Newsletter - May 2012

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Written by the knowing for those in the know, this newsletter is not a tip sheet for the private press world, but nevertheless its recommendations occasionally do clearly rasp the odd nerve. Famously or, depending upon your point of view, infamously, this was especially so with the last issue With or Without Oxford where retractions were demanded and it was suggested that not only should I get my facts right, put some mush in my mouth, or else mate. However, this very brief issue is written with a view to postponing all-out war - if only by by waving a sheet of damp handmade.

Types/Paper/Print is a new twenty-four page type specimen book from Rollin Milroy's Heavenly Monkey Press in Vancouver. It displays nine roman and eleven italic faces printed in various sizes printed on Guarro paper, with an 'allusive' wood engraving cut and printed on gampi by Shinsuke Minegishi. Each face is displayed on a full page (31 X 21cm) in three text sizes with ample margins. There is a three-page foreword by Rollin, discussing why these typefaces have been chosen and how they will be used (and printed) at the studio. This section also touches upon the importance of paper and how it can affect the appearance of type. (The ten special copies, immediately fully subscribed, illustrated this point by having all of the samples printed on three different papers - including Arches Wove and Reg Lissel's handmade, all printed damp, bound together seqentially for comparison's sake.)

Binding for the specials is quarter leather by Claudia Cohen, for the forty standard copies combed marbled paper-covered boards, predominantly blue, white and maroon, gilt-titled white labels on the spine and upper board - that on the front cover being in the shape of a small diamond - which sits on these eighteenth-century style quarto boards just so.

The text used to display the types is H.P. Lovecraft's story The Horror at Red Hook, though it is hardly mentioned anywhere that this type specimen is also a story. Something to delight and infuriate Lovecraft collectors, no doubt, when they get to hear of it.The title-page (in grey, black and reddish-brown) is enjoyably perfect. It is beautifully printed and laid out, there is a left-leaning touch of humour in what seems to be a reference to Eric Gill's Typography.

In all, a delightful book, though naturally not everyone sees the point of it at over three hundred pounds.What I perhaps like most is that it is a clear statement of intention and ambition rather than a monument to achievement. There is nothing of specimen pages of past work here. All is new. Rollin gracefully confessed to a small error in the foreword and Shinsuke Minegishi's wood engraving Mr Milroy's Gate to a Wonder World is not on an integral leaf, being a later addition, but this to carp. What will interest and surprise many is that this is a polymer not a metal production. Obviously, it is polymer printed on the hand-press - choosing to work with digital type as if it was metal - with all the automated features turned off. Being both rooted in the technologies of the past and looking foward as an artist bookmaker is an idea firstly, not so heretical as it might seem, but is also one we will come across again in this issue.

A single copy of Types/Paper/Print is currently on view in the shop until 21st May. Otherwise copies are available to the swift at £320 each. Overall score 39/50

Incidentally, anyone with an appetite for a leaf book presenting and explaining George Wither's A Collection of Emblemes Ancient & Moderne (1635), done for the lotteries and complete with volvelles, intaglio and letterpress, might consider starting to save for the new HM edition of that book promised for the autumn.

Qute different is: Out of Context. This is a good morsel from Dr Miles Wigfield's Reading Room Press. It has twelve pages, printed wrappers, sewn, printed in blue in Bembo on the Albion on Magnani paper with ornaments by Edward Bawden. Approximately 140 copies at £15.

There is almost as much colophon as text, which quotes T.E. Lawrence: 'There need be no proof reading since misprints are a matter of indifference.' This is preceded by a wood-engraved portrait of TEL by George Buday, done from the block. In point of fact, Lawrence was most particular about misprints, what this refers to is the American copyright edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom done by Doran. This edition was to be so severely limited and so expensive that it would be neither bought or indeed read. Overall score 32/50

And what of Matrix 30? That, to quote Paul Nash 'remarkable doorstop of erudition, humour and art .. a salmagundi of fascinating information on printing presses, illustration processes, typefaces and art and ornament, beautifully illustrated with printed specimens and photographs.' This issue is a little slimmer than some past years, but the quality of the articles is excellent, proof that a glider doesn't need an engine. I particularly enjoyed Russell Maret Letters, Words & Books in which he descibes with passion and some detail his visions for typefaces, how he draws them and aspects of digital font technology. With the latter Russell begins to go over my head, but I took a professional interest in James Fergusson's interesting and amusing article, A Head that would have attracted Daumier, Obituaries in the Independent. I used to do this myself occasionally. Gaylord Schanilec's article The River describes his boat and how he intends to fish for and engrave full-size the seventy species of catchable fish in the Mississipi. I also thought very good Sean Hawkins' piece, The Quest for Geoffrey Miller, the wood-engraver who worked, among other things, with the 1930s with the Roman Catholic printer Edward Walters. Delightful books, not appreciated to their full worth and some rare. Price of the standard edition (660 copies) of Matrix is £135, to be had from the Whittington Press. (Invidious to score a single issue of Matrix.)

Whilst only the total score is given beside the book, each is marked out of a possible fifty points, obtained thus: Paper (maximum of 5 points);Typography & Illustration (maximum of 15 points);Binding (10 points); Value for money (10 points);Content/Gut feeling - was this book worth producing in the first place?

Under this system which I’ve used for many years in assessing new books brought into the shop, 20 to 30 is the average, 35 very good indeed, under 18 not good. Please feel free to disagree in the liveliest language.

I'm still twiddling my thumbs in respect of the Incline Press E.R.Weiss, by Gerry Cinamon, which I've been awaiting for quite some time (the rumour mill has copies at the binders, regular subscribers are said to have their copies). Expectations run very high after so long. Incline Press has never liked doing 'specials', but I understand that Graham Moss has agreed to the demand for some. When it eventually comes I predict a fine book with every copy lavishly illustrated with tip-ins in the traditional Oldham style. (The mock-up at the Oxford Fine Press Fair was excellent.)

Bob Baris at his Press on Scroll Road has kindly sent me a prospectus for No Fool, No Fun: New Poems by Gray Zeltz, illustrated by Wesley Bates. It looks very good and though he doesn't mention a price, I'm sure it will be reasonable.. Subscribers may recall how impressed with Bob's work I was at Oxford 2011. I shall be stocking all his available work for the future.

Finally, it's been a delight to me to be once again in touch with Carolee Campbell of Ninja Press, Sherman Oaks, California, and I will again have her vital and creative books. Her press was founded in 1984 and named after its first black cat. In a letter she wrote to me fifteen years ago, she explained something of her approach to bookmaking: 'Going to the ... Book Fair is like going back in time. The work of most of the presses there is so very good yet somewhat hidebound - stuck in amber. The tradition of woodblock printing is a long and glorious one with many fine examples, a number of them evident at the fair. As a contemporary bookmaker I have one foot in the technology of the past ... and the other foot planted firmly in an approach to bookmaking that articulates my three-dimensional "voice", my personal experience of the literature I choose to print. I challenge myself to bring the history of bookmaking and its techniques into my bindings in new configurations to match the writing which newly configures literary expression. Otherwise we reinvent the wheel.'

I'm particularly keen on Nathaniel Tarn's The Persephones (as I was previously of her edition of Tarn's The Architextures - decorated with printers' furniture). The text pages consist of twelve unbound folios. Each folio is painted by hand on both front and back using sumi ink and salt, by Carolee Campbell, making each copy unique. The poems are printed on and alongside the artwork. The folios are held together in a goat parchment cover. The edition is of 85 numbered copies, signed by poet and artist, with an additiomal ten lettered hors commerce. 48 pages. £1,100

Also very attractive is The Sirens, by New Zealand poet Alan Loney. Handset in Eve and Paramount printed on gampi torinoko, handmade by the late Masao Seki. The decorative device repeated throughout the text is embellished by hand with gold and silver pigments, as is the titling. The text is sewn through the black Asahi cloth spine with grey silk cord echoing the silver embellishments. the boards are covered in hanji, coarsely stained, beautiful Korean paper. Design and execution are by Carolee, whose photographs line front and back boards. There are 80 signed and numbered copies. 28 pages. £300



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Collinge & Clark
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