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?


Rollins' Wisdom

Passed the half-way point for printing the new book this weekend. Above is the first side of the Wookey Hole sheet: a quote from Carl Rollins set in ATF's Verona. Three runs in one day (150 impressions); that's about the max we can do here. Tried something new: setting text in an oval.

Started by setting the rotating text straight on pieces of 25 pica lead, 14-pt Verona word spaced 4/M. Measured the length of the combined lines, in inches: 13.675 inches. That would be the oval's circumference. Using that measure, the 14-pt metal Verona is equivalent to 11.6-pt in the digital version. Used InDesign to establish the height and width of the oval required to fit the interior text (set in 24-pt Verona) was calculated.

One of the many kool things about a handpress is you can play with layouts and setting on the bed, since it's flat. Used two pieces of 1-pica wood furniture, held in place with magnets, to fix the circumference. Took two strips of 1-pt leads, and measured them to one-half the inside circumference (meeting at the horizontal mid-point).

Took two more pieces of 1-pt leads and measured them to the outer circumference. Started wedging things into place with furniture and spacing material. With the oval roughed out, the set type was dropped into place & adjusted. Printed it in gold on the dampened Wookey Hole. Easy enough once everything was in place.

Couldn't really pull proofs with the interior text in place, so instead we cut out a paper maquette with the width of each line and overall height, and placed it in the oval to check for positioning. Had to reduce the planned leading from six points to two. Printed the black lines.

That done, swapped lines out for the third run, in silver. Finis for the day. Eh; been wanting to try setting "in the round" for some time. Not sure it's really worth the effort. Took half a day to get the oval figured out. Done it, don't need to do it again. Just like what this sheet was backed-up with: the Three Uglies. Perfect counterpoint to the Five Beauties. We really are pulling out all the metal types hidden in drawers around here, and some will never be printed at - or even seen around - HM again; this book will be their debut & farewell.


The Shadow's Shadow is the Light

Before (right) & after (left) shot of the last run (silver) on the Van Gelder laid sheet: Gill Shadow in 36 and 24 pt. The title for today's post is a quote from a radio interview Tom Waits did earlier this year; it's set in 14-pt American Shadow on the facing verso (cropped out of today's photo). The other side of the sheet features Oldrich Menhart's Unciala in four sizes.

Been talking with Claudia about the deluxe copies. A plan is taking shape. More to follow soon. The edition looks like it will come in around 35 copies, with between 10 and 15 being extra-bound by her, with an additional section of samples. The remaining copies will be cased in marbled paper over thin boards - just like Types/Paper/Print - at HM. Both states will be issued before the end of the year.


There's No Q, X or Z in De Roos

Here's the De Roos spread: 36-pt italic and 60-pt semi-bold. Bodleian handmade verso (back of last week's Five Beauties), Arches Velin recto. The fonts came pristine, in their original Lettergieterij Amsterdam packaging (a couple shown below). Inexplicably, the semi-bold is missing the Q, X and Z (but not the W, T, F and ?, which enables us to ask the question), so we improvised with the sorts we did have.

In the press this week: Morris roman and Reiner Script. Still pondering the book's title; suggestions will be considered.


The Five Beauties

Yesterday's run for Metal Types & Some Paper: The Five Beauties, a single font of each, not enough to anything useful. Collectively named in opposition to the Three Uglies, which will appear at the back of the book. The paper is Barcham Green Bodleian, a mixture of cold-pressed mould-made (a yellow tint) and NOT handmade (more off-white). Two color runs a day on a handpress is sufficient work-out that we get a bye from the gym.  


The Greatest of All Time

Printing; no time for blogging. Couple of pix: the back-up for last week's Kuthan sheet. Playing with 72-pt Garamond. The spread shows the basic format for the book: versos will list the type and paper of the facing recto, and attribute the quote if one is used.

The Garamond used a Muhammad Ali quote we've been wanting to print for years. The Garamont was thrown in just because we have it.

In the press today: some very old & worn Rubens, in several sizes.


Back in the Press, 50 Years Later

A shot of the first sheet through the press for Metal Types & Some Paper. Not really indicative of what the rest of the book will look like, because this one is building on a sheet that was originally printed over 50 years ago. It's one of the pages from Kuthan's Menagerie, published by Robert Reid in 1960. When the unbound copies that ended up being issued at Kuthan's Menagerie Completed came to us, there was a complete extra run of this page from the introduction. No idea why. We decided to recycle them for the Perpetua display page on the specimen book. It's slightly smaller than the book's 7 x 10 inch format, but a few of the other sheets are slightly smaller as well. Most of the other display pages in the book will be less text heavy & more shaped or patterned in the setting. Off & running.


Paper for Metal

Start printing the metal type specimen book today. Spent the past few weeks consolidating all the different ideas & approaches we'd developed over the past year, finalizing which types are featured & which play supporting roles, and deciding on a sequence for the book. Part of the sequencing decisions depended on trying to match faces with the various papers that will be used in the book, i.e. bigger and stronger faces with the heavier and more opaque papers.

The final line-up of papers that will be used is: Wookey Hole, Barcham Green Tovil & Bodleian, Golden Hind, kitakata, Reg Lissel's HM Text, Arches Wove, Van Gelder laid, Guarro laid (white and yellow), and Roma.

The edition will be somewhere between 30 and 40 copies, with about 10 including an extra section with four uncommon types on loan from friends, printed on an off-white Barcham Green sheet. More about this section later. 

Haven't finalized a title for the book yet, but for now it's being called Metal Types & Some Paper. Gotta get it published before the end of the year; things are happening around here...


Eyeballs This Way

As previously posted, we sometimes find books that simply cannot be left where they are, (usually in or near discard pile). The potential to use blank sections (margins) of sheets from broken books, especially ones printed on paper made before 1800, is becoming a particular interest at HM. Not really altered books, but new ones designed so that the type can occupy the blank parts of an already printed sheet. So whenever we encounter a broken book with lovely paper, especially if it's 4to or larger in size, with "generous margins," we take it home.

Looking through the collection of orphans & amputees recently, we re-encountered a German book printed in a fraktur type (with some latin phrases in roman) in Vienna in 1813, on paper that feels supple enough to sleep on. It came from a mouldy box of discards. Besides the paper, what really caught our attention was the section of hand-colored plates at the back (it had come loose in the box, and we were lucky to find it). The engravings were signed in the plate, but also appeared to be initialed by the artist.

Reading fraktur is hard enough even when you know the language, so it wasn't until the book re-emerged this week that we bothered to find out what it is:

Lehre von den Augenkrankheiten, als Leitfaden zu seinen √∂ffentlichen Vorlesungen entworfen, by Dr. Georg Beer. The title roughly translates as "Study of the Diseases of the eye, as a Guide to His Public Lectures." 

The book isn't rare - there are numerous copies currently on offer - but it does seem to have some significance in the history of medical publishing, not least because of the colored plates. Bookseller Jeff Weber currently has a set (there are two volumes) listed; his description includes the following details:

"Beer is remembered for his textbook; the doctrines in it dominated practice for many years. He described the symptoms of glaucoma and noted the luminosity of the fundus in aniridia. He also presented for the first time the general principles of treating post-traumatic inflammations, including penetrating and perforating injuries as well as injuries to the orbit. He describes the first use of the loupe for the examination of the living eye. The plates in this work were both hand-coloured and signed by Beer. He was a distinguished iridectomist. Many of his pupils became famous ophthalmic surgeons. Beer opened the first known eye hospital, in 1786, in Vienna. He was the first Jew to graduate in Austria. English translation, Glasgow, 1821." Garrison and Morton.

Georg Joseph Beer is considered the founder of the Vienna school and was "an excellent surgeon and a capable artist who illustrated his own books. He was one of the best known teachers of ophthalmology of all times and trained a generation of ophthalmologists who carried his teachings to their own lands. Beer was the first to use a loupe for external examination of the eye." Gorin, History of Ophthalmology.

According to another source, Beer "personally coloured the figures of abnormal eye conditions to ensure their accuracy." Weber's set is dated 1817, but it sounds like a the same edition. It probably just is a later issue, which makes sense if you consider how long it would have taken Beer to complete all the coloring for each copy.

Perhaps the most endearing aspect of this copy is the binding: it is sewn (all 600 pages) and simply covered in a beautiful Holland blue paper over very thin boards, with no printing or writing of any kind on the exterior. It's probably worth sending to Natasha Herman to be restored, even though the single volume probably couldn't justify the cost. A beautiful reminder of when publishing actually involved people working directly on each copy produced.