Nice List #2: A New Press

Also found under the Xmas tree this year, an addition to HM's collection of presses. This one probably a toy, made in the late 1800s? Beautifully made: dovetails & hand-carved threads. Suspect the wood is oak.

The chase, which came with several pieces of identical wooden furniture and (only) one of two screws used to lock things in place underneath the platen, slides underneath the platen, which is regulated by a screw. Two hinges are missing from one end of the chase, so perhaps there was some kind of a frisket that folded down?

Presumably the chase is slid to one side for inking, pushed under the platen for inking, and slid to the far side to remove the printed sheet?

Why the frame is so tall is a bit of a mystery; doesn't seem entirely necessary to achieve whatever pressure the wooden frame could withstand. And a drawer in the bottom.

We'll give it a whirl with a linocut & post the results.

Seen at the same place where the press was found, but not purchased because of its outrageous price ($300), some kind of small copy press of Scottish manufacture. The platen is made of wood. It does not lower completely to the bed; about a quarter inch of space remains, perhaps for whatever kind of packing was used when making copies?


Nice List #1: Vaughan Oliver

Found under the tree this Christmas, a copy of This Rimy River, the catalogue from an exhibition of Vaughan Oliver's design work for, among others, the English label 4AD. It was Oliver's album cover designs (done in collaboration with his v23 partner Nigel Grierson) in the mid-1980s that first opened HM's eyes to the variety, potential and impact of types in design. And not just the regular edition, but the deluxe edition issued in a quarter-seude binding with clear acrylic boards.  

"Where Oliver has succeeded as a visionary is in his amazing balance and almost timeless feel to much of his work. He is a classic graphic designer in every aspect of color sense, typography, layout, art direction, concept and, at times, humor. What makes Oliver so interesting is his place in history. He is very much born of the pre-digital design era and this is reflected strongly in his work as a visual subtext." - Tobias Grime

"This Rimy River is a catalog of an exhibition held at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles in 1994. Coming eight years after the Lonely Is An Eyesore deluxe box* design it marks another watershed in v23's studio output. In addition to a large-format paperback edition, the book was issued in a limited edition of 400 copies, using the regular edition as its starting point. The original page designs have been overprinted with two new layers of artwork. The first overprint, in black, utilizes enlarged details of archival artwork which virtually obliterate the existing illustrations and text. This, in turn, is overlaid with one large word per page, running bottom to top in a translucent bronze ink. The words are an extract from Victoria Mitchell's poem Dearest Vaya con Dios Darling, which inspired the exhibition's title This Rimy River. The resulting palimpsest, more painting than book, is finished with end papers that incorporate snapshots of the L.A. show bound in a patterned plexiglass hardcover, and housed in a luxurious velvet slipcase." - lifted & mutated from the site of the book's distributor, Art Books.

* Lonely Is an Eyesore was a sampler issued by 4AD in 1986, featuring bands from its roster. The near-mythical wood-box issue consisted on 100 copies of the album issued in a wooden box along with some ephemeral material. If you have one, please send it to HM with an invoice; we will be pleased to remit with haste.

Oliver's work with 4AD petered out by the '90s, but in 2009 he spearheaded the design of an elaborate box set covering the Pixies entire recording career, titled Minotaur. With this one we might debate whether aspects of the design sufficiently considered the real-world constraints of interacting or storing the set: it weighs 25 pounds (including the five studio albums on both CD and vinyl [why?], plus a book and various other items) and is covered in faux fur. It does, however, exemplify the creative audacity and originality that has characterized Oliver's work. Here's an interview he did about the project. And here's a good interview between two other graphic designers, about Oliver's work and influence.

When Minotaur was released, NME ran an interview with Black Francis in which he discusses the central role Oliver played in creating a visual esthetic that complimented the band's music. This Rimy River is an immersive example of both innovative contemporary book design, and Oliver's esthetic influence over many other bands on what was, at the time, one of the coolest labels around. 


Horses, Hounds & Careers in Printing

This racket might finally pay for itself. Recently found in the Palm Beach Post:

Unfortunately the opportunity, like all of the equipment, probably is long gone, since this was from the March 1, 1939 issue. It was found in behind a Derrydale Press equestrian print of the same era. Nice & acidic, just the way we like our matting. The print (along with two others from the series of four) was found at a jumble shop, and has led us into an interesting investigation of the D.P.'s activities.

Horses & hounds aren't exactly our scene, but from a printmaking perspective, the work is exquisite: aquatint and hand coloring. The artist is Paul Brown, an American who who specialized in equestrian subjects. James Cummins recently issued a catalogue devoted to the work of the D.P. Despite the fact that much of the work was basically vanity publishing, the quality seems to have been consistently high, as are the prices. An excellent short history of the press, written by a Mr. Steve Starrantino, can be found at this location.

Horses and hounds may become our scene: another recent trip out netted two drypoints by Irish artist Tom Carr. More horses, but it was the quality of this pair that was evident from across a very large & jumbled room, not the subject matter. Carr was primarily a watercolorist, but like all good painters he stretched himself with printmaking. He studied drypoint etching under George Vernon Stokes and produced many limited edition etchings of his hunting scenes in small editions (drypoint being the least resilient of intaglio methods). 

The combination of intaglio with letterpress has been a particular interest at HM since the beginning, but we haven't had much opportunity to play in that direction. Part of the hurdle has been the necessity of having someone else do the intaglio printing. However, recent experiments at printing small copperplate engravings and etchings with our Washington press have been promising, and we hope to incorporate it into projects in the near future. Probably not a combination they taught at the Southern School of Printing back in '39.


Bandits of Stature

Coincidentally coinciding with HM's release of Angel is an album of new compositions by Harold Budd. Titled Bandits of Stature, the album features 14 compact (i.e. short) string quartets played by the Formalist Quartet. Our copy is en route, so no more details at this time, but clips can be heard on the Darla site.

Harold's always had a flair for song and album titles: "Flowered Knife Shadows," "Balthus Bemused by Color," "Ice Floes in Eden," "Gorgon's Anxious Pansy"... Be fun to gather a bunch or artists, give each a title and see what people come up with visually. Perhaps a future project.


Washington Over Albion

An HM colleague was in LA recently, working on her tan & taking meetings. Known to haunt flea markets & rummage sales, she brought back a copy of the West Coast Peddler's November 2012 issue. It includes an article about the International Printing Museum in Carson, CA. The story runs across several pages (filling spaces between ads), and features lots of photos. One is shown above: the museum's Washington press. With a garish paint job that makes our press's bile yellow & bilge green look good. But what caught our eye was the thing sitting under the bed of the press, a little Albion folio.

Recent posts have recorded our adventures at (finally) printing with HM's Pratt-Albion, and explaining the main reason for our procrastination: why one would ever choose to use the Albion when there a much bigger Washington right beside it. This photo illustrates the argument perfectly. No disrespect to the Albion: beautiful press, beautifully made. Printing well is just much easier on the Washington.


Paper Cuts in Mail

Copies of the prospectus for Cutting Paper are going out this week. The folded sheet is printed on the Rives BFK being used in the book, and each copy features a title and initial letter paper cuts, plus an original early 20th-century Japanese family crest stencil (monkiri) cut from persimmon-dyed mulberry paper (a different stencil in each prospectus).

The prospectus was printed here at HM, but the actual book (9.5 x 12 inches, 80 pp.) is being printed by David Clifford on his Vandercook press. The edition will be 30 copies issued in two states: the deluxe copies (1 - 10) will be bound in full leather and include additional samples; regular copies (11 - 30) will be bound in handmade cut-paper paper. Both states will be issued in a clamshell box, with additional samples laid in. Most of the edition is already subscribed by HM's regular clients, but get in touch if you are interested; we're keeping a list.