Aurora Teardrops, Live

We're still finalizing the setting & layout of Aurora Teardrops, the next poetry collection by Harold Budd, but he's already taking the poems on tour. The book, which promises to be on of HM's most colorful publications to date, will include batik paintings by Jane Maru (detail above). The two of them will be appearing on December in New York City at the famed Kitchen, for an improvised performance (by Harold) and reading (by Jane). They will also be appearing as part of Vancouver's annual PuSh Festival next January. I plan on having them sign the colophons for Aurora Teardrops when they're in town. More details to come.

This is why we need bookstores! You stumble across books you didn't know about, like this collection of provocative & engaging essays by Rick Poynor, Rules No More. One of the designers whose work is discussed is David Carson ("looks increasingly like a coruscating one-off"). I first encountered his design work in Ray Gun magazine in the early '90s. It ran some excellent articles, but they often were rendered unreadable, or at least undecipherable, by his layouts.

Another recent find, this odd book from Steidl. I think it basically is a facsimile of a unique manuscript copy, but the details in the book and on Steidl's site are fuzzy. A single sewn signature in a slipcase, it's a brief text by Keanu Reeves with drawings by Alexandra Grant. To be frank I could take or leave the content (written & visual). What caught my eye, in addition to the format, are the beautifully printed reproductions of monochromatic washes. I think it would have been improved by having the text set in type.

If you go on a bookshop tour this week, you might see a copy of a newly published paperback reproducing Jim Westergard's Oddball engravings. I haven't seen it, but I can confirm it is not a facsimile of HM's original publication. I'll try to get some news about it from Jim for next week... I'm not a fan of books that attempt to replicate one print medium with another (i.e. offset reproductions of wood engravings), but if it introduces a new audience to Jim's talent, that's a good thing.


A Flash of Red

XI LXIVMOS update: that's one of the deluxe copies above, being sewn up by Sarah Creighton. Check out the peak at Francesca Lohmann's calligraphy on the title page... All of the deluxe copies available from HM are reserved; Bromers may still have one or two available. We expect to be shipping them in early January.

Recently acquired a copy of Dard Hunter's Papermaking in India. It came with a pre-publication letter from the publisher, which was accompanied by a clipping from the New York Times Magazine from May 15, 1938. It's an article by DH about his trip. Kool. I'll post something about this book & its companion (Japan, Korea & China), specifically about the challenges of binding paper samples of different sizes into a book.


The Roman Empire All Stitched Up

Why buy an orphaned volume from an 1833 American four-volume edition of Gibbon's The History of the Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire? Especially one printed on such poor paper? Because of this map!

More precisely, because of the restoration done to the paper on the map's lower right corner (verso shown below)...

UNESCO's RAMP (Records & Archives Management Program?) site tells us, "The oldest method of repairing tears in parchment was by stitching, preferably using herring-bone stitch and twine, gut or in more modern times, nylon. However, this method is clearly not suitable as it involves perforating the original support and, despite the remarkable nature of some of the sewing, it is always an anti-aesthetic solution."

That last bit is much too dogmatic. For example, Sherwin Beach Press' edition of Ballet for Opening Day (2002) is one of the koolest books produced ever, in no small part because of the ingenious way they married the text sheets to the (different paper) etching sheets (I believe this was the idea of Trisha Hammer). Beautiful. One of the few remaining books on my Wish-I-Had list. 


Piling Up & Cutting Out

Entering a less verbal, more visual period for the blog ... Sheets for Barbara Hodgson's Mrs Delany Meets Herr Haeckel are piling up. Most (i.e. the ones shown here that are mostly border, with just brief captions at the bottom) will have her original papercuts mounted on them. Same for a frontis across from the title page.

She comes by once a week to pick up the latest batch, goes home & sets to the painstaking work of finishing & mounting the cuts.

Found this gem about rocks last week. Should probably go to Barbara's color reference library. We'll see. For now it's mine.

Not only is it a kool color-related book, it was printed by Enschedé! Sort of: I can't find anything in English that explains what Huyskes-Enschedé was, but it seems to have been some kind of publisher specializing in geological topics. In Holland with Enschedé attached, it has to be tied to the foundry somehow.

Barbara never reads this blog, so I have no fear about her finding out I have the thing & demanding I had it over. Same with Claudia.

Remember, if you're in LA tomorrow, that Barbara will be giving this year's Lieberman Lecture, talking about The WunderCabinet. Claudia, who claims she can't speak in public, will be hiding in the audience, no doubt piping up with questions & comments.


Just Say No to Perfect Binding

Last summer I spotted a spine that stood out from all the thrift-shop tattered & dull ones around it: Luna Bella Luna - A Portrait of Vesale, Italy (1997). It's fundamentally a book of photos - black & white, duotone & color - by Paul Elledge taken in the northern Italian city, with some fun typography and printer's flowers thrown in. Flipping through, what caught my interest was the imprint: published by Mohawk Paper Mills Inc. Paper companies have long sponsored projects that show off their products, but LBL is interesting for being a showcase also of printing and, more to today's point, binding.

The 96-page book employs five variations/kinds of Mohawk's Superfine paper (an admirable paper for this kind of trade publication, but its use in letterpress limited editions reflects a lack of imagination). It was printed at the Stinehour Press, and while the extensive colophon even includes details about the inks, there is no mention of who did the binding, only that the book is "bound by the lay-flat Otabind process. The ability to open this book at any place, and it will remain open, is due to advanced adhesive binding technology and a patented free-floating cover, of this type of binding."

I'd first read about Otabind on the site of Hyphen Press, an English publisher with a long list of interesting & beautifully-produced books related to typography & design. Even before the disappearance of bookstores, Hyphen's title weren't commonly encountered, and they tended to go out of print quickly. You had to look in shops that specialized in design, architecture etc. Most are issued in softcover (i.e. stiff wrap) with a printed jacket.

The Hyphen site includes a long article by publisher Robin Kinross about Otabind, written in 2007. In it he makes passing mention to softcover being his preferred format, but doesn't explain why. I share a fondness for softcovers if & when they are sewn, and especially when a jacket is added. Perfect binding is an abomination that should never be used. So I was surprised & highly skeptical when I read Kinross' article about Otabind, and the fact that despite relying entirely on glue to hold the pages in (like perfect binding), it also allows the book to open flat (which only happens with perfect-bound books when you crack the spine) without destroying the adhesive connection between spine and page. So, the Vesale book, found in a thrift shop for a few bucks, offered an opportunity to test Otabind's claims.

As Kinross explains in his article (and as a trade binder who offers the process also describes, here), the difference between Otabind and perfect binding lies in the type of glue, how it's applied, and the structure of the cover. Here's another article about it, from a Dutch design periodical (Works That Work) that switched to Otabind in 2014.

Interesting to note in Kinross' article that he seems to prefer a variation in which a book is still sewn, and the sections then glued-up using the Otabind process, which really just means the spine is lined (but with cold glue, leaving it flexible), as it should be anyway. Casing-in (whether in boards or a stiff wrap) still relies entirely on the pastedowns, which is asking quite a bit (e.g. like the topic of last week's post, David Sylvian's new 600+ page opus). The Vesale book, in comparison, had had the section folds sheared off - there is no sewing.

Having experimented with Vesale - holding it up by a single page, flattening it open in a manner that would instantly crack a perfect-bound spine - it does seem to hold up to the claims made for it. There are a few binderies in the U.S. that offer the proprietary process; none I could find in Canada. But I still disdain bindings that rely entirely on adhesive: it's lazy & inelegant. A sewn book can open flat when properly constructed (here's a tip - don't put so many sheets in a signature!).

So that's the story of Otabind. There really is no excuse for publishers to be using perfect binding. One way or another, sew your books.

The koolest Hyphen Press book I have is Morton Feldman Says... It's also one of the scarcest Hyphen titles. Not an Otabind (think it predates the imprints shift to the technique).