Tales of Topographic Books

HM generally is not a fan of people who attempt to make books something "more" or "different" than what they are. The history of printed books really comes down to trying to maintain the beauty and excellence that distinguishes incunabula."Book objects" typically sound more interesting in description or concept than they are in reality, in part because, ultimately, they fail the most basic of tests: they aren't books. They're oddities and curiosities.

Altered books, however, have proven interesting. Sometimes these create new books [texts], as with Crispin Hellion Glover's works. Or they create interesting text-based graphic panels, like Tom Phillips' A Humument. And most recently brought to our attention, the beautiful landscape & interior sculptures of Guy Laramee. Repurposing at its best. Koolkoolkool.


Not All of These Papers Are White

So here's where we're at with the book: above are all but two of the sheets we've printed so far. Today we have to change the points on the press, to go form printing four-up to just two-up, because the remaining sheets came to us in dimensions too small for work-&-turn. Means we'll have to keep them damp between printing the inner and outer formes, but c'est la vie. The sheets still to be done are an unknown, possibly Italian, with a beautiful watermark; some very thin Whatman; the previously mentioned kaichu shi; and a handful of 17th century sheets that will be included in the deluxe copies.

With fingers crossed from the remaining runs, it's looking like the edition of Paper Should Not Always Be White will be 30 copies, with the first ten being a deluxe issue containing (about) six additional samples, bound more elaborately. Price is still tbd (binding structure, materials etc. to be finalized).



That's right, professor! A monster book due out this fall will chronicle the history of legendary UK label 4AD. Written by Martin Aston, and embellished with new art & layouts by Vaughan Oliver, Facing the Other Way will be a lap-crushing 800 pages. In addition to the trade edition, there will be a limited edition of 1,000 copies with additional art and two compilation CDs. Copies can be pre-ordered through Amazon. Koolkoolkool.

We've printed a total of 16 different papers for the new book. Above is Griffen Mill (& it looks much more blue in life than here) and below an unidentified Barcham Green. Looks like we'll end up with an edition of at least 30 copies, with about half of those being a deluxe version that includes six additional sheets. Claudia is still pondering the binding. 


Lifting Weights 16 Ounces at a Time

Look, there just isn't that much to write about today. Things go well with the new book: paper is being printed, each different kind adding another example to Updike's essay about the interplay of paper and type. But we're supposed to post something on Mondays, so here's this:

The Arc cross trainer. This has proven to be the solution to the problem of severe right-shoulder joint pain that results from printing with a handpress, particularly when one doesn't print for a few months and then jumps right into a new project. It's been a problem for a few years. Trying to stay in shape during the non-printing stretches through weight training didn't really help. But this Arc thing seems to do the trick, primarily because the hand/arm handles work the same group of muscles as pulling the bar on a handpress. So, there you go: the reason we're keeping up a steady pace on the new book. No, we're not shilling. Just scratching for content. That's what journalism is: making sausages with whatever you got at hand. Sometimes it's real meat, sometimes it's filler...


More Papers & Patterns

Making progress through the stack of papers for the new book. The sheet above bears the watermark of  William H. Colson, Boston, though the paper was made in France. This is the same c.1905 paper that Baskin used for Flosculi Sententarum!

 Today's effort: Crown & Sceptre...

Thinking up different more than 20 different patterns with our meager collection of flowers & ornaments is going to be a challenge. Most start by arranging sorts on the table, fleshing out a general idea, and then doing the actual setting. Here's the "sketch" for what was used on the BG Dover sheet. It had to be revised after a proof pull because two of the six large circles were damaged:

This is BG's Saunders Blue. We had exactly three full sheets from an old paper seller's sample collection...


Printing Acoustics

Started printing Paper Should Not Always Be White. Worked through six of the approximately 25 kinds of paper we'll be using: five kinds of Barcham Green and Amalfi. Five handmades and one mould made. These six offer a good initial color spectrum, from white through tones of cream, to illustrate Updike's point.

In typical fashion, we underestimated how long thinking up & setting the patterned arrangements for each paper would take. But it's fun.

Thought up an apt metaphor for the project, when describing it to an acquaintance whose point of reference is musical rather than printing: changing the paper the text is printed on is like changing the room in which a piece of music is played. Each room's unique acoustics affects how the same recorded piece of music, played through the same system, will sound to us. Each paper's color and texture affects the look of the type printed into it. It will also be interesting to compare how the text looks after each sheet dries: based on just the six printed so far, there is significant variation in the amount of expansion when dampened, and thus the amount of contraction after printing.

p.s. figured out a way to print four-up, work & turn, so printing each sheet is two book sheets. 


Kaichu Shi

Been going deep with identifying papers lately, for the new book. Here's a package of Japanese paper, each sheet about 8 x 10 inches. Origin unknown. Kind of an off-white kozo feel. Asked a Japanese acquaintance what the characters on the front said: "kaichu shi" was the answer. This is a package of the Kleenex-like tissues women kept in their kimonos. (Apparently, crumpled-up ones are often seen on old, erotic Japanese woodcuts...)

Completely unrelated, this week loscil posted his phonautogram prints, editioned at HM, available through his site. An edition of 20, each print in a folder set & printed at HM. Cheap at the price. (You'll also see signed copies of his City Hospital-related project from Irish publisher WistRec, which will be the subject of a future post.) He also releasing (digital only) a new remix album of songs from the new - and highly praised - iPad app called Hundreds.


Ploughing Thru English Handmade Papers

Mentioned last week that the current project was an excuse to add to our collection of books about paper: got a copy of English Hand Made Papers Suitable for Bookwork, published in an edition of 75 copies by the Plough Press in 1972. The large frontis watermark is of a vatman in action is by Wookey Hole Mill. 

As per the title, it was author/publisher Geoffrey Wakeman's intention to show all the papers, of suitable weight for books, currently being made in England. Sadly, the book ended up being more a tombstone than a touchstone: the two major mills featured - Barcham Green and Wookey Hole - closed shortly after its publication.

Wakeman's Plough Press is notable for its interesting and original books related to printing & printing history, but he was a crap printer. He knew he should dampen handmade paper for printing, but he usually didn't (as looks to be the case with the book at hand); more's the pity. The inking's shifty & the impression is weak. Still, the content is useful.

Most of the samples are (folded) full sheets, printed on the first recto. The sections are divided with sheets of colored paper - "badgers" they apparently were called - one-off batches named after friends etc. Lots of inclusions. Not very interesting, but they serve their purpose. The real puzzler with this book is the wretchedly banal binding: institutional green buckram. It doesn't even rate ugly, just homely. Looks like the kind of thing a public library would do to keep a book in circulation for a few more years. According to the Plough Press bibliography, the edition was issued in quarter red morocco (by Gray's of Cambridge), with "come copies in art canvas." Our copy, and the others currently listed online, is in the horrible green buckram: is that what he calls art canvas? If anyone has a copy in the quarter leather binding, please get in touch.

All this kvetching aside, it's a kool book and immediately proved extremely useful for the project at hand. A project that hits the press this week. We're starting with just the Updike extract, and will do the preliminaries and colophon after all of the samples have been printed. Here's a shot of the lovely, never-yet-distributed font of 12-pt Caslon italic we'll be using for the paper names.