I've been reading about the history of printing in England recently. I jumped in about 150 years late with the Wither project, so I'm going back to the start and working from there.
The problem is that reading about the introduction of printing to England quickly becomes entwined with a debate over who actually invented what we call printing. Sigh.
So before I could get too far into Middleton, I needed to find a copy of Atkyns’ pamphlet. Nothing online, either for sale or digitized. However, it had been reprinted, apparently only once since 1664, in A Pair on Printing (Bird & Bull Press, 1982). It’s one of Henry Morris’s more modest publications. Turns out I have a copy, purchased when Wessel & Lieberman were closing, but I'd never really opened it. It reprints the Atkyns’ pamphlet in facsimile, which is unfortunate because the original, like much English printing of the time, is not very lovely, and the facsimile seems to make it even worse. The whole thing would have been more engaging if Henry had set it in type.
Anyway, I made my way through that, and then returned to Middleton. Like Bowyer, his pamphlet is uncommon but not rare, and not too dear when found (three figures, not four). I found one quite inexpensive because (1) it was disbound and some sheets had become separated, and (2) some monster had cropped out the small (& not terribly interesting; see above) engraving that appeared on the title page. I just wanted to see and read the original, so I wasn’t fussed.
Now I was ready to return to Bowyer, and see what he had to say about Middleton’s argument. It gets in the deep weeds pretty quick, and his comments have references to Meermam’s essay, so I jumped over to skim that. His central thesis was that the invention of printing with type originated at Haarlem with Laurens Coster. This led to the Coster v Gutenberg bun-fight that raged through the 19th century, which is recounted in a chapter of William Blades’ Books in Chains (1892), so I got lost down that tributary for a few days. (I’m not sure why this set of Meerman sold for so much, it can be had for a tenth the price these days. Perhaps because each volume is bound separately here. Not sure if Large paper actually means a large-paper issue, or just that this copy still has most of its original margins.)
(For a concise summary of the Mainz/Haarlem debate, see McMurtrie’s Dutch Claims to the Invention of Printing.)
There is no number in my copy, but each of the leaves is penciled 688, so I’m guessing maybe that’s the copy number. The content of the leaves appear to correspond with the titles. The wording suggests there might be copies outside the 700, without leaves, but even in 1895 I suspect 700 copies was enough to meet demand for this title. Maybe the publisher was hoping for a second edition.
When Will Rueter published Majesty, Order & Beauty in 2007, I requested a set of sheets and he kindly sent them. I wanted to put my own binding on the book. I don’t know why.
Among 100+ books published by Will, this is one of Aliquando’s high spots. It combines all the things that characterize his work: color, artfully arranged type, lovely papers plus his own wood engravings.
There should be a special place in Hell for people who ask for a set of sheets and then never bind them. If it exists I was headed for that place until this past week. The printing side of things at HM is on hiatus for a few months so I’m catching up on various binding and box-making chores, starting with Will’s book.
I’m glad I didn’t bind it until now. My initial plan had been to sew it on vellum slips laced into a limp case of Reg Lissel’s “vellum” paper, which is made from over-beaten abaca. It feels like vellum, is hypersensitive to moisture like vellum, and is almost as tough. But in truth I knew this really wasn’t the right type of binding for this book, and I just didn’t feel equal to the task. So the sheets sat in a box.
Over the past five years – since Aurora Teardrops – I’ve been focusing more on my binding (i.e. casing) skills, and they’ve come along, enough that I felt ready for Will’s sheets.
Will’s book featured spectacular gold endpapers that had been created by his great-uncle c.1900. (I think they're printed but they might be stencilled.) The endpapers dictated all the other parts of the case.
I like simple paper-over-boards cases, but from a strength and longevity perspective, they’re really only appropriate for slimmer books. Majesty, Order & Beauty consisted of five signatures, each four pages, plus the endsections; it needed stronger joints than just paper.
I’m not a fan of most quarter cases, particularly the type where the spine covering attaches to the outside of the boards. Whenever possible, I prefer a rounded spine.* So, for Will’s book, I needed something for the spine, and something for the boards.
I’ve been enjoying painting papers to use for cases. I decided to make something gold for Majesty, Order & Beauty. I started with a sheet of yellow Guarro laid, and applied a dilute wash of black acrylic. With this & each subsequent wash, I let it set for a few minutes, and then dabbed the brush all over the sheet, creating a mottled effect. After the black dried, I applied two washes of gold (not metallic), then added a bit of red to the gold and applied a final wash. A subtle compliment to the bold endpapers.
Another thing I don’t like are tipped-on endpapers. They’re lazy and add no strength to the binding. For Majesty, Order & Beauty I hinged the folded endpaper sheet around a white sheet which became the section’s center through which I would sew (below)
I sewed the sheets on tapes of Reg’s abaca vellum, and made endbands from offcuts of the endpapers. Before glueing up the spine I "gilded" the head with (metallic) gold ink applied with a stiff brush. I then gave the spine a slight round, applied rice paste and lined it with thin Japanese paper.
To make the case I lined the outer faces of each board with a plain sheet, and then adhered the cover sheet (there will be two sheets adhered to the inner face, so I want two on the outer, to balance the pull), folding in just the spine edge.
I then made the spine, laminating several sheets of 200 g watercolor paper together and rounding it as it dried. This was glued into the black abaca spine cover and dried flat.
The inside edge of each board is then attached to the spine cover, allowing a 0.25-inch joint, and pressed very hard. The portion of the board left exposed is then lined with a sheet of thickness equal to the spine cover (I used more of the yellow Guarro), to make the inside of the board flat. The remaining three edges of each board are then turned in, and the case is left in the press over night.
I fit the case around the text block to ensure my measurements were correct (I like a square of not much more than 1/16-inch) and give it a nip between boards.
Then it’s just a matter of glueing out the pastedowns and attaching the boards.
I pondered printing the title directly on the abaca spine in gold, but the printer’s busted and won’t work again for a few months, and I didn’t want to put this off, so I’ll set and print a small label when things are working again.
And just for fun, since I seem to have miscellaneous Doves Press leaves lying around everywhere, I stuck one into my unique copy of Will’s wonderful book.
(* I think too many printers fail to take advantage of their binder’s expertise when planning a book, particularly in deciding how many sheets per section – they opt for fewer thick sections, when more thin ones would give the binder more control in shaping the spine. That’s not the case with Will, who does his own binding, it’s just something I’ve seen too often. Talk to your binder early & often!)
No news from the studio, the lull between projects, so here's a short addition to the Handpress Library – the Ernst Ludwig Presse.
I was introduced to the press in late 2019 when a friend showed me a book in a stunning binding. Bannfluch Gegen Spinoza – the ban on Spinoza, the text of the 1656 excommunication of Spinoza from the Talmud Torah congregation of Amsterdam. The type, design and printing are as purely typographic, and simple, as Cobden-Sanderson could ever have wanted, which isn’t a coincidence.
Ernst Ludwig Presse was started in 1907 by the brothers Friedrich and Christian Kleukens, and named for its patron, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen. Bromer Booksellers has called it the “first truly private German press of the 20th century” (Cat. 139), modelling its work and publishing after the Doves Press. A comprehensive biography of Christian at germandesigners.net tells us “Christian was responsible for typesetting and printing, Friedrich for the typography and book design and decoration. When Friedrich left in 1914, Christian took over sole responsibility for the Press.”
A listing for the press’s edition of Faust (two volumes, 1922-3) from Sophie Schneideman, seller of interesting and fine books, states “there were four types which were created by Friedrich Kleukens for the press, namely Kleukens-Antiqua, Kleukens-Fraktur, Ingeborg-Antiqua and Helga-Antiqua” although these were not proprietary faces per se: each was issued by Stempel. Sophie’s listing referenced Julius Rodenberg’s Deutsche Pressen (1925), which I may have to track down, even though my German is non-existent.
I haven’t been able to find a bibliography of the press, and don’t know how many titles it published. It seems to have ended in 1940 (makes sense). The only non-German title I’ve found is a seven-volume set of Shakespeare plays (& the sonnets), published between 1925 and 1931 in editions (mostly) of 250 copies.
Ernst Ludwig Presse books are not uncommon today, and they often are very reasonably priced for the quality of the work and materials. One title that might be somewhat scarce is the original (1926) issue of a short history on the handpress, written by Christian and issued in an edition of 125 copies. The essay itself doesn’t tell you anything you wouldn't already know if you're interested in handpresses, but it’s a lovely piece of setting and printing. It also appeared in a 1926 issue of Das Inselschiff, possibly before the book publication. A second edition was printed the following year, for the Gutenberg Society, adding 8 plates (one listing describes them as woodcuts) of different presses. This edition may also have been limited to 125 copies, it’s unclear from the listings I’ve seen. It sounds like it may have been printed from the same setting, and issued in the same simple paper-over-boards binding. If it is the same setting, printed on their handpress, it’s certainly the more desirable state to own. I’ve ordered a copy & will report back.
One of the last things that turned up while digging into the Kleukens’ work was The Vessel of the Spirit: Thoughts on Book Typography, a translation from Christian’s Die Kunst Gutenbergs (1943 and ’51), printed by none other than our friend Will Rueter, proving once again that when I think I’m finding new things, Will’s footsteps are already all over the floor.