan for some of the 50 copies to have all of Martin Jackson's calligraphy actually written out by him, i.e. true calligraphic copies, with the agreement of all involved (including those who'd placed orders), the number has been increased from 12 to 20. Above is shown the sheet with the title page. The ones at left will go to Martin, when all printing is completed, and he will add his parts (in red). The ones at right are for the "Printed" copies, which will be cased at HM.

It takes three days to work off a sheet - one for each side in black, then a third for the addition of red to both sides - so we're more or less on schedule.


Unrelated: encountered a printing term I'd never heard before - chalcography, as in "a chalgographic frontispiece" (above). As far as I can tell, the process is synonymous with intaglio, so I don't understand if the term implies some difference.

I'll try to have something more interesting than just a progress report next month. With luck I'll encounter something book-related that will set me off...


Garage Sale (con't)

Just added a few new items to the ongoing HM garage sale/fundraiser. Proceeds will go toward acquisition of a few choice reference books I want for the Francesco Griffo project. Check out the work-up on the (near fine) jacket of Oriental Assembly!


Michael R. Thompson Was Cool


I was slow to hear the sad news that the great Los Angeles bookseller Michael R. Thompson passed away in August. Michael was a valued supporter of HM (it was through him that our books first got into the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Library), and a source of advice on more than one occasion. He also provided a number of the high-spots on my bookshelves: the three-volume Grabhorn bibliography, the Laguna Verde bibliography, and the copy of William Andrews Clark’s Kelmscott and Doves press collections from which the text for HM’s next book was set are just a few of the titles. He loved helping collectors acquire coveted items, but he hated when I sold one book to buy another - he felt it diminished the long-term process and goal of building a personal collection.

Much of my early education in books, collecting, printing and publishing came from booksellers, either directly or through their catalogues. When I started HM, I knew the handful of booksellers who specialized in fine press books, and I judged my progress by if and when HM books got  into their catalogues. Michael was one of those booksellers, and it was tremendously satisfying when, around 2005, our work caught his attention. Michael’s business will continue, under the direction of his long-time associate Carol Sandburg, who has also been a tireless promoter of HM. We look forward to the continued connection, and the memories of Michael it will always stir. There’s a good tribute to Michael by Bruce McKinney here, with links to a few other memorials.


Details of the next book have been finalized and it will hit the press this month. The Kelmscott & Doves Presses, an essay by Alfred Pollard with leaves from The Golden Legend (1892) and the English Bible (Vol. 1, 1903) will be set in Centaur and feature original calligraphy on the title page, the essay’s opening, page numbers and initial letters throughout by Martin Jackson. It will be printed in two colors (the calligraphy in red) with the handpress on dampened Arches wove (160 g) paper. Each of the leaves will be presented in its own opening, hinged and sewn to the gathering to allow for easy turning. It will be a large book (10 x 15 inches, 30 pp.) to accommodate the Bible leaf. The edition of 50 copies (plus 5 H/C) will be issued in two states: copies 1-12 will form the “Written” issue, with all of the calligraphy in each copy scribed by Martin. These copies will include the best leaves available, and be bound by Claudia Cohen, in a handmade-paper binding tooled in gilt, with a box. Copies 13-50 (the “Printed” issue) will reproduce his calligraphy from polymer plates, and be cased at HM in decorated paper over boards. The issue price for the Printed issue will be $750. We anticipate having copies ready to ship in January, 2019 (followed a few months later by the Written copies).


One More Day

Gimme till tomorrow for this month's post. Back to school etc etc. Till then, have a look at this.


Everything's Gone Green

Got a company vehicle. Could do deliveries now. Won't. Vespas are one of the greatest designs ever.

Can't spend all my time riding. Contrary to the normal schedule for this blog, there may be a couple of brief post-scripts during August. FYI.

The paper for HM’s next project has been on order for the past few months, with no guarantee it would materialize anytime soon. Yesterday I received notice that it has shipped, and so I can broadcast details of the project. As previously mentioned, it will be another leaf book, this time featuring pages from the Kelmscott Press’s Golden Legend (1894) and the Doves Press’s English Bible (vol. I, 1901), with an essay about the two presses written by the English bibliophile Edward Pollard.

Pollard’s essay was written for the catalogue of William Andrews Clark Jr.’s collection, published in 1921 by John Henry Nash. Rather than a straight historical account of the two presses, Pollard offers a meditation on their influences and influence, particularly in matters of design and typography. He also makes specific, & reverential, mention of Edward Johnston’s opening calligraphy for the Doves Press’s edition of Paradise Lost, which sparked in me the idea to recruit Canadian calligrapher Martin Jackson for the project. Martin and his wife emigrated from England in 1968, and he established a career and reputation as a versatile and creative calligrapher. He has helped on a few HM projects (most recently editioning copies of Aurora Teardrops), and I have been looking for a project that would more expansively feature his work. Luckily the Pollard essay, and my ideas for how to incorporate Martin, appealed to him. During May and June we had several meetings to discuss design ideas and options, which for me were like a master class in visual structures, layout and letterforms.

The page for the new book is very large (10 x 15 inches) to accommodate the Doves leaf (about 9 x 13.25 inches). Martin’s calligraphy – printed in red, from polymer plates – will be featured on the title page, the essay’s opening, at least one initial letter in each spread, and the page numbers. He will also edition (number) the books. After trials with a few different types, we settled on Centaur, which may seem a cliché or safe choice, but really was the face that best suited the text, and complimented (rather than clashed with) the calligraphy and the types on the Kelmscott and Doves leaves. The choice of paper was affected by a special consideration: I knew I wanted some small portion of the edition to have the calligraphy actually done by Martin, rather than printed, so the paper had to be suitable for his pens. Arches text (the 120 g weight) has become my preferred commercial paper, and Martin is happy to work on the Arches wove sheets in any weight, but I was concerned that the book’s large page required a heavier sheet. I often find the 200 g feels too heavy – too rigid – for books, and was happy to discover that Arches makes a 160 g weight. Then everything ground to a halt when I was told it was on back-order. 

Printing will start in September. The book runs to just 30 pages, plus the leaves, and each sheet will go through the press four times, so six to eight weeks of printing. Per the number of Golden Legend leaves available, the edition will be 50 copies (1 – 50), plus five hors de commerce (I – V). In the edition’s first 12 copies (& three H/C) Martin will add all of the calligraphic parts by hand, and sign the colophon. We are calling these the “Written” issue. They will be specially bound by Claudia Cohen in handmade paper over boards, embellished with gold tooling, and housed in a box. The “Printed” issue (copies 13 – 50) will be cased at HM with decorated paper over boards. Copies of the Printed issue will ship early in 2019. The Written copies will be issued in the spring.


Augustine Mathewes, Printer (& Rascal)

This month’s post reprints a short preliminary chapter from HM’s recent publication, Labour Vertue Glorie. It’s a biographical sketch of Augustine Mathewes - aka Mathews, Matthews, & A.M. - the man who printed George Wither's A Collection of Emblemes (1635). I won’t be posting any other chapters, and have selected this one simply because it should be of general appeal to anyone interested in printing. Mathewes' printing in A Collection is not an example of the best work being done at the time, not even for England. It’s workmanlike. But the amount of setting and printing involved, with the conditions and equipment of the day (how did anyone see anything?), and his productivity make me feel feeble & lazy. But my printing is better.

The device included on the title page of Labour Vertue Glorie was adapted/appropriated from Mathewes’ own, as it appears on the title pages in A Collection’s four books (i.e. parts). The references included here have been renumbered from what they are in the book, just for simplicity.

AUGUSTINE MATHEWES took his freedom as a Stationer in 1615. The first book he entered to the Register, in 1619, was Thomas Decker’s O per se O, or the belman of London. By 1620 he was working in partnership with John White, who had inherited the printing house of his father, William. In 1624 Mathewes assumed control (“farmes his printing house of John White”) in exchange for an annuity.[1] Mathewes’ name made regular appearances in the Register for the next two decades, sometimes for printing unlicensed works (not an entirely unusual occurrence at the time).


Notable books that Mathewes printed include Lady Mary Wroath’s The Countesse of Mountgomeries Urania (1621), which featured a frontis engraved by Crispin de Passe’s son, Simon, and is considered the first published prose romance written by an English woman; an edition of The Troublesome Raigne of John, King of England (1622) with a title page that mis-attributes it to William Shakespeare; and the second quarto of Othello (1630). Mathewes also published two editions of William Haughton’s comedic play Englishmen for My Money, one in 1626 for John Norton (whose name appears as printer on the title page), and the second in 1631 for himself.[2] The original license lay with William White, and must have come to Mathewes when he assumed the business (and its licenses) from son John.

William White had printed George Wither’s fourth book, The Shepherds Hunting, in 1615; it may have been through his association with White that Wither met Mathewes. The printer’s first recorded work with Wither was in 1622, when he printed Cantica Sacra, the publication that prefaced Wither’s protracted patent dispute with the Stationers’ Company.


Things seem to have started going badly for Mathewes in 1636. In the Registers of the Stationers’ Company is a record of Sir John Lambe, who was then investigating London’s printing industry, referring to Mathewes as a “pauper,” followed by the ambiguous statement “(let them agree who shall be, they have now 3: presses:).” The same record states that Marmaduke Parsons “hath kept matthews printing house.”[3]

In 1637 a Star Chamber decree tightening controls on access to presses and printing of all kinds was passed, in part a response to Puritans’ challenges to the Church of England. One of the most notorious Puritan pamphlets inciting the decree was The Holy Table, written and published anonymously by John Williams, bishop of Lincoln. “Williams in essence challenged the policy of calling the holy table an altar and of insisting that parish communion tables must be placed altarwise, at the end of chancels…The revised Short-Title Catalogue lists seven separate editions of this work, all dated 1637, but none of them provide information about stationers in the imprint.”[4] One of the stationers was Mathewes, who was caught printing the tract.

A record in the Stationers’ Register dated July of that year includes a letter written by John Lambe, the Dean of the Arches, addressed to himself. He states that “the forbidden book which must forever be associated with this Decree was The Holy Table,” and lists those “worthy to be authorized printers under the increasing durance to which the Press was now to be subjected.” The letter includes a brief statement about Mathewes: “he was taken reprinting of ye Holy Table. Marmaduke Parsons hath long had his presse and priu[v]ledg[e] made over to him and is most fitt to be in his Roome.”[5] Mathewes was out and Parsons was in. 


States Papers Domestic for July, 1637 includes two entries mentioning Mathewes. The first summarizes Lambe’s letter of printers “worthy to be authorized.” The second summarizes Mathewes’ plea for clemency to the commissioners overseeing the printers of London, for his transgression with The Holy Table: “Understanding he has committed a great error, he prays the commissioners to be a means with Archbishop Laud that he may be admitted as a master printer.”[6]

His plea was unsuccessful, and Mathewes seems to have been made an example for the new decree: his name disappears from the Stationers’ Register for the next fifteen years. In 1653 he entered a copy of William Johnson’s book Vocabula Chimica, then oblivion.

1. Arber, E., ed. A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554-1640 A.D. vol 3. Privately printed, 1876. 700
2. Baugh, A. C. Introduction to Wm. Haughton’s Englishmen For My Money, or A Woman Will Have Her Will. Privately printed, 1917. 92
3. Arber. Registers of the Company of Stationers, vol 3. 704
4. Towers, S. M. Control of Religious Printing in Early Stuart England. Boydell Press, 2003. 241
5. Arber. Registers of the Company of Stationers, vol. 4. 1877. 528
6. Bruce, J., ed. Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series, of the Reign of Charles I, 1637. Longmans, Green, Reader, & Dyer, 1868. 344 

Here's a P.S. found after publication of LVG...


Got No News, Here Are Some Pictures of Books

Labour Vertue Glorie has enjoyed some attention & kind words over the past month, but enough coasting, time to start the next one. I'll have more complete details by next month, but for now here is what I can commit to:

That's a quarto sheet from The Golden Legend (Kelmscott Press, 1892). The sheet measures approx. 16 x 22.5 inches, which folds down to a page approximately 8 x 11 inches.

That's a quarto sheet from the English Bible, vol. I (Doves Press, 1902). The sheet measures approx. 18.25 x 26.5 inches, which folds down to a page approx. 9 x 13 inches.

In both sheets, if you look hard & imagine, you can see the two registration-pin holes along the vertical fold (i.e. separating the opposing heads to create the top margin), roughly aligned with the outer edges of the text blocks. That's how you print with a handpress and ensure consistent registration (especially with dampened paper).

HM's next book is tentatively titled simply The Kelmscott & Doves Presses, and will reprint an article on those topics by Alfred Pollard (see above), accompanied by a leaf from the Kelmscott Golden Legend and the Doves English Bible. It will be a large book (10 x 15 inches, printed in folios), to accommodate the Bible leaf. The paper will be Arches, printed damp. Unless we scrap everything & start all over, the text will be set in Centaur, with a calligraphic title page, opening, and initial letters throughout. The calligraphy will be done by Martin Jackson, and we're currently at work finalizing how it will look and integrate with the typeset material.

HM has previously recruited Martin for a few small projects - most notably The Mouse & The Lizard and the special copies of El Autotubus Azul (2nd ed.) - and I've been wanting to undertake a proper collaboration with him for years, one that fully incorporates and displays his talents, and this will be the project.

The edition will be 50 copies, plus five HC. The book is scheduled to be printed in September and October. Each sheet will have a second color on both sides, which means three consecutive days of printing per sheet. Because the sheets will be bigger than my preferred maximum size  to date (13 x 18 inches, the size of Reg Lissel's foolscap sheets), I must acquire a complete new set of boards for damping and drying, and at least one more book press large enough to accommodate them. A few copies might leak out in time for Christmas, but I'll put 2019 on the title page.

Pollard's essay is primarily typographic in focus, and he had (and admits to) a preference for the Kelmscott books and types. Nash's original printing doesn't rank with his best work - Pollard's essay is set in italic Caslon (the dreaded Caslon...), sometimes in lines with almost no word spacing - but whaddaya want for a catalogue. It's an excellent bibliographic reference for the two presses. I found my copy with the kind help & indulgence of Carol Sandburg and Michael R. Thompson.

I don't have anything else interesting to report or axes to grind, so I'll pad the rest of this month's post with images of things from the HM shelves that might be of interest...

When I acquired the Golden Legend leaves, a few years ago, I knew I'd be stumped for how to use them, given that Neil Shaver had already done an excellent & beautifully-produced leaf book on the subject (printed damp on Batchelor & Son laid paper c.1940; Neil was the last printer in North America I can think of who regularly dampened his paper for printing). Why there are so many loose leaves from the Golden Legend floating around I don't know. The fact that it's a three-volume tome probably has something to do with it. But I was even more potentially snookered than I'd realized: I'd forgotten that, tucked beside my copy of Neil's book, was a pamphlet printed by Grabhorn-Hoyem for a Roxburghe dinner in 1966, with a Golden Legend leaf! It also reprints an extract from Chapter Six of Thorstein Veblen's 1899 essay "The Theory of the Leisure Class" in which he expresses a dim view, from economic and sociological perspectives, of the kind of books Morris produced. The pamphlet consists of four sheets (16 pp) of English handmade wove paper. Beautiful initial letter (engraved, I'm guessing). Edition of 116 copies, self-wraps, quarto, 16 pp.

I plan on publishing an illustrated, expanded & larger-format second edition of my Francesco Griffo bibliography-in-quotations, possibly as soon as next year. I've started poking around for sources I couldn't get or didn't know about when I did the first edition. This is one little item that's cropped up (& is one of the sources responsible for Griffo's work being credited to the wrong person for some time).

Found this on the shelves of Serendipity Books during one of Peter Howard's famous pre-ILAB fair pig roasts, the year of the first Codex fair (2007?). Lazy pressman was being a bit cavalier when putting the paper in the press, but a cool book nonetheless. I love even the most commercial of French printing right up to the mid-20th century, and I miss Peter & Serendipity.

Let's end with a bouquet, Printer's Flowers - Whimsicalities from The Windsor Press (1933, 150 copies). Quite small (24mo?), charming patterned paper over boards, a lively typographic frolic. Exactly the kind of book I don't have the talent, mind or patience to create.


Labour Vertue Glorie

This month's post is a few days late but with good reason: we've been shipping out the Series 1 and Series 2 copies of Labour Vertue Glorie. Then I was taking photos of Claudia Cohen's beautiful bindings, which I saw for myself the first time (in person) just this week. All of these copies were subscribed before publication, with most of them going to HM's established booksellers. So, we don't have any copies, but there should still be some available from the booksellers (links at right).

The Series 1 and 2 copies were bound in quarter vellum, with Karli Frigge's marbled papers over boards. The books were sewn on five vellum slips, which were then laced through the joints.Claudia relinquished the last of her stock of Karli's beautiful papers, so every copy is unique in the edition (four of them shown below).

By advance order, Series 1 copies could be extra-bound, although we hadn't settled on a clear plan for what the binding would be when we took the orders. I wanted something that included some of the elements of the quarter-bound copies, and we settled on a three-piece structure with a vellum spine and boards covered in black leather, tooled in gilt and blind. These copies (of which there were seven, numbers 1 - 7) included a second Wither emblem leaf, opposite the colophon.

The Series 1 copies also included a leaf from the preliminaries of Wither's emblem book, as a frontis. The image above is my own copy, so naturally I got the coolest leaf, the portrait of Wither by John Payne.

The Series 1 copies were distinguished by matching the two Crispin Van de Passe engravings on the Wither leaf, with the same plates from the Rollenhagen book (for which the engravings were originally commissioned). This allows for comparison of the two images printed at different times, in different places, on different papers, and presented in very different ways.

Again, being the printer, I had the pick of the litter, so my copy includes a conjugate leaf from Rollenhagen, with the duplicate image having been printed upside down!

So the long-promised Wither leaf book is finally & fully finished. We're into the fiddly details of the Kelmscott/Doves leaf book, which is going to be alarmingly large to accommodate the Bible leaf. More to follow...


A Stack of Books

Down to the last strokes of finishing off Labour Vertue Glorie. Just have to attach the spinners to the volvelles in these copies (has to be done after casing-in & pressing or the spinners will deboss the facing sheet, even with the spacer leaf). It's fiddly work but mostly mindless: I can let my mind ponder elements of the upcoming Kelmscott/Doves leaf book....


Gutenberg's Children (Good & Bad)


Random notes of a bookish nature…

I’m currently reading Alix Christie’s 2014 novel, Gutenberg’s Apprentice. Just like lawyers can’t read most legal novels and cops can’t read cop novels, because they almost always ring false, my initial reaction to books about printing & etc. is extreme skepticism. So far Christie’s novel – which revolves around Gutenberg’s relationship with Johann Fust and his adopted son Peter Schoeffer – is entertaining & seems well researched, which isn’t surprising given her background in printing: she apprenticed at the Yolla Bolly Press, which produced some beautiful books in the 1980s and '90s. Christie still owns a Chandler & Price, although she now lives in London & it’s on loan to someone in San Francisco. Her publisher created a good Web site for the book, with some historical and technical background for readers who want to know more. Apparently the novel's English publisher issued a handful of a special "large paper" copies with an original leaf from the 42-line Bible tipped in, but I haven't been able to find any listings or info.*

Christie’s book sits on a shelf at home beside another Gutenberg novel, Blake Morrison’s The Justification of Johann Gutenberg (2000). Christie’s Gutenberg is a less immediately sympathetic character than Morrison’s, if I remember his book accurately. Both are enjoyable historical yarns.

I recently encountered a non-fiction book about letterpress and the associated crafts, which I will not name. It was so wretched that I couldn’t just toss it aside, I actually had to skim the entire thing to see if the banality & ignorance were sustained to the end. (They were.) It’s an example of a book that exactly does not understand the world of historical or contemporary letterpress. The narrative is built around the author’s collaboration with a local letterpress printer whose quirky personality is reflected in his publications. It is yet another case of someone stumbling on to an enthusiastic but not very skilled hobby printer; thinking they’ve discovered a forgotten world full of esoteric histories and occult practises; and deciding they’re the person to tell everyone about it. For readers with absolutely no knowledge of the history of printing or publishing, the book might be an entertainingly vicarious excursion, but there are many better choices if that’s an excursion you want to make. Readers already interested in the topics will find its naiveté and shallowness depressing – is this really what the traditional crafts associated with printing have come to, light fare for an unremarkable meditation on print culture? This book – probably like the one chronicled in its text – did not need to be published.

Bad letterpress printing (ahem you above) irks me, especially when the person doing it also presents her/himself as a representative for the medium. This is why I have only ever considered myself someone who knows what good letterpress should be, rather than someone capable of achieving it, much less teaching others. I’m all for introducing people to letterpress and fine-press publishing, but let’s lead with our best efforts so those people will also develop an appreciation for quality, in materials and execution. Just smashing type into paper only diminishes the work of people dedicated to mastering – and sustaining – the vocations and techniques that combine to produce a book.

Let’s end on a cheerier note: Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s The Ninth Gate was a fun read involving slippery antiquarian booksellers & clever forging of early printed books. Try the book but ignore the film…


The next book is underway & might even appear before the end of the year. It’s another leaf book: an essay by Alfred Pollard about the Kelmscott & Doves presses, accompanied by a leaf from The Golden Legend and the Doves Bible (!). I have enough leaves to issue a total of 55 copies. Details to follow…

* for details see date of this post...


A New Leaf Book from HM

Time for an update on Labour Vertue Glorie: that’s the trial binding for the 25 copies (Series 3, numbers 24—48 from the edition of 48) being cased at HM. It’s similar in appearance (but not execution, alas) to the quarter-vellum copies being bound by Claudia Cohen. She’s progressed farther with her work, but we’ll both be wrapping things up over the month of March, and copies will be shipping in April.

To recap the project, George Wither’s A Collection of Emblemes Ancient & Moderne shares the milestone for first emblem book printed in England with his contemporary Francis Quarles. Wither’s book, however, is distinguished by, among other features, its more lavish format and the quality of its copper-plate engravings, the same plates commissioned from Crispin van de Passe for Rollenhagen’s Nucleus Emblematum Selectissimorum.  

L-V-G presents leaves from both books, side by side, illustrating the technical, physical, and conceptual similarities and differences. Although the history and elements of emblems pre-date the Renaissance, the most commonly recognized form — an image, a motto, and an epigram, which combined make the emblem — appeared in Andrea Alciato’s Emblematum Liber (1531). The form flourished through the 16th century, but was already considered somewhat old-fashioned by the time Wither and Quarles wrote their books. Enough time had passed by the late 19th century for emblems to be rediscovered, and they have since become a field of lively academic study.

The focus of L-V-G (the title is taken from Wither, Book 1, emblem V), however, is not the content or interpretations of the two authors’ emblems, but the production and form of the books from which these sample leaves come. To that end, the book reprints three of Wither’s prefatory notes from A Collection: one about William Marshall’s engraved frontispiece (a reproduction of which is included), one about the “game of lots” included in the book, and “To The Reader” in which he discusses at length the book’s intent and creation. Each of these is appended with comments from a variety of sources, discussing and sometimes disputing the author’s words. L-V-G’s own prefatory material includes brief biographies of Rollenhagen and Wither; some bibliographic details about the two books; a history of Augustine Mathewes, the printer of A Collection; and the story of Wither’s protracted patent dispute with the Stationers’ Company, and how it relates to the publication of A Collection of Emblemes. Engraved portraits of both authors are reproduced, along with facsimile settings of an emblem (i.e. page) each from Alciato’s Emblematum Liber and Quarles’ Emblemes.

In addition to de Passe’s elegant engravings, Wither’s book was noteworthy for including a game at the back: two volvelles with spinners that would direct players to a specific emblem in the book for their personal consideration. Most existing copies of the book lack this final leaf with the volvelles. L-V-G will reproduce both, with working spinners, and the volvelle from an earlier work, by the Jesuit Jan David, which is thought to have been the model for Wither’s lotterie.

Like any leaf book, the format of L-V-G was determined by the size of the largest leaf. The text was set in Monotype Garamond (several sizes) on a page that measures slightly larger (8 x 12 inches) than Wither’s quarto. Like the books from which the leaves came, the type was inked and printed by hand, with a handpress, on dampened paper (Arches Text wove for the introductory material, Golden Hind laid for Wither’s commentaries). A number of decorative initial letters from A Collection were incorporated to the setting, along with various patterns made up from the single printer’s flower used in that book. In Series 1 and 2 copies, the initial letters (a total of nine per copy) have been illuminated with metallic bronze paint.

Aside from brief preliminary material, Rollenhagen’s book is entirely intaglio, printed rectos only. Wither’s book combines the intaglio plates with extensive letterpress on each page, and is printed on both sides; thus, one Wither leaf presents two emblems (recto and verso), while one Rollenhagen leaf presents one emblem (recto only). With these different formats in mind, L-V-G is being issued in three states:

SERIES 1: Copies 1—16 with leaves containing the same emblems from Rollenhagen and Wither (i.e. two Rollenhagen leaves bookending a Wither leaf, presenting the same plate from each book side by side, as shown above), to allow for comparing the state and printing of the same plates. Also included will be a text leaf, from the preliminary notes and dedications in Wither’s book, as a frontis. These copies will be bound by Claudia Cohen in quarter vellum with Karli Frigge marbled paper over boards.

(* By advance subscription, copies 1—7 are being extra-bound by Claudia, with a vellum spine and gilt- & blind-tooled black leather over boards. These copies also include a second leaf of emblems from Wither’s book, opposite the colophon.)

SERIES 2: Copies 17—23 with a leaf from Rollenhagen paired with the same plate on a Wither leaf (recto or verso, as the case may be). Bound in quarter vellum by Claudia Cohen with Karli Frigge marbled papers.

SERIES 3: Copies 24—48 with a leaf from both Rollenhagen and Wither (but no duplication of plates). Cased in decorated paper over boards at the HM studio.

I’ve been telling people the papers used for the Series 3 copies was recently discovered at an Old Montreal customs house, in a basement room that had been walled off & forgotten sometime before WW I. That's a bit fat porky pie, but a fun story. They actually were made up at the studio, with acrylic paints and a grid of butcher’s string glued to a sheet of plexi.

As usual, contact any of HM’s booksellers (listed at right) if you’re interested in acquiring a copy.  


Looks like next in the press will be another double leaf book, this one featuring the Kelmscott & Doves presses and an essay by Alfred Pollard. Like to have copies of that out by the end of the year; see how we go. And then - in 2019? — the long-promised expanded, illustrated second edition of Fragments & Glimpses