Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Printing Press Song

Yesterday was a good mail day. It was marked by the arrival of an old recording by George Hamilton IV singing his ballad, If I Possessed a Printing Press. Never a chart-topper, Hamilton released the seven inch vinyl on the ABC Paramount label in 1957 at age twenty. The lyrics recall a boy longing to tell the world of his hunk o' burning love by printing up handbills in many colors. Accompanied by a chorus of crooners, Hamilton wistfully sings:

     And in the middle of each one, in bold face type a line would run. 
     The oldest line it always knew, I'd tell the world that I love you. 

I just hope Mr. Hamiliton IV was a better printer than he was a songwriter. Fortunately, the incomparable ABC-Paramount label with the gothic extended type, along with the infinity logo in its full-color rainbow fidelity, was worth the entire $1.99 I paid for it. If only I possessed a printing press now...
Give it a listen and feel free to hum along.

A nice four color poster from a 1958 "Show of Stars" show in Saskatoon. George Hamilton the IV received top billing along with Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers and Paul Anka.  
::Thank you for the YouTube post Paco Sanchez.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Paper Revolution

A stop-motion animation by UK photographer Chris Turner and crew who performed magic to illustrate the vital lifecycle of a drop of water. This one minute and forty-five second short took nearly one year to make and involved over a thousand stills of pure paper engineering pleasure by Helen Friel. Animation by Jess Deacon.
::From Colossal via faith is torment

An animation of Helen Friel making her book Revolution.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In case you missed the "Unbound" exhibit, at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem MA last year, this video provides a glimpse of three books which are considered highlights in their book collection.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

26 Letters Inspired by Other Letters

In 2009, Russell Maret designed twenty-six letters based upon the literary references, musings, and insights gained from many distinguished type historians, poets, writers, and type designers such as Baskerville, Bodoni, Koch and Zapf. His book Æthelwold Etc. is the compilation of these letterform explorations and a measure of his skills as a fine press printer. In the colophon, Maret describes this undertaking "as a dialogue with history, particularly with the historical form of the writing manual."
     Not content to design just the 26 different letters of the alphabet for this book, Maret insisted upon designing all of the text fonts for it as well. The text and the "images" were printed from 163 plates in 105 different colors on a Vandercook proof press, and printed on Hahnemühle Biblio paper. The "A" alone is printed in eight separate ink runs.

     Æthelwold Etc. was one of many fine showstoppers at the recent Codex Book Arts Fair which deserve a full mention, however my crappy digital cell phone photos can do it no justice. Not all 26 letters are featured here, but dang near. 

G for Golden, as in the perpetually spiraling golden rectangle I presume. 


The utopiate U composition uses actual text from De Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater, for the shading of the dimensional letterform. The text is set in Maret's own rendition of Thomas More's Utopian alphabet. 

After mixing and testing the ink colors, Maret puts each ink into a loose packet for a week in order to stiffen it up. This way his halftones have almost no ink gain. 

It is impossible to do justice to the printing of this book with digital photos, but this one from Maret's own blog provides some idea of the seamless texture he gets with his halftones and inks which give it the appearance of a watercolor. Bear in mind, Maret printed this book entirely on a Vandercook proof press. 

The first four pages of the color diary for this book. Below is the deluxe set edition of Æthelwold Etc. with the book, the color diary of ink draw downs, and a portfolio of all 26 letters. All three are housed in a clamshell box. The standard edition is just the book alone.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Day Three: Codex Book Fair

The 21st Editions table featuring the Prism Books series of three photography books: Jack Spencer (book in foreground), Yamamoto Masao on left, and Mitch Dobrowner, (center). 
Stopping by Vamp and Tramp booksellers to meet with Bill & Vicky Stewart is always a visual treat. They represent hundreds of international book artists and they both love to share the work of these artists and their stories. Two of my most favorite artists they represent are Romano Hanni of Basel, Switzerland and Sarah Bryant of Big Jump Press in the UK. Hanni produced the typo bilder buch (above) in 2012. It is quite simply and amazing design printed in four colors on paper towels. With approximately 190 press runs on 58 pages, in an edition of 65, it simply takes your breath away just to imagine it. In a statement on the Vamp and Tramp site, Hanni claims it took approximately 600 hours to produce.
As with most of Hanni's work, his books are visually striking, whimsical, and smart. The content frequently presents challenging topics. In his 2010 book below, Typografische Notizen II, deals with justice and global exploitation by large companies and the banking sectors. The text is in German and his books include a supplemental pictorial booklet translation in English. The captions on the page below translate to "with Ritalin" and "without Ritalin".
     Sarah Bryant's most recent book below entitled Fond, comes in a standard and a deluxe edition. It explores collecting and memory. Bryant writes "a fond is a group of archival documents organically accumulated by people or institutions." The collected objects "serve as an information retrieval system and an emotional bank." The deluxe edition inside a clamshell box, includes the book, ten prints and one object housed in a paper wrapper alongside the book. All 3 of these books are available from Vamp and Tramp.  

Laura Davidson of Boston was someone I previously didn't know, but am happy to have discovered. She works in small editions and one-of-a-kinds. The Ebony Pencils book is a unique work. The pencils are illustrated with silverpoint and watercolor on an accordion structure and housed in a walnut box. Below are other illustrations of some of Davidsons' tools.  

Pen Nibs is an edition of 18 copies housed in a clamshell box containing actual paper constructed pen nibs of different sizes. Each contains an accordion structure chart with linocut illustrations of various nib styles. 

Baseball Ephemera should please every Red Sox fan. It is a unique item and contains 22 ink and wash drawings of baseball tickets, schedules and a vial of dirt collected from the Fenway Park field after a no-hitter. On the cover of the clamshell box she had a drawing of a 1959 Fleer Ted Williams baseball card. So delightful.

One of several "Draw Me" matchbooks...which Laura did draw.

One of the nicest surprises I had at the Book Fair was discovering the appearance of the Whittington Press table there and meeting John Randle. He began the Press in 1971, and has continued to print over 200 books since that time, including the Matrix, one of the finest book arts periodicals ever published. I asked Mr. Randle about a book which I read they may be publishing on a brilliant Los Angeles artist and printer, Vance Gerry of the Weather Bird Press. He promised me that it was in the mix and showed me this broadside (above) produced as a prospectus. It features one of Vance's masterful pochoir illustrations. This was very happy news, as I am an enormous fan of his work. He also told me that staff artist Miriam Macgregor had kept a steady coorespondence with Vance Gerry before his death in 2005. With mutual admiration, they both marveled at one another's work evidently. Macgregor takes no back seat either, as she herself is also a master of pochoir and the woodcut. The two Whittington posters with her porchoir illustrations are some of my favorites in this annual series.  

A spread in an enormous 2011 Whittington Press book of illustrations by architect Andrew Anderson in the early 1960s. Most all the type was cut with an exacto knife, and there was page after page of it.

Another happy surprise to find Christopher Benson exhibiting his books from The Fisher Press. This impressive book features the stunning pen work of Raphael Boguslav (1929-2010.) 

Depression Dog, the 128th volume published by Walter Hamady of The Perishable Press, Ltd. This book was a collaboration between Hamady and four illustrators: Jim Lee, Henrik Drescher, Peter Sís and David McLimans.

Whitman Sampler, The Perishable Press, 1999. Woodcut illustrations by Jim Lee. Winner of the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers of 1999. 

Friend Chandler O'Leary of the Anagram Press in Tacoma, WA was a return Book Fair exhibitor. Every time I tried to get near her booth, it was three deep with onlookers. I caught her at the end of the fair and got her to show me her sketch book she painted on her road trip from Washington. Now Chandler is taking another week to drive home and continue her road trip series of plein air paintings. Very fine work she does!