Nice Things (2013 ed.)

This year's Christmas was a continuation & expansion of last: books about the design work of Vaughan Oliver and v23. Longtime readers will remember that last year Santa found a deluxe copy of This Rimy River, the catalogue for a 1994 exhibition of Oliver's work in Los Angeles. It's a stunning piece of design, but one of the details that distinguishes it from the trade edition is over-printing on the pages in bronze and gold, of a poem set in very large letters. Visually captivating, but the overprinting makes actually reading some of the text portions difficult (as the book's distributor accurately described it, "more painting than book"). So, we needed a copy of the trade edition as well. Not only did Santa find a copy in good nick (pun!), but one signed by Oliver and collaborators Chris Bigg and Paul McMenamin.

It came with a copy of Vaughan Oliver and v23 Poster Designs, a smaller softcover issued in an edition of 1,000 copies (this one also signed) in 2005.

And just to round things out, a copy of Rick Poynor's Vaughan Oliver - Visceral Pleasures, a well researched & beautifully designed account of Oliver's career. Lots of details about working with the various 4AD bands.

Flipping through these three books, and starting to read Poynor's, brings attention to the importance of Oliver's collaborations with photographers. His work alerted many (young) people for the first time to the creative opportunities & power of typography, but all of his designs also incorporated (& often started with) strong imagery. Several of the photographers he worked with commented on Oliver's creative struggle in being presented with an image (i.e. photo) that was sufficiently complete in itself that there was little room for him to work typographically.

One thing that didn't arrive before the 25th: the deluxe issue of Facing the Wrong Way, Martin Aston's recently published history of 4AD. Oliver and Bigg were responsible for creating the label's distinct aestehtic, and 4AD invested heavily in artwork, packaging and promotional items, beyond any strict business case for such expenditure: the art was as central to the label's vision as was the music.

The trade edition of Facing the Wrong Way (600 pages!) came out last fall, but the deluxe was delayed, presumably due to the additional production requirements: expanded to 800 pages, the publisher wisely decided to split it into two volumes, issued in a slipcase. Apparently it's en route, so we'll post some details & images when it's in hand.

Holiday's over, out to the studio to finish binding Metal Type..


A Heavenly Monkey Miracle

Some kool books found under the tree, as foretold. Details next week, after there's been time to soak them up. Till then, something to admire: the cover of Claudia's test binding for the deluxe copies of Metal Type. Vellum, and all that tooling is by hand. Stunning.

And there's this too, an Xmas present from HM2, found in a "vintage" (i.e. second-hand) shop: a blanket made in Japan (doesn't look terribly old), 100% wool and incredibly soft, bearing a familar ligature...

A Christmas miracle?


The Things You Find

Been scouting the used book shelves. The item above initially made the sense tingle, thinking we'd scored another choice item for the Hodgson-Cohen Books on Color Collection. Alas, there was no actual color included in the book. As useless as a book about letterpress or etching that includes not even one example of the technique under discussion. Also this copy was the common third printing, not the notorious (& therefore highly desirable) second.

If publishing really is financially perilous, look for opportunities to publish books about making money in other endeavors, like candle making! Get a papermaker and a letterpress printer, and you can start a Renaissance fair! But then you might end up back in publishing, so be careful.

Happy happy, merry merry to all. There are some flat rectangles under the HM tree that look promising; hope you have some as well.


It's A Wrap

Some hasty snaps of the test binding for the copies of Metal Type being cased at HM (vs the ones being bound in vellum by Claudia). The design that Dana Cromie created for the cover paper was printed in blackest black by David Clifford at Black Stone Press, and looks fantastic. Completely unlike any previous HM book.

We printed it on the same Guarro laid used in the book. It's a very hard paper that prints beautifully when damp, but can be difficult to print dry (which is how David had to print it). But this is the same quality that makes it good for casing in: it's tough paper.

Couple of small adjustments to make, dimensions and figuring a way to place the labels on the boards exactly beneath the placement on the jacket. Speaking of the jacket, it's masa, a semi-transparent machine-made sheet. Smooth on the printed side, rough on the inside, so it won't slide off the boards when being handled. Dana's design is so brilliant that giving it a sheer wrap hinted at the riot beneath, emphasizing its impact when the jacket is lifted away.

So that's the book. The edition is fully subscribed, but that just means most copies will soon be in booksellers' hands. Please contact any of HM's regular dealers listed at right to inquire about availability.


Skewed Patterns

That's David Clifford's Vandercook with one of the plates used to print the patterned paper we'll be covering the boards of the Press copies of Metal Type. The pattern is called "Fonts" and was designed by artist & HM friend Dana Cromie. (Dana has a big show opening in January, and he's also working with David Clifford/Black Stone Press to print a series of multiples that are being assembled into huge repeating images.) Think it's the first time HM has resorted the private press cliché of patterned paper over boards, but in our typically skewed way. If all goes well, we'll have snaps of the test binding next week.


Metallic North

Folding & sorting. Collating copies of Metal Types. Those are the Deluxe copies above. A sheet of millboard laid over the bed of the Washington makes a good table. Let's make today's topic technical: here's one of the additional pages included in the Deluxe copies.

It features Robert Reid's font of Columbus (displayed, with a brief history, in HM's Codex Miscellany), a face offered for only about 10 years on either side of 1900. As you can see, all of the Q sorts from Bob's case were lost over the years (it has travelled across Canada twice in its lifetime). This kind of thing - one letter completely missing - happened with several of the faces displayed in the book.

The Columbus is printed over an old & very worn map of what appears to be central Canada, as it includes Hudson's Bay. Old because there's a lot of "these parts unknown." The map (a zinc plate) was split across two separate blocks, each about 6 x 10 inches. Printing it as a bleed on the Washington would have required completely changing the form lock-up, which was not an option (half the book still to be printed), so it was printed with one of our large book (i.e. copy) presses.

The blocks were secured (taped) to a plexiglass base, and inked with a hand brayer. The paper was simply laid over the blocks, then the base was slipped into the press & the platen screwed down (tight). Voila. The map was so eroded that getting a good & even impression wasn't really an issue, and the slight variations between pulls (screws?) were interesting.


Keeping Books Warm & Stylish

Printed the colophon for Metal Type. Set it in Gill Sans, simply because it hadn't been used anywhere else and we have some the right size (12 pt). Used De Roos italic to press-number the edition. The text for the Deluxe copies is slightly different than the text for the Press copies. Also printed the publisher's and binder's names for their (hors de commerce) copies.

Should be getting the patterned paper for covering the cases this week. Playing with ideas for a printed dust jacket too. People don't play with dust jackets enough.

The screen-printed jacket for Girl With the Mask of a Crow, and the (massive) etched jacket for Iskandariya were brilliant (and both entirely the work of the artist, so we're not boasting).


Eli Was A Book


The term "artist['s] book" has come up several times recently in reference to HM publications. One instance was a course at Smith College in which The WunderCabinet was one of several books examined by students for "how they either align or go against [Janet?] Zweig and [Joanna] Drucker’s criteria" for what constitutes an artist's book. The term could be applied to  any & all of the images shown on this post. How could a phrase that sounds so benign have become be so treacherous?


Let's start by acknowledging that it's always nice to to be included in a discussion like this. Thanks. It might, however, be interesting for the participants to know that neither Barbara nor Claudia would ever call The WunderCabinet - or any of their books - an artist's book. (To begin with, it would have to be an artists' book. This lack of clarity around the apostrophe's place in the term is the first sign that a dark, bottomless pit lies ahead.)


At least one of the Smith essays used the terms livres d'artiste and artist books interchangably (the kid actually wrote "livres d'artiste books"), which Drucker & Zweig probably would be the first to correct. The terms might be analogous, but they're definitely not synonymous. HM would (proudly) admit to some kinship with the French tradition of éditions de luxe in the early part of the last century, if only for attention to production and materials. But never artist books.


A lot of writing has been done about artist books, especially what they are, almost as if they were more thought experiment than actual book. There is an interesting blog by a prof at U Dub (what they call the University of Washington) focusing on applications of digital & social media. This page on a Matisse site has images & info about books created by an artist who had a understanding of & appreciation for the form. And here's an interesting article about the spectrum covered by using the word "artist" as an adjective modifying "book."

In the Smith postings, it was heartening to see several of the students call BS on the whole "what is an artist's book" distraction; here's one and here's another one. Just to put it on the record, HM does not publish artist/artist's/artists' books. We simply publish books. The only adjectives we acknowledge are "good" (aspirationally) and "elusive" (practically). The book is already one of the koolest, endlessly versatile & practical things ever invented. We're happy to do our best to continue the tradition; we don't need to try to make the book something other than it is.


What Are Pleasant Colors?

"Healthy people wear pleasant colors." That wasn't covered in Occupied By Colour. Brown definitely does not qualify, and that includes shoes.

There's some rule prohibiting posting on Thanksgiving, so up it goes today. Speaking of the colo[u]r series, David Clifford is gearing up to start printing the last instalment, Around the World in Colour. It might even be completed before the Xmas break, but that still leaves a few months of fabulizing by Barbara & Claudia before it gets issued; late spring '14, as promised. And before David dives into that, he has to print the patterned paper that will be used for the case bindings of Metal Types. That'll happen next week. The last two sheets will be printed by Monday's post. Back to it.


The Sky's Gone Out

This'll be another quick one: have to get printing. Finally seeing some light through the trees: settled on a title for the new book, if only because everything but the title page & introduction are printed. Tried something for the intro this weekend: spent Saturday setting a spread, Sunday proofing & doing makeready. Then binned it all: not at all right (visually) for what follows.

So, faced with a ticking clock, a new scheme was hatched, one that resolved how to handle both the title (what it is, not how it's set on the page) and the introduction (content & layout). A minimalist scheme. During every attempted solution for this preliminary section, cutting it down to the most basic, fundamental information was in the back of the mind, yet things kept getting busy. Anyway, the paper from yesterday (Reg Lissel's HM Text is used for the 8-page preliminary section) is still damp and must be worked off today, both sides, so pressing on (ha!).

For short, let's just call the book Metal Type. That's what will be printed on the first page in the book (note we don't say "title page").

The book (7 x 10 inches, 40 pp.) is printed on nine different hand- and mouldmade papers. It will be published in an edition of 35 numbered copies, issued in two versions.

Deluxe Issue: Copies 1-15 will include two additional sections [16 pp]. The first will present four uncommon foundry types (Anker Romanisch, Carolus, Gallia & Kabel) in display sizes, borrowed from the collections of several friends, each printed in two colors on Barcham Green handmade paper. The second extra section will present titling (i.e. large) fonts of eight faces already shown in the book, printed on Barcham Green & Roma papers. (Close readers may find one or two other additions...) These copies will be bound in full vellum (a structure similar to the one she used for HM's Iskandariya, below) with gilt embellishments by Claudia Cohen, presented in a cloth traycase.

Press Issue: Copies 16-35 will be sewn & cased at HM. The (thin) boards will be covered in a printed patterned paper created by artist Dana Cromie. (The same paper will also be used to line the boxes for the deluxe copies.) The book will be wrapped in a semi-transparent printed paper jacket.

At this time, all of the deluxe copies are reserved for HM's regular distributors, as is a significant portion of the press copies. For anyone from outside the trade who is interest in securing a copy, the surest way is to contact one of our booksellers (listed at right).

Some of the Press copies will be issued before the end of the year. The rest, and all of the Deluxe ones, will be issued in early 2014.

Gotta get to work...


Perpetua(l) Knot

Didn't post yesterday because we're busy printing some pages for the deluxe copies of the type book. Closer & closer. Also finalizing plans for the printed paper to cover the boards of the press issue; it'll feature a pattern created by friend & kool artist Dana Cromie. The paper will also be used to line the boxes for the deluxe copies. Not posting it here; you'll have to wait & see it in person.

Title of the book remains elusive. Less is always more: am now trending toward simply calling it METAL. 

How about some holiday shopping tips today...


Henry Morris's Omnibus. Copies seem inexplicably plentiful & thus ununreasonably cheap. Abebooks it. Great book, printing by him on his handmade paper. Lots of practical information about printing.

Harry Duncan's Doors of Perception, the limited edition printed by Carol Blinn & published by W. Thomas Taylor. Beautifully printed & bound, an excellent collection of essays about printing, with particular focus on the use of the handpress. Taylor also issued a paperback version; same content. But the limited edition is, like Omnibus, a very good buy (probably below issue price) right now.


Porter Garnett's Philosophical Writings on the Ideal Book, a collection of pre-WW2 essays from the man who started the Laboratory Press, and also some by other well-known names of that period. Great book, ridiculously cheap. For that matter, many of the Laboratory Press publications can also be found at friendly prices.


Monday Mash

Odds & ends to start the week. That's another shot of Claudia Cohen's binding for the deluxe issue of Paper Should Not Always Be White above. One aspect of the binding she was particularly pleased with was using very thin boards (without any warping), making the small 8vo-sized book feel light & comfortable in the hands. Below are the three tooling variations used.

One of our stringers sent this link for a film by David Lynch, a short documentary about a proper lithography studio in Paris.

Speaking of Lynch, we got a copy of his album Good Day Today in the "limited edition" version designed by Vaughan Oliver. Here's an interview with Oliver about working on the project.

Speaking of Oliver, Facing The Other Way, the 4AD history we mentioned last summer, has been released. The 1,000-copy deluxe version - issued in two volumes, which seems a good idea since it apparently is over 800 pages - is supposed to be shipping by the end of this month. So we'll hopefully have our copy under the tree for Xmas. The second consecutive Oliver-related Xmas!


Speaking of Xmas and 4AD, put this joyous sound in your ears, and then this, when you can no longer stand the few dozen marketing-approved tunes we'll suffer through ad nauseum during the next six weeks. And then get this free app, organize a few neighbors on a snowy evening, and do something that's as close to spiritual as a secular humanist can get. Then go home & watch Eraserhead on Xmas Eve.


The Finest Traditions in Hand-Set Type

How's that for a mouthful of busted chiclets? Oddly, it takes more time to set & lock-up a disaster like this than setting it properly. Part of the genius of movable type: it resists being used improperly. But we showed this Garamont who's boss.

All in aid of the new book, which has (yet another) new tentative title: Improvised Impressions. The title reflects the process that came to be used for displaying each face in the book: While there was some general design conceived in advance for each page, the details were worked out on the bed of the press, as the type was set. Where books typically are exhaustively planned in advance, the complete lack of continuity in content or form from page to page in this collection of types allowed (& often required, due to a shortage or complete absence of one letter or another) an improvisational approach. Intuition was the guiding principle. Each page was created in the moment, each step and decision a response to the one preceding it, working within the constraints of the page and what was available in (& lacking from) any given drawer of type.
The entire undertaking is underscored by an impish attitude toward the types on display: respect, but not reverence. Improvising is an act of the moment; the printed pages in this book are permanent records of the improvisations. 

Down to the last few sheets now: the foreword, title page & colophon. The edition will be 35 copies, with the first 15 being a deluxe issue. These will be bound in full vellum by Claudia Cohen, and contain two additional sections (16 pp.), per the last post here. As the image above suggests, the second of those sections gets a bit unruly.

Speaking of Claudia, did you know there actually are three variations to the deluxe binding for Paper Should Not Always Be White? She came up with three designs for tooling the front board & we couldn't pick a favorite, so she did all three. Two of them are shown above. There's no priority or preference (except one's own). We'll post some more images of the deluxe binding next week.


Weirder & weirder

This are getting strange around here. Above is a page from the second of two extra sections that will be included in the deluxe copies of the new book. This section features display sizes of eight faces already shown in the book. The paper for this sheet is Roma.

New working title for the book: Improvised Impressions. Explanation to be included in the foreword.

Details for both states of the book have been hammered out; we'll post them on Thursday. Gotta get back at it now.


She's A Rainbow

Tried something for the first time this week. Turned out really well. Printing with a rainbow roller. Also known as a split [ink] well. It was for the Gallia display page in the new book. The type's name was set in 36-pt in the middle. Above & below, the alphabet (no lowercase for Gallia) & numbers, with leading decreasing as you approached the top & bottom.

Three colors: black for the Gallia (i.e. in the middle), gold for the upper portion, red for the lower. Measured the height of the form, in inches. Laid down a piece of masking tape on the glass slab & marked borders between the colors. Laid down a second piece of tape, perpendicular, along the left side, as a guide to keep the roller in the same place when charging it. Rolled out the inks.

Naturally the inks would blend where they met. Trick was not letting the black overwhelm the other two, especially the red. Adjusted each of the colors as we went, in exactly the spot (i.e. line) on the roller that needed a boost.

Another thing that might be easier to do with a handpress, or at least hand inking, than with a mechanized press. Need to do more. Rainbows everywhere!


Kay, Abe & El

The deluxe copies of the new book will include an additional section showing four uncommon, foundry titling-sized faces on loan to HM from friends: Anker Romanisch, Coralus, Gallia and Kabel. Above is the 72-pt Kabel. Isn't it clever?

More details about the deluxe issue soon. Pretty much settled on an edition of 35 copies total, with the first 15 being deluxe. These will be bound in full vellum by Claudia Cohen. Copies 16 - 35 will be cased at HM in marbled paper over boards, similar in style to Types/Paper/Print. Been pushing to get copies out before the end of the year, but decided to slow down about, enjoy the work, and issue the book in January 2014. More as it happens...


What a Typographic Book Should Be

Let's take a much-needed break from blather about HM, to look at a truly inspiring book: A Glossary of Typographical Terms, with text by Oliver Simon, published by the Blackmore Press of art school student Bev Leech, Vancouver, 1961 (oblong 8vo, [90] pp.). A limited edition of 56 numbered copies, set in Garamond and printed on Golden Hind laid paper (same as our Kuthan goof from a few weeks back). 

A tour-de-force of letterpress design, creativity and printing. This was Bev Leech’s graduation project from the Vancouver School of Art, where Bob Reid was one of his instructors. As Bob recounts, no one knew what Bev was up to that whole semester, until he presented this book, completed, to tremendous applause. 

Per the title, the book is an illustrated glossary, starting with Ampersand and concluding with Wrong Fount. Each recto presents between three and six brief definitions, with one of them being illustrated on the facing verso. The term being illustrated on each spread is printed in black; the other terms are printed in gold. The bold illustrations were created using a variety of techniques, including linocuts, metal plates, metal types, wood types, tipped-in samples (i.e. deckle edge, hand-made paper, marbled paper), flowers, and rules, all printed in a variety of colors.

Not only is the book artistically conceived and beautifully printed, but Bev had the sensitivity to have it bound by a professional. The endsheets are made, not tipped on, and the back has been rounded. Oblong books really aren't our scene - ever & emphatically - but this one works. 

A very cool book, all the more so for being essentially unobtainable now. (Three copies are known to have been available in the past 15 years: one is HM's, one is ex-library & was picked up for a song by a printing friend, and one passed through our hands, on the way to a Special Collections. If one is offered to you, don't dicker over price, just buy.) 

Bev Leech went on to have a long career as a graphic designer. In the later 1960s he followed Bob Reid and Ib Kristensen to Montreal, and then returned to B.C. (with a bunch of the wood type, Caslon in all sizes from 8-pt up to 72, and thousands of sheets of Guarro paper, which ended up at HM a few years ago and upon which we have since printed a number of books, including the recent Types/Paper/Print). In Victoria he worked as an in-house designer with the famed Morriss Printing, but the glossary was the one and only publication of the Blackmore Press: he did no subsequent “fine press” work. With pleasing symmetry, he designed a new, limited-edition of Roderick Haig-Brown's Pool & Rapid (scroll down a bit & you'll see copies of the book still available at issue price, $100), published by the Haig-Brown Fly Fishing Association in 1996 (remember our previous post about kool H-B books?). It was the last book printed at Morriss Printing. Bev is now retired, much of his type and his printing equipment is in the hands of Strathcona Press, an hour up-island, in Cedar. We met him a few years ago at an event celebrating the career of Bob Reid, and he graciously signed our copy of A Glossary of Typographical Terms.

Visually, Metal Type & Some Paper will look nothing like Bev's book, but hopefully it will share some of its joie de vie. Had another idea for a possible title: Monkey Metal. Thoughts?