A Picture is Easier Than Hand-Setting 1,000 Words

Some kool photographic events happening in Toronto over the next week. First up is a mid-career survey of work by Janieta Eyre. Her images are simultaneously intriguing, provocative, disturbing, fascinating and beautiful. We discovered her work around 2003, at the now defunct Diana Farris gallery in Vancouver. Staring at a very large, highly staged photo of two adult twin women, she/they looked very familiar. Checking the info card, we immediately recognized the name as an acquaintance from high school, a million years ago. We've since been in touch, agitating her to participate in our Artists' Series pamphlets. She hasn't said no, so fingers remain crossed. Constructing Mythologies is a featured exhibition of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. If you like David Lynch (at least up till Twin Peaks), check her out.

The week after, Ryerson University's Image Centre will hosting a retrospective exhibition of the Lumiere Press's output since 1986. The exhibition coincides with the launch of Lumiere's new publication, "Black Star / Selected Works of Photojournalism from the Twentieth Century / The History of the Black Star Photo Agency." Black Star was a photo agency (still is) started in New York in 1935. It was a major supplier to Life magazine, and represented many photographers who were, or went on to become famous.

Ryerson has significant collections of both Black Star images and Lumiere Press books. The upcoming exhibition, which has been curated by second-year students in the photographic preservation and collection management master's program, is titled Lead & Light: The Evolution of Lumiere Press. A 32-page catalogue is being published (by Ryerson) as a companion to the exhibition.

We posted a blog about Michael Torosian, aka Lumiere, a while back. Interesting books.

BUT BEFORE ALL THAT STUFF HAPPENS, THE NEW COLIN STETSON ALBUM IS RELEASED THIS WEEK!!!! If you do not already know volumes one and two, go back, treat yourself, & work your way up to this final installment in the trilogy. And while you're at it, ponder why the Vancouver Jazz Festival hasn't moved mountains to land Stetson this year, especially considering he's on the West Coast playing other cities during that time anyway. Stetson is one of the engines that keeps HM ticking over.


The Types of Roy A. Squires' Private Press

This'll have to be quick. We have serious work to do around here. The type specimen books of Roy Squires:

Roy was a bookseller based in southern California, operating from the mid-'60s up to his death in 1987. Growing up he'd been active in writing for & publishing an amateur fanzine dedicated to science fiction. That became his primary focus as a bookseller, and probably also was the spark for what became an interest in "private press" printing.

Between 1962 and 1987 Roy published 38 titles, all but one being single-signature chapbooks. He was the executor of the estate of the California poet Clark Ashton Smith, and so he published a number of Smith's poems, some for the first time. (Early in his career Smith was considered on of the bright new lights in California's literary community, and his second collection was published by the Book Club of California, in 1918, printed by Taylor & Taylor. But that early momentum faltered for whatever reason, and he ended up making his living during the Depression writing "weird" fiction for the pulps. It's this body of work for which he's still & best known today. His works printed by Squires are among the most sought after.)

All of Roy's books were set and printed by him; we've never been able to determine what kind of press he had, although one of the colophon's mentioned a C&P platen. Like many hobbyist/private press printers, Roy's first passion was for types (although unlike many of this breed, he had an appreciation for paper).

Roy's first publication, in 1962, was a long collection of Smith's poems, started while the poet was alive but not completed until after his death. The realization of how much work is involved in setting, printing & dissing 60 pages probably is what led him to focus on smaller, single-signature projects for thereon. That was also the year he issued his first type specimen book: 8 pages (approx. 3.5 x 6 inches) in a printed wrap, displaying Bembo, Centaur, Arrighi and Cable in text sizes, plus some display faces.

A handwritten note from Roy in our copy (which we were lucky to find: though not stated in the book, only 45 copies were issued,) gives some insight to his interest in type:

"I'd like to do this again - if only it wouldn't take so much more time than it'd be worth to me. Offhand, I can think of these additions: 24 pt Bembo, Narrow Bembo italic, more sizes of Centaur & Arrighi, Palatino, Post Roman Light, Joanna (acquired last week), Michelangelo & others in titling sizes, American Uncial, & of course more border types. And I have eliminated the Cable series. I need many more types!"

Roy did end up doing it again, in 1977, with his second specimen book (approx. 4 x 5.5 inches, 12 pp.). With an edition of 300 copies this time, it's not exactly scarce, but it's still uncommon. It shows all the types mentioned in his note, plus Goudy Thirty. You have to love a guy who leaves his type standing for 15 years. Can't be sure, but we think the wrap is some of Henry Morris's roller-printed paste paper. Timing's right, and Roy did use some of Morris's decorated paper for one project around this time.

We've long been interested in writing some kind of article about Roy's work as a private press printer and publisher. He was never really welcomed into the California "fine press" community, perhaps due to some suspicion over his choice of authors and genre. But he was an important publisher, and a dedicated printer. Unfortunately almost everyone who knew and worked with Roy is now gone. We tried several times to get in touch with Ray Bradbury (one of Roy's frequent collaborators), without luck. Roy was a great correspondent, and often included lengthy letters about his printing to subscribers. We're focusing on gathering all of these that we can find, so if anyone out there has any, please get in touch.

Finally, bringing things full circle, it's interesting to note that one of Roy's contemporary influences in the realms of typography and printing was Leonard Bahr (a.k.a. the Adagio Press). Roy featured Bahr's publications (also primarily chapbooks) in his catalogues, and at least once drew customers' particular attention to copies of Bahr's Typographia 1 and 2. These, as frequent readers of this blog may recall, were all that Bahr ever managed to publish from what he initially conceived as a longer work about the contemporary private press; and it was galleys of this never-completed work around which Will Rueter developed his latest publication, Pressing Matters.


Tidying Up, Found a Spooky Postcard

So we missed a posting day. When we start charging a subscription fee, then you can complain. We missed because there wasn't really much to say. Imagine if news broadcasts were only as long as the real news of the day warranted? At HM we constantly strive to set the example.

There still isn't much to talk about around here. Slowly getting things organized to start the metal type sample book. Part of that organizing involved tidying up the library, which is always fun because you find things you forgot you had. A few examples...

The second of two type sample books issued by Roy Squires. We'll do a future post about both of these, but for now...

A postcard covered in Howard Lovecraft's tiny writing, sent to Clark Ashton Smith in 1933. This is one of the cards that was sold by Squires (who was executor of CAS's estate, and distributed a bunch of cool stuff from it) around 1970.

Lovecraft letters and cards, while not uncommon, have increased in value over the past few decades at a rate most mutual funds couldn't brag. This one fell out of the sky, into our lap. The cards were issued in this wrap:

This little book may be the first issued by Denise Carson Wilde, under her Winter Lily imprint. She was a sort-of student/apprentice of Jim Rimmer's in the 1980s, doing letterpress job work. This little book (approx. 3 x 4 inches) is an accordion fold, issued in an edition of 201 numbered and 26 lettered copies. This is also the only copy of the book we've ever seen. It was a gift from Charles van Sandwyk, who had Denise print his first book (A Selection of Neighborly Birds) and his still un-issued Five Endemic Species of Psittaciformes [parrots] Found in the Fiji Islands in the latter half of the '80s. Denise issued two or three more books from Winter Lily in the '90s, but since then she's focused on painting.

A couple of books over at Letterology that we tried to buy but they're not for sale (yet).


A Cabinet, and Crash

Recently mentioned we've been doing some binding projects that have been hanging around the studio for too long. One was a spare copy of the miniature version of The WunderCabinet, a set of sheets Barbara had used for tests and trials before coloring the six (or whatever the number was) of copies we actually issued. Rather than boards, because it's small and fits nicely in the hand, we went for a limp case, using some leftover back abaca vellum paper that Reg made years ago. The block was sewn on two vellum slips, which were attached to think boards, which "float" within the case. The outer edges of the pastedowns were glued to the case's fold-ins. Some of the scraps of Claudia's papers left over from our Will Rueter broadside were laid on to the case. Barbara will add a hand-written spine label.

So that's a book going out. One came in last week, a copy of Crash from Morris Cox's Gogmagog Press (1963). Cox's books have long been noted for his innovation in design and printing techniques, as integral visual components to his own poetry. Always a little too innovative and technically unrefined for HM's taste, but Crash caught our eye because it specifically is an exploration of (eight) different printmaking techniques. This kind of thing is right up our alley. Plus, we found a cheap copy.

The eight prints, each a spread, are linked with one of Cox's poems. Forget whether the prints are to our taste or not, his talent for experimentation (and with the most basic of materials) cannot be denied. Here's his intro to the book:

For some more info about Cox: a long article about his career (the selection above is from another article about Cox, also in Flash Point); and some of his paintings. There also is a book about his Gogmagog adventures by David Chambers.


Can You Find This Book?

The April 1, 2013 issue of The New Yorker had an article ("The Master") by Marc Fisher about long-standing allegations of sexual abuse at a prep school in the Bronx. One teacher in particular was at the center of many of the allegations (none have ever been tested or proved in a court). The teacher's name is Robert J. Berman. Today's post is about "a limited subscriber's edition of a monumental novel" written by Berman and published in 1983. Aside from references to it having been published, we can find no trace of an actual copy anywhere.

Allegations of sexual abuse aside, Berman as described in the article sounds like a cowardly, manipulative nutter. We'll leave that, and any literary value his novel may have, aside for today's purposes. Beautifully published caught our professional attention, but there was no mention of the edition size or publisher, just "...the book, a four-hundred-and-eighty page volume, beautifully published by a former Berman student..." (p.52). Titled Shepherd's Trade, it was issued "with a thinner volume, "What It's All About," that accompanied the novel, in a boxed set."

Interesting that Berman, who liked to make lists proclaiming the Ten Best this or that, considered Lawrence of Arabia "off the charts." Lawrence is a natural icon for self-defined aesthetes. He also published his magnum opus as a limited subscriber's edition. Unlike Shepherd's Trade, however, copies of Seven Pillars are still buttressing the walls in many used book stores.

Here's what we've been able to find about Shepherd's Trade: it was published by Pelion Press, based in New York (which makes sense). The edition was 250 copies, signed by Berman, 483 pages (there's the magnum). The companion volume is 97 pages, with 32 pages of plates. (Fisher describes the novel as "incomprehensibly dense;" the need for an apologia volume pretty much says it all).

Searching for Pelion Press provides little joy. Most of the dozen results that Abebooks produces are for an imprint by that name based in Vancouver (!), with titles dating from 1975 to the late '80s. Poetry. But it's not included in Robert Bringhurst's Ocean Paper Stone (1984), a brief history of literary publishing in British Columbia. Probably unrelated to the Berman thread.

According to the article, Berman had a cult-like influence over his former students, which might have goosed subscriptions and also prevented people from casually disposing of the thing. Even still, it's
odd for at least one copy of a recent book (in publishing's time scale) not to appear on some bookseller's listing or library holding. How was it printed? Who was responsible for its beautiful design? What of Pelion Press?

The topic has already exhausted our interest. But should you ever kick over a copy, send along some images and whatever details you find.


The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book

Every Sunday the Canadian (re)Broadcasting Corporation, a.k.a. the Corpse, has a two-hour call in show based around some topic. Yesterday's topic, as many people called HM HQ to tell us, was about the future of the book. That's exactly how slow world events had become. How could anyone who does what we do honestly doubt for the book's future? If you really can't stop yourself, here's the link. While working on a few binding projects (pix later this week), we instead listened to a provocative interview on WTF with publisher Adam Parfrey.

The host of the CBC call-in actually is an interesting person with a broad and deep mind. He recently rejected efforts by a fellow Corpse interviewer to have him name particular high spots of "Canadian" literature, pointing out that country of origin is not a sound basis for recommending much of anything. (Milan Kundera wrote a great article about this for The New Yorker a few years ago.) Would that our host's colleagues and fans stopped to give this some thought, because thanks in large part to the CBC and its fans, "Canadian" has become something of a qualifying adjective that tempers rather than sharpens one's anticipation of what follows.

But about the future of the book: really? When we haven't been able to avoid such discussions in recent years, they often seem to settle on some variation of books will persist, perhaps in fewer number, but those that survive will have to sufficiently respect & celebrate the form's traditions, crafts, and materials to justify their physical existence. That's a good thing. It's what we've been saying at HM since the beginning: above & below is a short piece on the topic that appeared in an early issue of Parenthesis, the FPBA's journal. Even then we found it a dull topic.

Digital publishing and reading makes practical sense for many of the things we read. Digital's potential to go beyond mere simulation of a printed text page hasn't really even been scratched yet. Digital publishing also makes us think harder about why any given book should be published in a material form; and if so, that form had better justify its existence in the physical world through design, materials and craftsmanship (for which a colleague recently reported, with appropriate derision, someone attempted to coin the phrase "the materiality of the book"). Otherwise pixels will suffice.


Bagger Blog: Printers Talking

Nothing much happening around here, nothing much grabbing our attention, so here's this: the transcript of an interview with Lewis & Dorothy Allen about their work at the Allen Press. Conducted in 1969, so shortly after they'd published Printing With the Handpress. Conducted by Ruth Teiser, who did a number of other printing-related oral history recordings in the late '60s. She also wrote the biography of the printer Lawton Kennedy published by the Book Club of California. Check this page, you'll find links to transcripts with Mallette Dean, Valenti Angelo, Albert Sperisen, William Everson & loads more. The Allen interview will make good reading for anyone interested in fine printing.


Handpress Library #8: Copies Still Available

Been a long time since we added new content to the Handpress Library. Do you know of The Book as a Work of Art: The Cranach Press 1913 to 1931 ? Not many seem to, which is shame since it's one of the real jewels of publishing and design from the past decade or so. It was originally published in German in 2003; the edition we're talking about today is the expanded English edition of 2005. Only 400 copies were issued, and not only can one still be had for issue price ($290), they can be found for less than issue. This state of affairs will not persist.

The book was edited by John Dieter Brinks and includes a number of essays commissioned for this project, on various aspects of the press (esthetic, cultural and practical: there is a wealth of information about the economic realities of attempting to run a "private" press) and its founder, Count Harry Kessler. There also is a section with articles about and reviews of the press's work written during or shortly after its life. (See Oak Knoll's listing for the book, which includes the complete table of contents.) Of particular note in this section, for today's purposes, is a long account of the press's operations by its pressman, Max Kopp, written in 1962. Appended to this account is his one-page description of the process for printing with the handpress at Cranach; click on the page below & it should be large enough to read through. Notice how they dampened & dried the paper. (And also their vellum...)

The press's most famous book probably is its edition of Hamlet, with contributions by Eric Gill and Edward Gordon Craig. Here's a concise description with some good images.

This book is essential for anyone interested in the 20th-century fine press movement, and good printing and design in general. Brinks has tracked down many unique copies of Cranach books in design bindings, and the color reproductions are impeccable. Visually, the book is equal to its topic and content. Too often that is not the case with books of this type.