A Tour of the Shelves

No news to start the new school year. I’ll start printing Will Rueter’s calligraphy book soon, and will post some images and details next month. The Griffo project is getting serious: the manuscript is in the fine-tuning and illustration-selection stages. I am going to Toronto to participate in the Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library’s bi-annual small press fair (Saturday 7 September), and will be taking advantage of the Fisher’s collection to look at a few Aldines and related materials. I printed what I’m calling a "thing” for the fair, so if you come by you can see it in person.

I was rambling through my bookshelves recently, looking for a couple of books I knew I had somewhere. Along they way I rediscovered others I’d forgotten I had, or not looked at in a long time. Lacking actual news this month, thought I’d show a couple of the less common ones…

The Vollbehr Incunabula and the Book of Books 
Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C, 1932
It’s set in black-letter, but at least it’s set (and printed) well, in the style of a rubricated Gutenberg Bible, a copy of which landed at the U.S.’s Library of Congress with the purchase of Otto Vollbehr’s book collection in 1930. Two copies of this book are currently listed online, and even the more expensive is reasonably priced for the quality of materials and execution.

First Report of a Book-Collector. Followed By an Account of Book-Worms
William Harris Arnold
One of the most exuberant leaf books ever published. Nothing better than a book collector with extra money and a desire to share their passion. An early publication from Frank Hopkins’ Marion Press, an edition of 89 copies (presumably dictated by their most scarce leaf included?) bound in limp vellum. A second edition of 220 copies, without all the leaves, was issued the following year (less luxe but still printed on handmade paper). Typographically it’s a little anemic and very much of its time, but the printing and materials are good. There’s one copy of the first issue online, for a little less than I think I paid for my copy…

The Introduction of Printing into Canada; A Brief History
Aegidius Fauteux (Rolland Paper Company, 1930)
Not at all scarce, even in this binding. (There seems to have been a plainer leather-bound issue, without any decoration, and most copies were issued as a set of 6 pamphlets.) These “extra-bound” copies have remarkable endpapers. I think they are painted, as the gold parts are definitely raised from the paper’s surface, like a blob of paint. This copy is also notable for the laid-in printed vellum leaf - imagine a big commercial print shop doing a thing like that today! The book itself isn’t a gripping read.

Petrarch Press, 1989
More vellum! The first incarnation of the Petrarch Press issued only a handful of titles, all of them carefully planned and well printed (on a handpress). This copy is one of 8 printed on vellum, and I may have paid less than the issue price for it, which is ridiculous. I’m less beguiled by printing on vellum than I was in the early days, but it’s fun to have a sample or two on the shelves.


Artist's Kitchen
Sybil Andrews
A bizarre publication. Andrews was a British artist whose work first gained attention in the 1920s, as part of the Grosvenor School. She made wonderful modern linocuts, all angles and full of motion (Speedway, above, is among her best). She moved to a remote town on Canada's west coast after WWII, which pretty much removed her & her work from the public eye. In 1985 Artist's Kitchen - "a meditation on the When, the How, the Where and the Why of Art and Artists" - was published. Considering the topic, and her background in printmaking, the book is a turd. I think it was printed by mimeograph. Despite that, it's impossible to find a copy. I was searching for several years before this one copy appeared, and it was priced cheap because the cover had been stuck on upside down. Which might be the most graphically interesting part of the book. All of the chapters are very short, and some offer interesting suggestions for sparking creativity.

An Experiment in Printing
Minne Jane deThomas
Here's a much better book by someone interested in printmaking. It's one of the student publications that came out of the Wesleyan College Art Lab during the 1950s and '60s (most of them printed on a handpress). This single-signature pamphlet prints two original Bewick wood engravings on two different papers, to compare the pros and cons for each. Brilliant, and an elegant publication.

The Technology of Handpress Printing
Harry Duncan (Abattoir Editions, 1980)
This essay was included in The Doors of Perception, but this first publication was set and printed, on a handpress, by Duncan. It’s a good essay. The colophon says it was printed on (damp) Barcham Green paper. I have two copies: one is a tan sheet with faint speckles and a BG1977 watermark, about 100 - 120 g. The other copy is printed on heavier (approx 200 g) white wove paper with no watermark; I have no idea why it exists or how it connects to the edition. I think the type shows better on the white sheet. An uncommon book.

Speaking of significant books about printing with a handpress, printed on a handpress, I had to wait for a decade before a copy of Lewis Allen's Printing With the Handpress came on the market back when I got mine. Now there are three, and one is being offered at basically half price!? Someone grab it…