Handpress Library #6: Small Press

The most recent acquisition for HM's library of books about handpress printing: The Hand-Press, a miniature issued by the Magpie Press for the Second International Antiquarian Book Fair (Los Angeles, 1967).

The short text covers the usual ground about craftsmanship in the age of mechanization. Unfortunately, it also perpetuates the misconception that using a handpress is an excuse for poor printing, rather than a method for achieving excellence. The two french-fold sheets were printed four-up, dry, with too little impression and no evidence of any makeready. Nonetheless, here it is.

If miniature it must be, better to look for Ward Ritchie's The Hand Press, well printed in the Fleece Press's usual manner, and including wood engravings by Anthony Christmas. The brief text covers Ritchie's introduction to printing during a short apprenticeship in France.

There's also The Unfinished Psalter, Monseigneur Francis Weber's brief account of William Everson's aborted attempt to print the Roman psalter. This little book was printed by Roger Pennels in 1986. Weber was the Archivist of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. It reminds us that some months ago we promised a post about Everson's Psalter. The drafting of that was begun, but it is not a book that is quickly or casually written about, and so work proceeds slowly. But it will appear...


Occupied Demonstration

Occupied By Colour is in the final stretch: after spending the past four months working on the printed sheets, Barbara recently them to Claudia, who has further work to do on some of them. While Barbara was coloring Claudia was planning the boxes and bindings, and getting materials ready. Before taking the sheets away, Barbara took a few snaps of the completed pages & sent them along with some notes....

Color Etymologist: The Language of Color: The meanings of our present-day words for various colors - from the everyday red, green or blue, to the less frequently heard scarlet, cerulean or vermilion - have their roots in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Sanskrit or Old German. This page, created with watercolor washes, shows the actual color of these words and traces their derivations.

Spectrum: Newton's "Crucial Experiment," shown at the top of this page, was instrumental in showing how light consists of component colors, which we now call the "spectrum."  The spectrum analysis of various sources, including the sun, nitric peroxide and rubidium. This page was printed twice, once for the fine lines and once for the black bars. It was then painted in washes of water colors.

Illumination: A facsimile of an illuminated border by Pseudo-Jacquemart de Hesdin, from Petites Heures, c. 1385-90. The mediaeval book illuminator's color palette consisted of a limited number of colours, including azurite, orpiment, minium and lapis lazuli. For this image, we prepared these traditional colors by grinding the pigments and adding gum arabic as a binder.

Bauer Shade Card: A facsimile of a color guide created by 18th-century botanical artist Ferdinand Bauer. Bauer travelled to both the Mediterranean and Australia in search of botanical specimens. Because of the difficulties of painting in the field, he devised a "shade card" to keep track of the colors of the plants he drew. Each color area on a sketch was numbered with the appropriate color on the card. Our facsimile is based on that found in Madrid's Archivo del Real Jardin Bot├ínico and has been painted with watercolors. Bauer's original was probably painted with gouache.


The Long Run #5: Chill

Don't know what all the drama was about. Everything got done. Sheets all pressing between boards. But a new record for the studio: one sheet kept damp & printed upon over four consecutive days, more than 500 impressions. Just three more sheets to finish the book, then the two endsheets; on schedule to wrap things up within the next two weeks. 


The Long Run #4: Red All Over

Up & atom. 8 a.m. started the red run on the title page. Finished by 2 p.m. Spent an hour changing the lock-up and getting the two 36-pt alphabets positioned. Lots of putzing. Had to figure the finer points out on the bed, once everything was in place. Used Bembo and Jim Rimmer's Duensing.

Mixed up the gray (i.e. about 25% black, 75% transparent white). Underway with the second run around 4:30. Didn't think to check that the alphabets had actually been recited properly until just starting the Arches run (i.e. after 70 impressions on Guarro) - d'oh! Luckily all seems okey. Finished at 8:01 p.m., just in time for Simpsons #500 - wuhoo! A new studio record: 200 impressions in one day.

Last run tomorrow. Will have to see if the plan to print a large area of transparent gray over today's alphabets will work. Can be difficult to print large areas on damp paper - too much adhesion. Didn't spray the sheets after printing today, so by tomorrow they will have started to dry a bit. We'll see if it's enough, but not too much.


The Long Run #3: Back to Back

Backing up the sheet with the page 6 (foreword con't) and page 3 (title page). First run, black. Below is the imposition chart, printing schedule, and dummy of the title page - what we're shooting for.

Started at 8 a.m. The excellent gloom continued outside:

Except for an hour in the afternoon when the sun (which we hates) came out, but then the clouds & rain (which we likes) rolled back in. No particular dramas with the sheet. Had a bit of trouble with the ink when we got to the handmades, but figured it out. Finished at 6 p.m.

Also got the two majuscule alphabets ready for tomorrow. The galley below holds, at left, one of the two 60-pt alphabets that will be printed on the endsheets (below is De Roos); the middle (a few sorts sporting red) is 36-pt Duensing and far left (36-pt Bembo), both of which will be printed tomorrow on the title page's top right and bottom left quadrants, in opaque gray. After the red run. Long day.  


The Long Run #2: One Side Down

Started printing the sheet with the title page for Types/Paper/Print. Today the inner forme: start of the foreword, with the facing verso a blank. The stack of paper spent the night in a thick plastic bag, pressing. Shown above is what it looked like in the morning, all nicely relaxed. The Guarro gets printed first: 70 sheets for this run, allowing for spoilage (i.e. cock-ups) during the five runs; then the Arches (15) and HM Text (15). Below is one of the handmades, after printing. You can see the edges lifting as they already start to dry in just the few minutes out from under the heavy damp cloth covering the stack. Because the sheets have to remain damp for three more days of printing, each one was lightly sprayed after printing, then covered with a damp cloth. When the run was finished, the stack went back in the bag.


Began the day listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto's elegiac Discord, the four movements appropriately named for the stages endured during a day of printing: Grief, Anger, Prayer, and Salvation. Started printing at 9 a.m., finished at 7  p.m. (Couple of short breaks in there, but worked pretty steady.) Tomorrow we start backing up with the outer forme: first page of the foreword (the verso) and the black of the title page.

Couple of new additions to the HM handpress library arriving over the next few days. Will name names next week, after we finish this sheet (unless it finishes us first).


The Long Run

Halfway through printing the new type specimen book...interesting results with the three different papers so far: the Arches Wove wants a bit more ink than the Guarro laid, and the handmade wants less....10 - 10:30 a.m. today spent getting the paper ready for the book's most complicated run, with the title page: 5 different runs. Normally we dampen the paper in the late afternoon of the day before starting to print, but this latest batch of the HM Text wants extra time to fully relax, so we wet things in the morning. Here's the stack immediately after wetting & stacking. Into the plastic bag it went for six hours, then restacked & back into the bag, pressed, for the evening. Will post an image of printing the inner forme tomorrow. Saturday the fun starts, with the title page on the outer forme: the black run. A full two-page spread, 100 impressions, take 10-12 hours. Sunday will be two runs, red and blind (= 200 impressions), so things could get trippy after the 150 mark. Monday is gray. Never tried keeping paper (evenly) damp for this long. If the book appears with a plain black title page, you'll know we didn't pull it off.

p.s. the three HM Drop Boxes have been sold.


HM Drop Box Drops

Having managed to stretch the HM decaversary over two years, and dispose of much of the flotsam that had accumulated during those years, the end of 2011 required some studio clean-up & -out. Despite our best efforts with the detritus, some remained; miscellaneous leaves from books, ephemera, etc etc. Meanwhile, the requests for "a sample of your printing, whatever bits you might have lying around" continue to trickle in. And so,

we put all the remaining flotsam in a pile & started sorting. There was enough to make up three uniform sets of what we have called the HM Drop Box. Each set, contained within a clamshell box made in the bindery of our friend Adele Shaak, contains five complete, bound publications; sample sheets from five projects; and an additional 14 pieces of printed ephemera. And finally, each box contains a piece unique, something of which we don't have even three copies. A detailed listing of the contents can be found on the HM site's Drop Box page.

To make some sense of it all, each set includes a detailed description of the contents written out by the publisher.  Although the boxes are uniform in their number of pieces and the source projects, the actual samples vary, and the introductory notes are specific to the samples in each box. These notes are written inside a bifolium sheet, on the outside of which has been printed a title page and press-numbered colophon.

The cloth-covered boxes measure 13.75 x 9.5 x 2 inches. In their randomness and lack of any curation, these boxes probably give as fair & accurate an overview of (or introduction to) HM's work with the handpress over the past decade. Therefore, we think these three collections might be of most interest to people or places who are not already following HM's progress, especially those who are interested in printing samples, handpress printing, or general press ephemera. The price is $925.