Keeping It Together, Pt. 2


A few more of the collections we finally got 'round to boxing and printing labels for. (Setting & printing one label - which takes a few pulls till you get a good one - has a lousy return on time invested; you spend your whole time wondering why you never got good enough at calligraphy to do the labels by hand.)

Gerald Giampa (or as he referred to himself, Giampa™) was an infamous presence in the (tiny) Vancouver printing community in the 1970s and '80s, and it's really only an interest in our own local scene that's responsible for having accumulated a collection of his work. He was a toxic human whose life left a wake of destruction wherever it veered. His reputation well preceded him, so when he returned to Vancouver for the last time, in the early aughts, we avoided him like the plague he was. Jim Rimmer, who was the talent that allowed Giampa to participate in some of the earliest attempts at digitizing metal types, wrote an honest but not spiteful obituary after Giampa's death in 2009, and it's worth reading. It was originally written for the FPBA's journal Parenthesis, but they spiked it and ran one by Robert Bringhurst instead, which focused more on his work as a typographer and less on the man. Jim was quite offended by the rejection, but his piece ended up being printed in the Alcuin Society's mag, Amphora. Unfortunately the society does not include the obit in its online extracts from Amphora. Jim had a turbulent relationship with Giampa - which seems to have been the only kind possible with him - but there also was an underlying friendship that remained to the end. Type foundry P22 has done an excellent job of maintaining the site Giampa created to chronicle his many battles and triumphs; it can be a little clumsy to navigate (use the Onward button, top left), but it's worth clicking through. Gives a good sense of what Giampa™ was like.

Most of what Giampa printed was ephemeral. His most sought-after title is a single-signature extract from one of Ezra Pound's Cantos. All of Giampa's work is recognizable for his interest in using ornaments to create multi-color patters and borders (he was a self-annointed Fleuron Master). This was an interest that Jim Rimmer adopted, and much of his private press work incorporated repeating patterns built up from ornaments.

Another part of our Vancouver printing collection was recently boxed: Ross Lort's All Creatures Great & Small. This is an alphabet book done in linocuts and type, published by one Charles Bradbury in 1931. Don't know much about Bradbury, other than he apparently published two other books. Lort's book was limited to 200 numbered copies printed on Van Gelder paper. It's sewn side-stab, with a printed paper wrap. An uncommon book; but what might be even more uncommon is the trade version that Bradbury issued (same year). It's trimmed very slightly smaller, is printed on different paper (machine-made wove), and lacks the limitation statement at the front and colophon at the back. Otherwise it's identical in every way.

Lort didn't do any other books, to our knowledge. He did continue doing some relief print making, including this cover for a monograph/promotional catalogue on West Coast Native pottery designs, printed by Robert Reid in the early 1950s. He went on to became a recognized West Coast architect.

And we finally got a box made to contain our collection of items related to Kara Sievewright, including all the original 'zines of hers that led to our edition of The Girl With the Mask of a Crow (still one of our favorite HM titles).

Lost touch with Kara. Hope she's still writing and drawings; her stuff was really kool.


All in the Family

From a sketch at the dinner table last Wednesday night, to setting & printing on Thursday:

We like. Left the imprint & date off; made things too busy. Put those details instead in the colophon. We managed to push the edition up to 26 copies, so we press lettered them in a second color, using Unciala.

The editioning marked HM3's debut at the handpress; she operated the Pratt Albion while HM1 did the inking. Just like the old days.

Barbara reports the cover papers have been dyed & will be delivered later this week. Before then we'll sew the book up & set the ornaments & text for printing on the dyed cover papers. Copies ready next week?


Paper Should Not and Should

That's the trial binding for the quarter leather copies (numbers 11 - 30) of Paper Should Not Always Be White. Claudia will be dipping into her stash of kool marbled papers, so they won't be the same one on every copy.

We'd intended to issue the full leather copies with the seven extra paper (1 - 10) first, but there's been a delay with the leather. These quarter leather copies will start appearing after Labor Day.

While Claudia's working on the bindings, up here at the studio we're on track to finish our miniature book using the off-cuts from Paper Should Not... Printed the preface yesterday, on some unknown (but possibly Italian) bits of a lovely laid paper. As promised, we now have a title for the miniature: Uncommon Papers. Here's the sketch done at dinner last night for a layout.

The decision on a title was goosed by the fact that the only things left to print are the title page and colophon. Looks like the edition will be 25, as planned. Yesterday we sent Barbara Hodgson pieces of thin linen paper made by Reg Lissel (leftovers from The WunderCabinet). She very kindly has agreed to dye them a lovely deep copper-gold, as part of her ongoing dyeing activities for Around the World in Colour. Once dyed, we'll print a pattern of diamond ornaments (like the ones printed inside each paper sample in the book) on the sheets, and use them to cover the thin boards for casing the books in. 



Part of the inspiration behind Paper Should Not Always Be White was putting to good use the small batches HM and others had accumulated over the years - a few sheets of this, a few of that. But some of the sheets (about half) had to be slightly trimmed to fit the book's page dimensions. We allowed some variation in width and height, but there's a limit to that before binding becomes overly complicated and, rather than being charming, the book looks like Frankenstein's monster.

Cleaning up the studio after the sheets had been collated & shipped to Claudia, we were left with long, narrow strips of 12 different papers; some Barcham Greens, a few early 20th century sheets, even the remaining scraps of the Blaeu atlas pages. About half were handmade and half mould. All of them much too lovely to discard or abandon. So, we're making another book.

The paper strips range in width (i.e. height) between 2 and 3 inches, so making the book a miniature was obvious. That's a format we've flirted with in the past but aren't really endeared with: too small & fiddly. But in this case, it works. Each sheet is presented as a folio, like they were in Paper Should...., with the maker's name printed on the first recto, and a diamond shaped pattern on the second recto. Some of the strips are wider, and those samples will include a fold-out at one edge to fit the book.

The page will measure just under 3 by 3 inches (as big as we can go while keeping it legitimately miniature). Because the strips were so long, we're able to print with a side-by-side work & turn form. And, it was the perfect project for the little Pratt Albion,* which hasn't been used since its inauguration about a year ago. Yesterday was the first day or printing - we ran off the Amalfi, Warren H. Colson and Blaeu sheets - and the Albion was great. The width between the roller bearers is short enough, and the area being inked small enough, that we're able to use a hand prayer instead of the big roller. The only problem is that the bed doesn't glide back and forth like the Washington; it takes some cranking. There's no shortage of oil in the rails; I think the rails and the bottom of the bed just need to be polished with a few thousand passes. 

The current plan for binding entails Barbara Hodgson dyeing some of Reg Lissel's paper, as part of her current research for Around the World in Colour, printing it at HM with a pattern and title, and then putting it over thin boards for a case binding. There will be a dozen different papers (48 pp.), with a two-page preface. The text is set by hand in Perpetua, and printed in different colors. The edition will be 25 copies; all will have a dozen paper samples, but they won't all have the same 12 samples. Hope to get the printing finished before the end of the week, and have the whole thing wrapped up before Labor Day. It's proving to be a good warm-up for the type sample book, which still doesn't have a title. Nor does this latest distraction, but we should have one by Thursday's post.

* We very briefly toyed with the thought of hauling out the old Kelsey 5 x 8 toy press and using that to print this book. After all, we were so committed to it all those years ago! Plus, printing would be a lot faster. But crappy, too: the Kelsey was hauled out last month to help a bored teenager pass a few summer afternoon hours, and we were reminded of just how useless & weak those things are. But the Heavenly chimp did set and print her first project, a coupon. The text occurred while walking through our colorful (i.e. sketchy) neighborhood on a hot summer day; the layout and setting are all her (limited to the drawers of type she was allowed to use....). When it was done, chimp said - in a polite way - that she hadn't realized how fussy & boring printing was.


Handpress Highwaymen

Some recent handpress activity on eBay reported by comrades. But before we start, let's review that irrefutable statement above. A handpress is not only operated, but also inked by hand. And we're increasingly realizing that it's the inking that makes the difference.

So, over at eBay: someone in Indiana who is only casually acquainted with English and its grammatical norms is selling some handpresses. One is pretty much the sibling of HM's Ostrander-Seymour Extra Heavy:

The paint job on this one is a lot spiffier than HM's, but the press is also missing a few important bits, starting with the tympan & frisket. "By doing some Research, I have found that this press was manufactured in the area of 1920 to 1923. or thereabouts." Not just research, but Research. Sics all 'round in that sentence. At $8,000 there were no bids before the auction ended, but it's still listed for sale. Maybe not an unreasonable price for a complete press, but the tympan and frisket could cost another grand.

Same guy also has this smaller "Washington Hand Printer's Proof Press" (correct use of apostrophe this time, but a nonsensical phrase). Inexplicably, the listing description states this is the only handpress currently for sale on eBay. Yours for $6K. Once again, no tympan. Don't underestimate how difficult it can be to get one made, especially if the person making it has never seen one and doesn't understand how the press works. HM's press came without a frisket, and getting one made was a hassle: the first iteration was made from a stainless steel frame and weighed a ton; the second was lighter, but the hinges (to the tympan) were set just a hair too proud, so that when the tympan was folded down & the press run in, the hinges struck the edge of the platen. Ugh.

But here's the real money piece, in that the price is insane: an "extreemly" important piece of American history, a Rust 23 x 36" Washington-style handpress. This one's on auction till about 5 PM PST, so it'll be interesting to see if anyone bids. More interesting Research in the listing (who needs books if you have an Internet connection?). A steal at $40,000? And once again, without the tympan? Admittedly these are uncommon, but they're also so large that not many people are interested. Last one we knew of was sold from BC about a decade ago, shipped to Japan to be displayed in the foyer of a large printing company. Priced at $12,000, and complete with all its bits.

All pedantic jibes about grammar and spontaneous capitalization aside, the seller knows about T&Cs vis-a-vis purchasing a ton or more of iron FOB. Potential buyers take note: buying a handpress isn't for wusses. When the foundling HM bought its press, in the almost pre-Internet days, the seller was a kind & patient person who wanted the press to go to a good home. Not only did he arrange for palleting (dis-assembled, the press travelled on two pallets plus the frame [staple] on a third), but he videotaped the tear-down, to aid in the press's assembly. That we no longer have a machine on which to play said tape is a bit of an issue. Should probably get it digitized sooner than later, especially with all this talk of a new studio etc etc.


The Weight of the Word on Our Shoulders

Back from going walkabout. Found a few interesting things along the way. Nothing so big or heavy that it becomes a burden; the sense of responsibility, guardianship & even encumbrance that comes with taking in any book is increasingly tempering the addition of new volumes to HM's shelves. Luckily there's only one contemporary press printing books that consistently appeal to our tastes & interests, but there's also 550 years' worth of printed books to continue sifting through, and nuggets keep turning up. Like these...

(Next post will be about a truly substantial - in form & content - recent addition. The bookseller who shipped it out warned the box was the size & weight of a small sheep, which must be a standard form of measurement in his parts.)

A charming little piece by Sara Chamberlain from 1981, using the parts of a block that will ultimately be removed, to first practise upon.

Semi-Chamberlain related, a broadside from the Beaverdam Press, featuring a wood engraving by Barry Moser. Beaverdam was the imprint of Earle Henness.

Henness issued a miniature book titled Printers on Morris (1981) which featured a different (slightly taller) engraved portrait of Morris by Moser as the frontis and bound in papers printed from a wood engraving by Chamberlain.

Don't know what year the broadside (which is marked P/P - Printer's Proof) was issued, but probably around the same time?

Henness was not prolific, at least in his private press output. He did at least one project for Portland bookseller Charles Seluzicki, Paul Auster's Autobiography of the Eye (1993). He was, however, assured a spot in the history of (North) American fine printing thanks to the five-volume Excerpts from the Diaries of Roderick Haig-Brown (1992), which (despite being set in Caslon) is a stunning example of combining all the book arts in equal measure.

The five volumes, each about 48 pages, contain extracts from the famous fisherman & conservationist's diaries from the years 1927-29 and 1932-33. The books are quarter-bound in green leather with different "fishy" paste papers. There also is a sixth volume containing original, tipped-in  photographs. Sandy Tilcock's paste papers, her bindings, and the box are all excellent in conception and execution.

According to the catalogue listing for the one copy of the set currently offered on Abe, bookseller Seluzicki (who knew Henness and his work well) states that the entire edition was not bound & issued.

It was not inexpensive (issued at around $1,500), but for what it is, in content & production, it was cheap at the price. A few excerpts from the text can be found on this blog (H-B is the patron saint of anglers).

We traded our collection of (mostly signed) Black Sparrow Bukowskis for this copy. Never regretted the swap. But still love Buk.

"Look- someone donated a broken 1535 Aldine to our library! Maybe we can issue the leaves, as a fundraiser."

"But we should put it in the cheapest, ugliest, most aesthetically-incompatible covering we can come up with." Success!

Found this in a discount bin. Can't pass up kool paper books. It's part of a series by designer Juliette Cezzar. This blog has a bit more info about her, and some links.

Vacation's over; getting down to work on the type book. More posts on that as we gather momentum.


Borrowing Letters

Check out this font of a Koch face that we're boosting to use in the upcoming type sample book. Great forms. It'll be fun to play with using them like jigsaw pieces, see how they can be interlocked.

The hols continue for a few more days. Not much music or books this year. How's this for a piece of cut-paper art? (Something we saw, not something we have any claim to.)


1 + 1 = Green

 On the grand tour. Found this. Can we think of anyones who might covet it? (See previous post...)

p.s. this isn't news, but iPads reallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreallyreally suck for blogging. 


Weld, Woad, Lac, Madder & etc.

If you don't know those words, you will by this time next year. Over the last three weeks, as a slave to the colour vats, Barbara Hodgson has dipped more than 700 sheets of Reg Lissel's paper into a variety of natural dyes, including annatto, logwood, cochineal, cutch, henna, pomegranate, weld, brazilwood, madder, lac, woad and indigo. This venerable and intensive process gave her plenty of time to finally settle on the title for the fourth and last book in the colour series: Around the World in Colour: A Multi-Hued Tour of Ochres, Oxides, Roots and Bugs.

Although Barbara admits to being loathe to disperse the stack, each copy of the book will include a sampling of these sheets, both full page and smaller swatches, to illustrate the richness of traditional colours found in regions such as Southeast Asia, the Near East and Central America.

The writing is mostly completed and she's focusing on the layout now. (Claudia, as binder, has the unenviable position of always being last in the production line, so she's still finishing up copies of their last project, Cutting Paper, while Barbara forges ahead.) Printing will happen late this year & early next, with the book slated for publication in late spring of 2014.