Comments from the Peanut Gallery

A report of the All-Day Wonder Cabinet event in New York City, filed by our people on the ground...

The WunderCabinet, represented by Barbara, Claudia and the book itself, made its New York debut on the 16th of April at the All-Day Springtime Wonder Cabinet. This event, curated by author/thinker Lawrence Weschler and presented by the New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU, was a veritable cabinet of curious scientists, artists, filmmakers and musicians. Highlights included Michael Benson and Carl Schoonover comparing telescopic views of the universe with microscopic views of the brain; "Lurch," Boris Hars-Tschachotin's captivating film set in the Berlin Natural History Museum; and Harvard neuroscientist Margaret Livingstone's assertive yet comprehensible explanation of vision and its quirks.

A copy of The WunderCabinet and all its objects, along with a miniature version and the author's notebook, was on display in the foyer. Barbara had the opportunity to turn the pages from time to time, giving those who hung out in the foyer a chance to see an ever-changing selection of topics. Barbara's talk included slides of the book and Claudia contributed pertinent comments from her sheltered spot in the audience.

Flea marketing the following day resulted in several purchases which may or may not end up in future books. On Monday, Claudia and Barbara visited Victoria Steele, Director of Collections Strategy at the New York Public Library, and were given a terrific tour of the library and saw NYPL's copies of The Temperamental Rose, After Image and The WunderCabinet.


Apprenticeship Canceled

The Kramerica Memorial Apprenticeship, about which we mused in a recent post, has had to be abandoned; the corporation was not interested in (strongly objected to) being associated in any way with HM. Thanks & apologies to those people who contacted us about the opportunity.


Uncommon Exhibition

This week the Tomio Koyama Gallery in Tokyo opened an exhibition of new works by Atsushi Fukui. Included in the show is David Sylvian's Uncommon Deities broadside, featuring original drawings by Fukui, and two related items: a poster featuring a number of the mushrooms he created for the project but which were not used; and copies of the book Basidia, printed and bound at HM. The entire edition of Basidia (10 copies) was given to Fukui in thanks for his participation in the project, and this will be the only opportunity to secure a copy. Details about these pieces and others by Fukui can be had by contacting the gallery.


First We Take Manhattan...

Barbara Hodgson & Claudia Cohen have stormed New York City with The WunderCabinet. Yesterday The New Yorker's blog ran a short piece about the book, and Barbara was interviewed by WNYC. We await a debrief on how tomorrow's all-day Wonder Cabinet event goes....


Your Eyes Do Not Deceive

The deluxe copies of The WunderCabinet (numbers 1 - 10) were shipped out from Claudia's studio last week. She and Barbara spent two full days assembling all the bits contained in the box's two levels (the bottom one consisting of two drawers), and writing up a detailed inventory of items for each copy (sewn into a wrap made from Karli Frigge's marbled paper, shown in image at the bottom of this post). Each of the deluxe boxes contains about 40 items. No two collections are the same, but some of the items that might be found include a limpet shell from the Aurora Islands; a cast of a finger of Catherine Vorontsov, Mme la Princess de Dashkov; a porcupine quill; reducing & enlarging lenses; a sea urchin skeleton; polished stone obelisks; ammonite pairs; a parchment armillary sphere; and artifacts and Roman coins from Syria. Each box also contains, in a separate pamphlet, a sunprint and a watercolor painting of a magnolia seed head. Barbara sent these photos of the book and box along.

Claudia had described her plans for the deluxe binding as full leather with a trompe l'oeil pattern, but that could be anything. As one young fan of her work commented upon seeing the deluxe WunderCabinet, just when you think she couldn't possibly outdo herself, she does.

While working on the boxes, the two collaborators also discussed various upcoming projects, the first of which will be the third volume in their color series, tentatively titled A Colourful Calling: The Palette at Work. In a format similar to The Temperamental Rose and After Image, A Colourful Calling will explore how color is used in a variety of occupations, from chemistry to house painting to hairdressing. Illustrating the examples with palettes for interior design, artists’ supplies, textile dyeing, philately and psychology, to name a few, Barbara and Claudia show that work has never been more colourful. We expect to be publishing A Colourful Calling at about this time next year. Meanwhile, for those in the area, don't forget that Barbara will be talking at the upcoming Wonder Cabinet event in New York City on April 16.


Help Me Somebody

Before printing of Oddballs could start in earnest, we had to tear the paper down. Which is one reason we kept delaying things; it is such a boring job. We're printing on some of our coveted vintage Guarro mouldmade laid paper (the same stock used for HM=X). Each book requires 14 signatures of two sheets (i.e. eight pages) each; each sheet is almost a half full sheet of the Guarro. Almost but not quite; we need to remove two inches from the width. We used a cutter to halve the sheets (so the heads will be a trimmed edge), leaving the deckle on the bottom and one edge. We didn't like the look or feel of the other fore edge being trimmed, so those have to be torn. We'll print 45 copies to get 35 we like. That means 630 full sheets; once halved, that's 1,260 printing sheets. So that's 1,260 fore edges that need torn. And being a laid paper, we have to ensure we keep track of the rough & smooth sides. You can see why we procrastinated.

The photo above shows the stack to be torn, the offcuts, and the trimmed sheets. The offcuts will be further trimmed - mercifully using the cutter again - to a width of one inch, for use as shims in the binding. Since the engravings are being tipped into the book, the binding - the spine - must account for the additional thickness they add to the text block, and this is done by adding shims to the folds of the signatures. With the trial binding, Natasha Herman has determined that a one-inch strip of Guarro folded twice (to make four thicknesses) inserted between the outer and inner sheet, will be sufficient. (No, we're not printing on this horrible yellow Guarro, but it's the same weight as the white so we used it for the blank dummy.) This is a detail one should always look for when presented with a book that includes tipped-in items.

Progress was somewhat expedited by setting up a jig: a ruler fastened at one end to the cutting mat, and a mark exactly 17 inches to the left. By aligning each sheet to the mark and horizontal, the edge can simply be torn along the ruler's edge. Nonetheless, it is tedious work. So tedious that, after years of rejecting all inquiries along this line, we have begun entertaining the idea of a HM apprentice. This is exactly the kind of work intended for the young & keen. There's even room in the studio for a bedroll.

As the idea took hold, we thought of other tasks suitably interesting and valuable to the studio's ongoing success. Like harvesting the moss from our roof (the apprentice could sell it at the nearby weekend farmers' market). And so, investigations into the feasibility of what we're tentatively calling the Kramerica Memorial Apprenticeship are underway; stay tuned for application details.


Prospective Oddballs

Copies of the prospectus for Jim Westergard's Oddball series have gone out. Jim sent us 27 copies of the Hunter S. Thompson portrait, which is featured as the sample spread in the notice, so 27 copies were printed, sewn into wraps, and numbered. Initial response to Jim's work has been - no surprise - enthusiastic. One correspondent in the U.K., however, thought the content wasn't right for a clientele with a too "Eurocentric" focus. We agree, and this is, of course, why we were attracted to the series in the first place - Jim's ability to inject humor and perversity into a medium that too often takes itself terribly seriously. As Barry Moser says in the introduction:

“Wood engraving is a dark medium...I don’t know how Westergard does it, but he has an uncanny ability to pull humor out of that dastardly valley of shadows. Despite the dark odds against him, he manages, again and again, to wrangle some of the funniest wood engravings I have ever seen.”

While printing of the various oddball biographies is underway, we continue to play with ideas for the title page. Below is a quick digital sketch of an idea we had, incorporating "thumbnails" of all 40 oddballs in the setting, but the size reduction is too great and they'd end up looking like thumbprints. Nonetheless, the concept we still like, and we're talking with Jim about other illustrative options...