Delany & Haeckel Approach

Sent out a prospectus for Barbara Hodgson's Mrs Delany Meets Herr Haeckel to our usuals last week. Details here. If interested contact one of HM's booksellers (at right). Only a few copies remain reserved, and it looks like they'll be claimed by the end of the week.

"An imagined collaboration between Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-88), an English widow, woman of accomplishment, and creator of imaginative botanical “paper mosaicks,” and Herr Ernest Haeckel (1852-1911), a distinguished and controversial German biologist and artist, who devoted much of his time to the study and rendering of single-celled creatures. The book, which expands on a paper-cutting theme presented in Cutting Paper (2013), presents 58 cut-paper interpretations of microscopic organisms tipped on to 11 captioned plates.

"An introductory text provides some biographic background for Delany and Haeckel and describes how the cut-paper renderings could have come about. An appendix provides a detailed taxonomy and nomenclature for each of the plates. Tipped-in cut-paper embellishments are incorporated with the text on several pages. The book (6 x 8.5 inches, 56 pp.) is set in Fournier and printed on dampened Arches wove with the handpress at Heavenly Monkey.

"The edition will be uniformly bound by Claudia Cohen in full leather with extensive gilt tooling, to a design by the author. Each copy from the edition of 25 will be signed by the author, binder and printer, and issued in a clamshell box. Printed in the fall of 2015, copies are to be issued spring 2016."


A Day's Work, No More

Recently been reading a catalogue raisonné of Universal Limited Art Editions. Tatyana and Maurice Grosman were Russian emigres whose studio in New York helped spark a mid-20th century resurgence in printmaking among American artists. The catalogue's introductory essay includes a quote from Grosman that struck a chord:

"I never go over to a second day for printing an edition. We do as much as we can in one day; after that the printer's touch is different - everything changes...Because the next day to start, he would have been copying the emotions of the first day. So it becomes something mechanical..." (p. 34)

There are a number of related reasons HM has, with only a few exceptions, traditionally kept editions to no more than 50 copies. One of the main reasons is the satisfaction that comes from completing a run in one day. That side of the sheet is a work of a single encounter. To continue on a second day is, as Tatyana said, to attempt to copy what was already achieved. There are more practical concerns, like how long you can keep a sheet damp, but the thought of waking up to do the same thing you did the day before is not inspiring. There's no point in doing this if you aren't excited to get back to work each morning.

(Another reason for the upper edition limit is simply how many impressions you can reasonably pull in a day. For the recent Sunblind Highway, with an edition of 100 copies, I printed 125 sheets, to allow for wastage. Setting up the new formes each morning took about an hour, and then there was about six to seven hours of printing. Printing on a handpress is a physical endeavour, and with each sheet taking three days to work off [inner forme, outer forme, then second color on both sides], you need a day's rest.)

In addition to prints ULAE produced a handful of artist's books (in the best sense of that ambiguous phrase), the most famous being Robert Motherwell's A la pintura. The catalogue seems to include reproductions of the entire book, which is interesting because it doesn't appear to have been produced in facsimile anywhere else. I could be incorrect about that, but there certainly isn't a true facsimile listed online. Tatanya did not approve of reproductions, so maybe that's why. She was disdainful of offset printing, but eventually relented to indulge artists interested in exploring its creative potential, including Jim Dine and Jasper Johns.

The chapter on Robert Motherwell's work at ULAE ends with a quote from Tatyana praising Octavio Paz's poem “The Skin of the World, The Sound of the World,” which was dedicated to the artist. "We have to discuss ideas how to publish it" she said, but by that time Maurice was dead and she was in declining health. The idea must have appealed to Motherwell, because the project came together a decade later, from the Limited Editions Club. The book - which consisted of very large unsewn sheets - didn't enjoy the same acclaim as A la pintura, but then 750 copies was a much bigger edition than Tatyana would ever have considered.

Just to bring everything back to HM, the Paz/Motherwell book plays a significant role in the history we issued last year of "the infamous disappearing book," Agrippa.


Sarah Creighton sent this photo of cases for the regular edition of XI LXIVmos. Copies are being shipped out this week.


Cut It Out

Sorry for the delayed post; it's a holiday week up here. We'll keep it simple with just a few shots from Barbara's upcoming book, Mrs Delany Meets Herr Haeckel. A completed set of sheets stopped by the studio before getting shipped off to Claudia's bindery. 

The sense of depth & shadow that Barbara achieved with the cut-outs in the book are stunning. One page, which precedes a new section, yields an unexpected effect when turned, almost like a prism, where the light strikes the underlying page. We spent a few minutes playing with just that page!

Binding work proceeds. Final details about the book will be going out to our booksellers soon. If you're a collector interested in the book, get in touch with one of HM's booksellers now to reserve one of the 25 copies.


The Story of 11 Small Books

The regular copies of XI LXIVmos will be shipping soon. Deluxe copies showed up here a few weeks ago but I was swamped by Sunblind Highway, and waited till it was done to see how Sarah Creighton's deluxe bindings turned out. Not a surprise that she did a beautiful, meticulous job on the bindings.

The book's 14 signatures were elegantly rounded & backed, and put into a German case binding with the thinnest possible boards. Each copy contains five samples taken from four of the Bromers' books: a complete (4-pg) copy of Henry Morris' prospectus for his V-109 (1978), trimmed at the margins to fit; a page from The Remarkable Story of Chicken Little (1979); two pages from Edward Gorey's Eclectic Abecedarium (1982); and a page from the maybe/probably not Shakespeare Shall I Die? Shall I Fly (1986).

All of the pages are hinged to semi-transparent Japanese paper, as they were too small to simply be bound in, and I didn't want the blank versos that would result from attaching them to a sheet of the text paper. With the Japanese paper, the spreads are not interrupted.

In addition to the sample pages, these deluxe copies all feature original calligraphy by Francesca Lohmann, Claudia Cohen's studio assistant. I knew of her work as an artist and printmaker, but became aware of her calligraphy only just before starting XI LXIVmos. As a result, we will be collaborating on an entire ABC book of her original calligraphy over the next year, to be bound by Claudia. Details to follow...

Sarah's boxes for the deluxe copies is covered in an elegant contrasting red cloth, lined with a dark gray buckram. All in all, a good project to get HM up & running again, with fun people involved, most of all Anne Bromer.

All of HM's copies of XI LXIVmos - deluxe and regular - are gone. The Bromers may still have a deluxe, and definitely have some of the regulars.