Elusive Books

Working on an article about a book published not too long ago, the subject of much attention and discussion at the time, and now almost unknown among collectors, and accused of being a hoax by some who have heard of it. Along those lines, a few other elusive (but definitely real) publications...

This being a blog dedicated above all to handpress printing, the first on the list will be the Novum Psalterium Pii XII printed by Brother Antonius (aka William Everson).

"It was Brother Antoninus' intention, in honor of the five hundredth anniversary of the publication of the first printed Psalter, to print a folio edition of the new translation published by the Vatican in 1945. He began work on the project in 1951, anticipating six years of work to complete 48 copies of the 300-page work, which he hoped to issue in 1957. By 1954, only 76 pages had been completed on a hand-press set up in the College of St. Albert the Great in Oakland, California, when Antoninus decided the project must be abandoned to allow him to devote himself to the priesthood. The press was closed..."


The page from which that quote is taken completes the story. It's also told, in greater detail by Everson himself and others involved, in the Book Club of California's collection of Everson's writings, On Printing. In addition to the 48 Doheny copies, there also are 17 "baby psalters" with fewer pages. Used to be at least one of each listed on Abe, but not lately. Peter Howard had Everson's own copy for sale at Serendipity in 2011, priced at $25,000. That auction page excerpted above simply was the first decent result Google threw up; there's lots of info about the Psalter out there.

Bookseller Timothy Hawley's Contrecoup Press has been publishing since 1980. Perhaps his most elusive title is a pirated reprinting a talk by Ray Bradbury, titled How Not To Burn A Book; Or, 1984 Will Not Arrive (2002). The edition was just 27 copies, issued at $45. Recently offered by the Veatchs at ten times that price. As a bookseller, Timothy specializes in books about books and has an excellent inventory and reasonable prices. But he seems to have disappeared from Abe; maybe he got fed up with the ever increasing tithes.

Finally, here's a pretty obscure one that doubles down: it relates to handpresses and Baskin.

The Embers Press is a Welsh imprint that has been publishing since 1974 (with a 15-year gap from 1990-2005)...

The Rainbow Press was the imprint of poet Ted Hughes and his sister, Olwyn. It operated from 1971 to 1981. A number of its titles included illustrations by Leonard Baskin, and bore the mark of his typographic influence...

The Morrigu Press was started by poet Hughes' son, Nicholas, in 1979, with the gift of an Albion handpress from Olwyn. It published a number of Hughes broadsides and pamphlets over the next four year...

In 2007 all the equipment of Morrigu Press, including the Albion, was purchased by Embers Press, and it is on the Embers Web site that you can find the following elusive title:

TAPIRS' SAGA, poem printed in red and black on hand-made paper. Only 15 copies were signed and numbered, making this the most scarce of any Hughes publication. The copies were never issued because of a fault in the typeface (Centaur). The type has been examined, and the fault is clear - the foundry caste a 16 point face onto a 14 point body, thus making it impossible to set the type solid. It is the same fount that was used for the First Publications, but they were set with well-leaded lines. Tapirs' Saga was set solid. Keith Sagar writes: "The copies still exist, and some have been given away.' It is a curious, mysterious, and witty poem (perhaps even an hermetic one) written in six three-line rhyming stanzas.