The HM Codex Codex

HM doesn't do many book show-type events. They're a lot of work and hassle. Some people enjoy the socializing & interaction, showing & talking about their books; for the most part, we'd rather just be working. Or playing. But not standing at a table in an exhibition hall. Why, then, did we sign up to participate in this year's Codex book fair in Berkeley? Especially since it's not in its usual spot on the UC Berkeley campus, but five miles away in a commercial exhibition space, in a part of town that even friends of ours from the Bay Area say they've never been to?

The main reason was to take the opportunity to show the collaborations between Barbara Hodgson and Claudia Cohen published by HM since 2007. Particularly their latest - Cutting Paper - which will make its debut to everyone (including its publisher) at the Codex fair.

We'll also be displaying the three volumes in their color series published to date, and The WunderCabinet. The reputation established by their first collaboration, 2007's The Temperamental Rose, has ensured that every book they've published since has been over-subscribed before publication. Copies can be found in institutional collections across North America, but Codex will be the first (and only, at least for a long while) time that the creators and all of their books will be on display, together, in one place. It will be an opportunity to not only see the books, but talk to Barbara and Claudia about their collaborations.*

At the edges of our table, we'll also show a couple of other HM books published in the past few years, including Harold Budd's Angel, Jim Westergard's Oddballs, Elements in Correlation, Types/Paper/Print, and the two volumes in our Artists' Pamphlet series published to date. But most important of all, we'll be schilling our HM Codex MMXIII Miscellany, a fundraiser to cover the costs of living in the manner to which we are accustomed while at the show.

The HM Codex Miscellany contains new works by four of our friends: a previously unpublished (& saucy) poem by Harold Budd...

two phonautographic prints by Scott Morgan (whose work will be further explored in Artist's Pamphlet #3 later this year)...

a brief chimerazoological report by Briony Morrow-Cribbs...

a piece taken from Barbara Hodgson's private museum (an original painting of a Bird of Paradise egg, tipped into each copy)...

The book also contains a full page displaying two of Hermann Ilhenburg's types (Bradley Series, and the less known Columbus)...

and a foundling wood engraving (c. 1950s) attributed to British Columbia artist Jessie Webb...

Each of the three sheets that make up this 12-page book is a different paper: Roma, Barcham Green Canterbury, and Arches Wove, all printed damp. To gild the lily, the wrap for each pamphlet is taken from a series of very large etchings created by Gordon Smith in recent years. State and registration proofs of these etchings were kindly donated by the artist and the studio where they were printed (New Leaf Editions), to be cut into sections for use as cover wraps (inside a glassine jacket). Thus, each copy of the HM Codex Miscellany includes a piece of a proof of an original Gordon Smith etching.

The HM Codex Miscellany will be offered for sale at the book fair, at the discounted price of $150 net. Any copies remaining after the fair will be priced at $225. The book is 6.5 x 10.25 inches, 12 pages, set in Centaur and Arrighi, with Margery used in the Budd poem, and 36-pt Columbus and 24-pt Bradley Series in the Ihlenburg spread. The edition is 50 copies, with the first 10 hors de commerce for contributors.

* Other than the HM Codex Miscellany, we won't actually be offering any of the books on display for purchase. They're all out of print, or in the case of Cutting Paper, fully subscribed. However, Vamp & Tramp will be participating at Codex, and as one of our regular booksellers, they have some HM titles in stock. Inquiries can also be made with our other regular booksellers (see the Friends page). 


Handpress Library #7: (Not the) Daniel Press

Been ages since we updated the handpress library, so here's a little item we found at the Vancouver book fair last fall: A Dyetary, or the Medecine of the Stomach, As printed by William Caxton in 1489. The bookseller who had this little pamphlet had marked it as a Daniel Press item, which wasn't quite accurate. It was, in fact, printed on "the old Daniel press in the Bodleian Library" in 1963 by one Roy Vernon Sowers.

Sowers was a bookseller of sufficient legend that a slim biography of him, written by Roger Mason, was published by a small Canadian imprint in 1997. The publisher's description offers a succinct profile of the subject:

"Roy Vernon Sowers (he neither used nor permitted any abbreviation of the name) was a legendary figure in the antiquarian book world, or, to be precise, worlds. A Canadian whose first shop, in the mid-1920s, was a mecca for Toronto collectors and writers, Sowers later settled in southern California. There he dealt rarities to the emerging carriage trade and subsequently worked at the famous Huntington Library. Later still, he was a conspicuous book and print dealer at a succession of locations in San Francisco, where he patronized and promoted the fine-press movement. 

"Sowers, who died in 1970, spent his last years gathering books in Britain and Europe for resale through catalogues from his remote fruit farm in the Santa Cruz Mountains (where, because of the danger of fire, he kept his priceless inventory in an adobe structure that he designed and built himself). 

"His catalogues (he issued seventy-five in all) were notable for more than the often extraordinary books they described so knowledgeably, from modern first editions (in the early years of his career) to titles in medicine and the history of science (areas which Sowers helped make fashionable). His catalogues were themselves collected for the grumpy erudition of their introductory essays, pieces which grew more curmudgeonly as Sowers became increasingly disenchanted with the contemporary world."

(The biography was published as a paperback 'limited to" 950 copies. While writing this today, we discovered there also were 50 copies signed by the author, cased in cloth. FYI.)

Sowers published at least one book that he had printed by the Grabhorns (Joan the Maid of Orleans, 1938), and his cataloging was sufficiently entertaining for the Blackwood Press to issue a compilation of his more exercised pieces (1980).

The four-page Dyetary extract is set in what looks to be an 18-pt black letter, and his one-page afterword in an italic (probably Caslon - uh; can't tell if the font is really worn, or just poorly printed; probably both). It reads, in part:

"During 1489, William Caxton issued in one volume, from his press in Westminster, two works, the Governayle of Helthe & the Dyetary; with the exception of a cautionary tract against the plague, these are the first medical printed in English. Caxton's original is known in but two copies; that in the Bodleian Library, discovered in a volume of old Black Letter tracts, & the Ham House copy, long believed unique, and which is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library."

The Dyetary's printing's a bit uneven, not helped by the handmade paper having been printed dry, but it is nonetheless an endearing item that attests to Sowers' interest in both medicine and printing.


What the Sound of Working Looks Like


Yes yes David, we know it's been too long since anything new has been posted. But that's because we've been (more interested in) working on a special project for the upcoming Codex book fair in Berkeley. HM will be participating, and more to the point, displaying the very first copy of Barbara & Claudia's new book, Cutting Paper. (That book is, BTW and reported here for the first time, sold out, so Codex may be a rare opportunity to see a copy.) About the miscellany we are printing specially for the show (a fundraiser for B & C's bar tabs...), no details yet. But very cool. Meanwhile, everyone do some reading about phonautograms


Stephen Pratt was an Original

Another claim for 2012 having been a bummer year for many: news has just arrived that Stephen Pratt died on December 28, of cancer. As regular visitors to this blog will know, Pratt built HM's folio Albion press, and many others like it around North America. (That's him above, with one of his presses, in his preferred color. He said that green was how the presses would have been sold stock at the time, and no doubt he's right, but it's so ugly. HM paid a bit extra for black.) If building those presses was the only accomplishment of his life, it would be enough. But as this obit that has been circulated details, there was much more as well:

"Stephen Pratt grew up on a backwoods ranch in the State of Washington. Steve graduated from Brigham Young University with a master’s degree in education. He did further post graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley in the 1960’s. He taught full-time in the public school system for six years and then taught for one year in a private school. Seven years were spent working for the National Center for Constitutional Studies under the direction of renowned historian, W. Cleon Skousen, where Pratt devoted his time to research and teaching in many locations in the United States and two foreign countries. With his wife, Belva Gae, they are the parents of four children and reside on a 60 acre “ranch” at Cove Fort, Utah. For the past 20 plus years has earned a living with his hands in a family business called Pratt Wagon Works, where they build historic wagons, printing presses and other old-fashioned reproductions."

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Parley Pratt, grandson in Primary Children’s Hospital, at Wells Fargo Bank, NCCS.net, or the National Federal Lands Conference.


Nice List #3: The Meister

Last of our holiday posts: found under the tree, an out-of-series copy of this pamphlet, printed to mark the 77th birthday of bookbinder Arno Werner. His influence on the aesthetic of binding in American fine press publishing over the second half of the last century (and still into this one) cannot be overstated. As this little anecdote records, he began his apprenticeship in Germany in the 'teens. Once in America, he went on to assume the role of meister to, among many others, Gray Parrot and Sarah Creighton. Presses for which Arno executed both edition and special bindings read like a who's who of American fine presses: one could do worse than to simply build a collection that includes just one title from each of the presses he worked for. His grandson Peter continues the family business to this day.

This little pamphlet is not so grand. It's a small 8vo, single signature, beautifully and crisply printed by Carol Blinn and Harold McGrath. What a kool kristmas it's been.


2012: Things That Helped

Lots of people seem happy to see the back of 2012. While not particularly notable for any reason, HM has lots of reasons to put 2012 well over to the annus mirabilis side of the ledger. Some of the things, people & places that don't know HM exists, but which provided support or nourishment of some kind during 2012, for which we are thankful:

Lamy mechanical pencils

Prints by Gordon Smith (that's one above) and Sybil Andrews (that's one below)

This illuminated loupe

Thrift shops

Thankful for many others too, who we're lucky enough do know HM.