The Pressing Matters of Will Rueter

Will Rueter is just about to issue a substantial new project from The Aliquando Press. Pressing Matters presents two essays by Leonard Bahr on the private press, augmented by a chapter on the subject by Paul Hayden Duensing, and one on the economics of private press publishing by us/HM/ Rollin Milroy.

Bahr was a commercial typographer whose greatest creativity was reserved for his own private imprint, the Adagio Press. In the 1960s and '70s he issued many items, from ephemera to substantial pamphlets, with type and typography the over-riding focal points. His most ambitious project, by several orders of magnitude, was An Account of the Work of T.J. Cobden-Sanderson & Cobden-Sanderson's Partnership with Emery Walker (1969), with texts by Norman Strause and John Dreyfus, and two original Doves Press leaves tipped into each copy.

Will received galley proofs from Bahr of his essays when they were first set in the early 1970s. Bahr had initially intended them to be the first parts of a book that would look at different aspects of private press publishing. Chapters 1 and 2 from Pressing Matters - "The Idea of the Private Press" and "The Private Press Defined" - were issued by Bahr, in a revised form, in the first two issues of his periodical Typographia (no more numbers were published). The book for which they were initially conceived was also to include chapters on the purpose of the private press; how imagination, innovation and patience should be employed to bring out the unique advantages of the private press; and economics - how a private press can be made to survive, if not prosper, within our not-too-bookish society.

For whatever reasons, the type remained standing after Bahr pulled the proofs later sent to Will, but the project was abandoned. "After proofing his essays Leonard seems to have been unwilling to speculate further on the private press, feeling that the topic was in constant change," Will writes in the books afterword, where he also offers his own thoughts on Bahr's questions about purpose and the importance of imagination.

The most striking feature of the new Aliquando book is the 17 "mini-broadsides" throughout the book, each presenting a quote related to the topic of the private press drawn from sources as diverse as  Rudolf Koch, Peter Beilenson, and William Everson. Bahr included similar, but less extravagantly adorned quotations in the Typographia issues. Will's broadsides employ his extensive collection of types and ornaments, combined with his talent for using color (and numerous press runs!). 

Perhaps even more than private press printing, Paul Hayden Duensing's interest lay in private type design and casting. He was an important mentor to people like Bahr and Will, plus Jim Rimmer (who created a type named after PHD) and many others who were interested in learning how to cast type. His chapter in Pressing Matters, titled "Private Printing, Private Typefounding," is a collection of his writings on the topic, both published and in correspondence with Will. "His words seem to me an essential adjunct to Leonard's thoughts," Will explains in his afterword. (PHD and Will collaborated in 1976 on what may be the only American-Canadian private press co-publication, Buchstabenfreude, the Delight of Letters.) 

Pressing Matters is published in an edition of 50 copies (7 x 11 inches, approx. 50 pp.). The paper is Hahnemuhle, the primary text faces Optima and Palatino. The first ten are extra-bound (details to TBD), and include a manuscript broadside in Will's beautiful calligraphy bound in. Copies 11 to 50 are cased by Will in marbled paper over boards with a cloth spine. Contact Will though his site for more details. 


Alessandro Zanella & ...

Visited Alan Loney's excellent blog, was sorry to learn of Alessandro Zanella's death last summer. He was a skilled handpress printer (Edizioni Ampersand) and compatriot of Gabriel Rummonds. The University of Utah's J. Willard Marriott Library has posted an obituary and online exhibit of some of his works.


Harold Budd's Angel

With the arrival of the slipcases this week, Angel, the new collection of poems by Harold Budd, is ready for publication. The poems were written over a period of 18 months, the last one after the death of the mother of Harold's son this past July. His poems have been described as the translations in verse of his music, combining wit, restraint, pathos and honesty.

Harold's work does not want, nor would it benefit from typographic gymnastics.* Spare and simple are the criteria, with particular attention paid to his intentions with breaks and space (line and word). Typographically the biggest challenge was planning a book in which some poems were just a few lines, while others ran over two pages; and where some lines had just one word, and others ran on, unbroken. The text was set by hand in 18-pt Perpetua and 30-pt Monument, and printed on sheets of semi-opaque Barcham Green Bodleian paper in a single color.

Because the Bodleian is such a thin sheet, the entire seven sheets comfortably made a single signature, which is sewn into a stiff printed wrap with a two-layered dust jacket: a sheet of hand-marbled paper is wrapped in semi-transparent Japanese tissue, upon on which the title has been printed. The book is presented in a slipcase covered in the same vintage marbled paper, with a spine label.

The quantity of Bodleian paper available restricted the edition to just 26 copies, which were press lettered A to Z and signed on the colophon by the author. Of these just 20 are offered for sale, priced at $450.

(* Just to see how things looked, Harold's poems were initially used to set trial pages for HM's upcoming book of typographic frolics, putting the various metal fonts in our cabinets to work. One of our favorite sketches was for this untitled poem from Angel:

Look what showed up in this week's New Yorker!

As we said, this kind of playfulness doesn't suit the poems in Angel. But one poem that was cut from the book, "The Desert Tramp," will be included, with typographic flourishes, in a collection of miscellany HM will be printing for issue at Codex next spring.)


Albion Rising

Finally printed something with the little Albion foolscap press. It's only been five years since its arrival. The cause of the delay was twofold: why use the little press when the much bigger Washington was right there; and "using" the Albion would entail a boring initiation period of making adjustments and getting used to how it wanted to work. But with the Washington still out of commission due to a fractured frisket, and some printing needed doing, attention turned to the Albion. The printing was the promised broadside version of Harold Budd's poem "Autumn Song 1990," taken from Angel (the poem that broke the frisket!)

The press was made by Steve Pratt. As recorded on the finial, it is the 15th Albion to emerge from his press works, completed in the late summer of 2007. It's a beautiful piece of casting & machining, and deserved to have been put to work immediately. Alan Dye, at Nimble Impressions, received Pratt Albion Number 18 in 2011, and was much quicker off the mark to put it to work. He also took better pictures of its arrival & use; see here.

The type for "Autumn Song 1990" was moved over to the bed of the Albion. Making it fit required some resetting, mostly reducing the leading. Then building a skeleton: the Albion's bed is noticeably larger than the 15 x 20 inch platen, so figuring out how to position the platen bearers took some thinking (since, once positioned, that's where they'll stay).

The press arrived with the platen well balanced, and the only real adjustment required was to the plate that bolts to the back of the bed, and from which the tympan hinges. When lowered, the tympan was not parallel to the bed; the hinge end was too high. But the plate that incorporates the hinges can be adjusted up and down (thanks for that tip, Steve Heaver of the Hill Press).

Last, with the type locked up and the tympan packing in place, the arc of the bar had to be adjusted. The Albion doesn't have the same feel as the Washington when pulling an impression. It probably is just a matter of getting used to the feel of it. The Washington has a little point of compression, a subtle lock, when you know it's just right. The Albion doesn't have that (at least, not yet); the bar just goes till it won't go no more, whether it's the stop or the type that calls halt. So, allowing for an average amount of packing on either side of the tympan, adjusting the stop to get enough impression, but not so much that the type will be damaged, took a bit of fussing.

The biggest surprise when printing with the Albion (vs the Washington) really shouldn't have been a surprise at all. It was how much pull was required to achieve a good impression. With the Washington, pulling the bar requires no more effort than closing a heavy door; the platen's 300+ pounds do all the work. The platen on the Albion, however, probably doesn't weigh much more than 50 pounds, so getting a good impression required both more muscle and a longer dwell.

About 40 copies of the broadside were printed, most on Reg Lissel's HM Text, some on Guarro laid. For a first effort on a new press, it's acceptable. It takes time to get to know a press's quirks (hopefully not the 10 years it took with the Washington). Next up is a prospectus for Cutting Paper, which will be printed two up, and is therefore more characteristic of the kind of formes we print.

Copies of the broadside and prospectus will be going out to our regulars and friends before the end of the month.

p.s. Rummonds' book was, of course, consulted while tuning up the Albion. Ran across this great offhand comment:

"If speed is important to you, try a Vandercook proof press or a photocopy machine."


Reg Lissel's Papers on Display

Simon Fraser University's Special Collections currently has a papermaking exhibition on, centered around Reg Lissel's work. In addition to various HM books printed on Reg's paper, SFU's Special Collections holds an extensive archive of his papers, along with Reg's handwritten recipe and processing notes for many of the sheets. For anyone who finds themself at the top of Burnaby Mountain, it's worth stopping by.


Sea This Article About Printing Damp

Stumbled across an article on printing damp in an early (1986) issue of Hand Papermaking. It's titled On Damp Printing, by Suzanne Ferris and Neal Bonham. They'd been students of Walter Hamady's during the 1970s, at the University of Wisconsin, who moved to Seattle and started the Sea Pen Press and Paper Mill. In addition to making paper, they published books printed on their own paper.

The article offers a brief description of the blotter method for damping. Of more interest, however, is the article's discussion of making paper to be printed damp: considerations relating to materials and processing.

After establishing a process for achieving consistency in damping, the biggest problem the authors report in the article is accuracy in registration due to the variation in expansion from sheet to sheet. This was a problem for them because they were printing on a Vandercook, and had to align sheets along one of the edges. This is one of the great strengths of printing with a handpress, on points: registration is achieved from the center of a sheet outwards.

The only part of the article HM would disagree with is the authors' claim that handmade paper does not necessarily require damping to achieve the best results:

"The entire process [of printing damp] involves three times the work. This method should not be used simply as a dogmatic response to handmade paper, soft or hard, sized or unsized."

If the paper's hard (i.e., sized), then yes, it should be dampened. Otherwise it's a waste of good paper. That's not dogma, it's just common sense.

Hand Papermaking ran an interview with Bonham in 1994, at which time Sea Pen was still operating. The press and mill closed some time before the end of the decade. Google shows nothing more current for Bonham. Ferris now lives in western Washington, working as a garden designer and botanical illustrator.

p.s. no news on the poor Washington's tympan. It's still with the doctor, being figured out. 


Neostyle & A Paper Matrix

The gang at New Leaf Editions recently alerted us that a place in town has put one of these up for sale. A Rotary Neostyle No. 8-F. What exactly is it, we all wondered. The answer was found at the excellent site of the Early Office Museum, on a page that offers concise descriptions of many early printing and reproduction machines and methods. (How many people know that their "book press" really is a copy press?) For example, picking one purely at random, here's the stylish Minolta 1114:

A more thorough explanation of the Neostyle's operation was found in this 1999 response on a Yahoo group to a query about the machine.