Tails of Dunwich

The tailpieces that appear in early printed books weren
t simply decorative, they had a function. If the space filled by a tailpiece (which appears at the bottom of a short page, i.e. one with fewer than the book’s normal number of lines of text) was left empty, it affects the impression across the sheet: the platen falls lower (harder) over the empty space, printing the surrounding areas of text more heavily but reducing the impression in the area opposite. 

Adding a tailpiece helps balance the impression across the sheet. It serves the same purpose as the platen bearers used at HM, one at each corner of the bed, adjusted by adding or removing pieces of mylar or paper between the bearer and bed, to even the overall impression for each form. (Image above is from Manni
s Vita di Aldo, 1759; below is from Marcheses Origine e progressi della stampa, 1722.)

Eight of the ten chapters in The Dunwich Horror fall short. Anticipating the impression issues, I had the idea of adding tailpieces. I considered using some 16th century tailpieces, but decided they would clash with Briony
s prints. Playing around with a fount of Bodoni ornaments one day, I started making little creatures, and thought they’d make excellent tailpieces. 

Now, the fact that they’re being printed in a second color – i.e. not with the short page of text – renders them useless as tailpieces, but they fill the spaces in interesting ways. And I have my platen bearers to deal with the impression balance. I’ve never been able to use modern types like Bodoni, I just can’t make them work, but the ornaments are fun to play with. The boxed copies of Dunwich (numbers 1 20) will contain an eight-page pamphlet with some designs that didn’t get used in the book. Like the sheets that will cover the book’s boards, the pamphlet is a palimpsest: it’s printed on waste leaves of Reg Lissel’s HM Text paper, from Elements in Correlation (HM 2009), that were painted with a mixture of sumi ink and black acrylic paint. 

Briony expects to complete printing all of the aquatints for the book this month, and then turn her attention to the board sheets. While she’s doing that, I’ll be sewing copies and getting ready to make the cases. We
re having so much fun that were trading ideas for a new project. Ill end with a tailpiece from a volume of Blaeu’s Atlas Maior (c.1665)...