Mystery Blocks

A couple more of the blocks proofed last week. The ones shown here all are about 2 x 3 inches.

This wood engraving was the most interesting. No idea who the artist was. Doesn't look like a Kuthan.

This was the oddest in terms of subject matter for a wood engraving:

This grasshopper, and the three borders all defintely are Kuthans. The grasshopper, being a linocut, was not in good shape, with a few dings & divots, so we only pulled a few proofs of that one.

A few small engraved borders. The one on top wasn't cleared out much in the middle, and even with a fair bit of makeready it wanted to print.

Another engraving. No idea who Newman was; possibly a binder, with that needle in hand?A surgeon? A despised letter carrier?

To end, this copper photo-engraving (approx. 4 x 6") of a drawing by David Greer. Possibly used on the cover of a B.C. Library Quarterly, late 1950s or early '60s, when Bob Reid was the designer.


Half Truths

The previous post, making dismissive noises against claims of another book's priority in the history of printing in British Columbia over Alfred Waddington's (him up above), sparked a rebuke from another of HM's friends & mentors, antiquarian bookseller Steve Lunsford. He writes:

"Cameron's Rules of Practice is a proper book, and was printed well before Fraser Mines Vindicated.  It is an attractive folio, well printed by the Victoria Gazette. It can't be dismissed as some legislative rules.This is not a caveat or quibble. This is the truth. I have NO idea why the Fraser Mines myth survives - except only that Waddington really WANTED his pamphlet to be first, claimed it to be - then had to take it back in an erratum which acknowledges Cameron's precedence. He was pissed off, apparently, especially since Cameron was not widely liked (though neither was Waddington). And Fraser Mines is poorly printed on crap paper.

"Truth is truth. Tell it. No need to waffle on this one. People have been wrong for a long time; that doesn't make them right.

"So take it back."

Steve's been digging into this stuff for a few decades, so we'll take it back and not feed the mythology. But his comment about crap paper pertains to that original 1858 edition, not Bob's, which was printed on Hurlbut Cortlea antique paper.

A related mystery is how the topic of early printing in B.C. ever attracted Douglas McMurtrie's attention. We should print up a little correction to be inserted in copies of his little 1931 pamphlet on the topic.

David Clifford, whose prowess printing halftones was mentioned in the previous post, called to rubbish our efforts & tell us it's a waste of time and ink to print them on anything but coated stock. He's going to pull some proofs of the Albion block and show us how it's supposed to look. Stay tooned.


Halftone Up

Along with the Czech types previously discussed here, a few blocks also arrived at the studio. Three wood engravings; one wood cut; and three small, engraved borders; and a larger copper halftone of a handpress. All had previously, in one way or another, been associated with Robert Reid in the 1950s and '60s, and it was immediately obvious that at least one of the engravings was by his frequent collaborator George Kuthan, and probably the three borders as well.More about those in a day or two...
It being one of the hottest weeks of our summer, we decided now would be a good time to seal off the studio and pull some proofs. The surprise came with the first impression of the halftone: it wasn't a good impression, and some unremovable crud had grown on the plate, but clearly legible along the top of the press's staple were the words "First printing press in BC brought by Bishop Demers". That rang loud bells.

Pulling down a copy of Robert's first book, The Fraser Mines Vindicated (1949), and looking toward the back, there was the press. He'd included a photo of it in the book because it was the press upon which Fraser Mines (the first book* printed in B.C., in 1858) had been printed. And locked into the HM Washington was the same halftone he'd used 60+ years ago! (Only now it was actually being printed with a handpress; Bob used a treadle-powered C&P back then.)

The photo in Bob's book was gave us a clear idea of what to shoot for, so we spent a few hours building up the darks and tearing away the lights in the makeready (the first proof is shown above left; the last at right). HM's BFF David Clifford loves to talk about his time as a journeyman printer in France in the 1960s - "bloody great four-color forms they were, advertisements with loads of halftones that had to be made just right" - and the time and care it took getting the images to print properly. Yack yack yack. Printing this little halftone on our carefully dampened paper equals all of that. And all of the lost detail is due to the block's age. No doubt about it.

* Yes yes, it has come to light that Fraser Mines' pioneering claim is not strictly accurate: there was a book of legislative rules issued a few weeks earlier, but as Bob would say, it wasn't a proper book: Fraser Mines was.


Road Trip News 2: HM's Soundtrack for the Next Year

Remote technology hassles continue. A brief status report from near the end of the adventure:

The Bach book mentioned on the last post: the binding was incorrectly attributed. It is, in fact, a unique binding signed on the rear pastedown AS88, or possibly RS88. Sewn on cords laced to the boards, sewn end bands, leather fore edge. Lovely.

Here's a multiblock woodcut printed on kozo, found at a jumble sale:

Found in the same jumble; what the hell is it? The largest cup has a 4 stamped in the bottom, the second largest a 2, and nothing discernible in the smallest two.

Found a hardcover copy of The Big Book of Hell, seen only once before about 20 years ago, and passed by. No sign of the hardcover since, till this trip, in the humor section of a paperback shop. Useful reading for all printers: the futility of trying etc etc etc.

Most time & energy has been spent sourcing new music to sustain the long months of printing ahead. The Substrata festival was brilliant. Newcomer Widesky: lovely. See here for a recording of his set. Loscil and Kelly Wyse: not completely acoustic, as erroneously reported here in a previous post. They performed the entire "sound report" composed for an edition of Malcolm Lowry's Lunar Caustic. It was published (a paperback with a mini CD of Loscil's music) as part of the Book Report Series, which "invites musicians to create a soundtrack to a story from the Penguin Mini Modern Classics."

Tim Hecker's performance of Ravedeath, 1972 was transcendent. A cleansing with sound. Pan American was simply really really cool. Perhaps one of the most interesting new music festivals on the continent. (Many thanks to theprintsofdarkness for the recordings.)

To conclude, a few other joyful finds: Flumina, a collaboration between Ryuichi Sakamoto & Christian Fennesz; Gregg Kowalsky's Tape Chants; Arvo Part's Da Pacem; and Widesky's three EPs to date. This isn't a music blog, but this stuff matters because it basically is the soundtrack for the books we publish.

The big reveal of HM's next project in the press comes next week. Materials are assembled, permissions are in place, schedules are cleared. Much fun ahead.


Road Trip News 1

The annual mergers & acquisitions road trip is off to a good start. We will attempt to post reports along the way, technology allowing. But so far the AyePhone is being a NayPhone when it comes to blogging from away. For now, written reports only. Check out The Dictionary of Paper (Am. Paper & Pulp Assoc., 1951); The Heritage of the Printer series (ESP. Otto's Night Watch); and most especially - for the lovely binding alone, done by Penn State Bookbinding - of Walter Leuna's Two Essays on Bach (1972). Pictures to follow. Meanwhile, everyone check out Baskin's Zapf Civilite.


Sounding Off

Off for a few days of R&R. The highlight will be attending the second evening of the Substrata 1.2 Festival in Seattle, and seeing (for the first time) Loscil perform. It will be an acoustic set, just him on piano accompanied by local pianist Kelly Wyse. The evening ends with Tim Hecker performing his recently released Ravedeath, 1972, which should be interesting. All of it at the intimate Good Shepherd Chapel, where Harold Budd & Keith Lowe performed a few years ago. The festival is "about subtle aesthetics that go beneath the surface," which sounds about right for HM.