Nothing Else to Do But Print...

Last month's post turned out to be a little optimistic, in terms of how quickly the production wheels would start to turn. Sharing HM's publishing plans for 2020 would be based on the assumption that six months from now, there will be people (as there have been in the past) sufficiently interested & liquid to order the new books. Obviously everything in our near- and medium-future has changed, and in ways we don't even know. But since we don't know, and there's really nothing else to be done right now, I am going to continue with work as planned. Unlike 99% of people, my working life and routine have not been affected. For the next three months, that means printing Francesco Griffo da Bologna - Fragments & Glimpses.

It will be HM's longest book ever, 114 pages; 14 sections, 28 folios printed two up, 56 sides, each taking a day. I keep trying to do the math differently, hoping to come up with a small number for how long the printing will take, but it always comes back around three months. Self-isolation actually may help me make up for some lost time: my original plan had been two print Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday (i.e. it takes two days to print both sides of a sheet, so two folios per week), but since every day is the same now, I'm just working two on, one off. Today (Wednesday 1 April, no fooling) is off.

I have drafted several iterations of the colophon in recent months, but will not actually set it until the rest of the book has been printed. My plan had been to issue the book's 58 numbered copies in three states: a few in a special binding, available only by advance subscription; 15 bound by Claudia in limp vellum; and the balance cased in decorated paper over boards. There would be some additional ephemeral material included in the first two states. I hadn't finalized issue prices when the crisis hit, but basically it was looking like the pricing ratios between the three states (in reverse order) would be x, 2x and >3x.

That was all fine a month ago, but I realize none of us are in a position to be making financial commitments like this for six months hence. I've already spent a year full-time on Griffo, plus prep work in the previous years; purchased all the materials (including the collection of Aldine leaves); and I'm locked in the house anyway, so I am simply going to proceed with printing the book as planned. When that work is done, hopefully before the end of June, we will see where things are at in the world, and I'll decide how to proceed with the binding(s). And so, printing Fragments & Glimpses is now underway. I started by doing a test sheet, two pairs of non-contiguous pages, just to set the color and get a feel for things. That was a good idea because I got overly complicated with the platen balance and makeready. The printing ended up looking like shite. So I put everything back to zero and proceeded, with much better results.

Meanwhile, I have just made an exciting addition to the Aldine reference library, which I hope will have arrived in time to share in next month's post...Steve Heaver's Hill Press has issued its first new book in several years, and I likewise look forward to sharing some images & details when my copy gets this far west and north...An odd (not catalogued anywhere) Lovecraft pamphlet has landed on my desk; I'll tell you what I'm able to find out about it later in the spring...Claudia & Barbara are working on their next book (which I have signed on to print - late fall 2020?), and it is going to be amazing, on par with The WunderCabinet...

Be well.  


Griffo Starts

Finally getting into printing Fancesco Griffo da Bologna - Fragments & Glimpses. Had to attend to a few other small projects (I'll share them later in the year) before switching the press over.

Most of the copies will be printed on Arches wove (enough for 5 of the 14 sections [112 pages] shown at left); a few will be printed on a 1950s English laid sheet (right), and put into an Aldine-style leather binding by Natasha Herman.

A shot of the studio, reflected in the tympan's mylar base. The parallel black lines are where the roller bearers stand, so all the packing on back and front must be within these lines (or the bearers will leave impression marks on the paper). I recover the tympan and frisket before starting a new project. It's a messy job. I've had trouble finding appropriate material (paper) in the necessary size in recent years. I've been using Strathmore drawing paper, from a roll, but it does not dampen and relax easily. There is always the fear of it drying with a wrinkle, which means starting all over. I got lucky this time.

The Griffo printer's dummy and proof copy, below. Apologies to anyone who's been waiting for this late post. I probably won't be putting much up before the fall, just a few pictures of whatever catches my attention. Griffo will be a full-time affair, plus everything else in life. I'll have images of Will Rueter's Books Are My Utopia in the next month or two, and a small (edition) publication in the summer. News as & when. Also, the Etc page on the HM site has some non-HM books culled from the shelves for sale.


A Whole Lot of Nothing

actually did some setting & printing over the past month, but I can't talk much about the things for now. Instead, it's another collection of unrelated comments and almost-news. Also, I've updated the (non-HM) book sale/cull page on the Web site, if you feel like doing some shopping.

Some finished sheets - intentionally not well shown here - from Will Rueter's Books Are My Utopia. Don't want to spoil the fun of seeing them for the first time in person. Claudia starts binding this month, the edition should be ready for issue in April.

Vaughan Oliver's recent death reminded me that my deluxe copy of This Rimy River needed some repair. It's a catalogue for an exhibition of his work (primarily for 4AD) from 1994. The deluxe issue (400 copies) is basically the same as the trade, but with all kinds of wild metallic overprinting. It's wonderful. The binding is interesting: the text block is joined at the front and back, by stubs about one inch wide, to a leather spine. (Looks like bonded leather, and it hasn't been pared.) The boards are sheets of acrylic that have an image machined in, notched along the spine edges to allow the leather joints to lie flush with the inside face. The boards were originally attached using some kind of adhesive, probably a double-sided tape. My copy of this book came from a few found in a warehouse in the '00s. Upon arrival, the front board completely detatched from the joint at first opening. Ugh. I tried fixing it with the much-missed 3M 889 double-sided conservation tape (what I used for the deluxe bindings of Aurora Teardrops, which was ripped of from inspired by This Rimy River). The tape, which has never let me down in any number of uses, could not hold the two pieces together. So I reluctantly decided to try contact cement, with fears of coating the lovely book in ruinous strands of glue. I didn't, and 24 hours later the board was firmly in place. But an example of an interesting idea for a binding that suffered from a lack of understanding of materials & methods. Nonetheless, cool book, happy to have a copy.  

The frontis from Annales typographici ab artis inventae origine ad annum (1719). Careful who you order a copy from, they may decide it's underpriced and make up a reason why it can't be shipped. Abe used to allow customers to provide seller feedback, but that ended ages ago. And can't we get these people who will make up a facsimile of any book you search for - in a deluxe binding no less! - to go away?  

The Bromer's current gallery exhibition features etchings by the excellent D. R. Wakefield, who has been issuing beautiful books through his Chevington Press for years. He's based in the U.K., and his books aren't widely or frequently encountered in North America, so this is definitely worth seeing.  

The Griffo project is underway, but I probably won't be posting much about it during production - more doing and less talking about doing this year. Publication remains scheduled for fall of this year.


The Origin & Progression of Printing...

I found several cool presents under the Xmas tree last week. One both was & wasn't a surprise: a copy of Pellegrino Orlandi's Origine e progressi della stampa o sia dell'arte impressoria e notizie dell'opere stampate dall'anno M.CCCC.LVV sino all'anno M.D. (Bologna, 1722). It wasn't a surprise because I'd ordered it, from an Italian dealer, in September. It was a surprise because getting the export license took so long that it arrived just days before the 25th, so I delayed opening it & called it a present (even though it's for work). 

(In Italy, all books published more than 50 years ago require an export license. Other countries have similar restrictions, but typically applying only once a fairly high minimum value is exceeded. Not so in Italy. Some booksellers charge a fee for acquiring this license, some don't, some won't even make the effort. Italy not being known for an efficient bureaucracy, securing this license seems to involve repeated visits to a regional office, i.e. badgering whoever has control of the stamp. I was lucky that the bookseller who had this copy of Orlandi was willing to do the legwork.)

I had encountered the book's title in various sources while doing research for this year's Francesco Griffo project. I found a scanned copy online, and despite the poor reproduction, the book intrigued. To the best of my knowledge, it is the first Italian history of printing during the incunable period, attempting to list all of the printers of books active up to 1500 in Europe (i.e. modern Italy, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany, France and England). The first half lists printers by city, and the titles they published (shown above is the first page for Jenson's listing). A short middle section provides some information about printing, the casting and use of type, and five pages collecting a total of 94 printer's marks (#5, in the image below, is Aldus's). The second half of the book seems to be a list of all incunable editions, alphabetized by author's name, e.g. all known editions of Ovid's Metamorphoses published before 1500. 

I have not been able to find much information about Orlandi, beyond him being a Carmelite brother who is perhaps best known for Abecedario pittorico, an encyclopedia of 4,000 painters, sculptors and architects. I can also find little information about the printer of Origine e progressi, Constantine Pisarri. I don't know why his imprint does not appear on the title page of part 1 or 2 (he is mentioned on the penultimate page, in the publication privilege, and his mark CPB appears on the final page). His relationship with Orlandi seems to date back to at least 1704, when he printed the first edition of Abecedario pittorico. He printed other books by Orlandi in 1714 and 1719. 

The Neue Zeitungen von gelehrten Sachen from 1724 includes a brief description of the book (in an impenetrable fraktur), including the comment that Orlandi "found more old books in the Italian libraries than Maittaire found in the English and others." Maittaire was Michel Maittaire, who undertook a similar project, written in Latin and published in London in 1719 (subsequent volumes followed). 

The book is not terribly well printed - probably about average for the time and period - but the setting, variety of types used, format (a wide quarto), and quality of paper make up for the presswork. I particularly like the face used to set the city names...

My Italian could not even be generously called basic, so I will be making my way through Orlandi very slowly. While that can become frustrating, I also find it enhances my enjoyment of the book: because I'm forced to proceed slowly, I see each page more thoroughly. Despite the wealth of information it contains, and its appeal in purely typographic and bibliophilic terms, the book does not seem to command high prices. A copy in what sounds like reasonable condition is currently listed online for about €400. So that's it, merry Xmas to me from HM. I got another cool book, but you'll have to wait a few months to see that one...


Graphic designer Vaughan Oliver died last month. I've written about his work and influence before - it was his inner sleeve for the compilation Lonely As An Eyesore (4AD 1987, shown below) that first opened my eyes to graphic potential of type. He tended to lose his footing when he strayed into book forms, primarily because he didn't understand do's and don'ts of binding, but his album covers were brilliant. 



Busy printing today. Come back in a day or two and I'll have this month's post up...