Monday, December 8, 2008

Genealogy

N.B. Herewith is a little-known bit of printing history, recently discovered by us amongst some 15th-Century documents from the Court of Lichtenstein when we were doing some genealogical research on a forgotten ancestor. ----- “Oh great King Swopshire, we humbly prostrate ourselves before thee and beg thee to pour thy generous mercy upon our poor inestimable heads. We are unworthy of thy attention, and we pray that thou wilt spare us despite our unforgivable impudence in coming before you in this brazen way. Yet our hearts are heavy. Thou hast cast the poor printer, the decrepit old man Theophilus Hawley, into thy dungeons, where he even today sits amidst his own filth, dressed in rags, unwashed and unkempt, his hope as forlorn as that of a Chicago Cubs fan. And for what? Why dost thou turn thy magnificent hairy back upon this poor wretch, a man whose printing has enlightened both scholars and royalty, entertained the highly-born as well as the peasants, given solace to the heartbroken and inspiration to those who do daily toil in the service of thy great and thunderous desires. Forsooth! It is but a petty complaint that thou dost have against him. He meant no harm. He was but playing the fool, believing that thy famous sense of humor would recognize his jest for what it was, a mere effeminate sneeze in the whirlwind of thy astounding whoosh. Was it his fault that he knoweth not thy sensitivity to comments upon thy wondrous and most admirable derriere? Not that we would ever notice the amazing breadth of thy rump, nor the enormous extent of fine silk cloth necessary to encompass such an astounding expanse of arse, nor the mind-numbing sound emanating from thy nether regions when the capacity of thy bowels becomes o’er-stretched with noxious fumes. ‘Twas but a tiny cartoon that he printed in his little-read publication, not even noticed by most of his readership. Admittedly, he should probably have portrayed thy buttocks in a more modest manner. But naked buttocks are unmistakable, while thy clothed buttocks might have been mistaken for a pair of 500-pound bags of flour or sails on a great ship, billowing in the wind. Notwithstanding the offense that thy majesty has taken, we plead with thee to not have thy royal wolves rip him into bloody chunks, nor to break him on the wheel and drag his squashed corpus through the streets behind thy noble steeds. His printing press has been smashed, and his type tossed into the river – surely that is adequate punishment. Release him, oh great king, and thy subjects will celebrate thy kind and just forbearance. Long live King Swopshire!” ----- History has not recorded the final outcome of this sad event, but we do trace our family line directly to this poor doomed jokester and practitioner of the black art.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No Postings for a While

I haven't been doing much posting lately. This is mostly due to my work on my next book, which is quite ambitious. Hopefully I will get back to posting soon, as I still have quite a few interesting composing sticks to describe.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Shop

I think that the first private press shop that I ever visited was Kay Kramer's in St. Louis. At that time, his shop was in a large room at the rear of the first floor of his home. It was spectacular! His gorgeous large Albion dominated the room, with his Vandercook SP15 nearby and a beautiful little pearl with a wooden base as well. He had his type in beautifully finished cabinets, with the cases all uniform oak-fronted. He had many of his books in the room, with a nice sitting area, beautiful prints and broadsides on the walls - it was to die for.
I later visited with Phil Metzger in his Crabgrass Press shop in a suburb of Kansas City. Again, although it was located in the basement, it was a truly beautiful shop, with (as I recall) a table-top Albion, a platen press of some description, many beautiful books and wall decorations. Phil showed me some truly awe-inspiring bindings that he had commissioned from Fritz Eberhard - incredible leather inlays of illustrations from Fritz Kredel - and I left feeling quite thunderstruck.
When I visited Leonard Bahr's Adagio Press in Detroit, I got a different feel, but I was equally impressed. Leonard's home was quite modest, and his shop was in the smallish basement. But it was so unbelievably meticulous that I just couldn't believe it (anyone who knew Leonard would agree that he was a remarkably meticulous person in everything that he did). Much of Leonard's library (that I purchased after his untimely death) was arrayed along one entire wall of the basement. His large C & P Craftsman press was in a tiny room in the rear of the basement, with a few type cabinets to keep it company. Leonard had a very fine collection of European foundry type, with Palatino being his "house face."
An astonishing place to visit was Carolyn Hammer's Anvil Press in Lexington, Kentucky. She used a tabletop iron handpress (I think that it was a Washington, but it might have been an Albion), and she worked in a small porch-like room at the back of the house. The shop was imbued with the aura of the craftsperson, and was almost like hallowed ground - of course, her home was like a museum, with many original works of art by Victor Hammer hanging on the walls (my wife nearly fainted when we walked into a bedroom and were confronted with Hammer's oil portrait of Thomas Merton - Carolyn casually talked about frequent lunches with Merton, as we sat with our jaws dropping to the floor. The original Merton portrait was actually destroyed in a fire, so this one was a later version).
I mention these various visits (and I have visited other beautiful shops over the years as well, and some not so inspiring) as a way of contrasting them with my own shabby shop, which is pictured above.
I do my composing in the basement, in a crowded room that shares space with pieces of corrugated board that I use in packing book orders, shelves with over 50 cartons of periodicals that I will probably never sell, and miscellaneous junk. One of the pictures shows a few of the blank cases opened to show how I store my collection of composing sticks.
As long as I was taking pictures, I decided to also show a couple of the rooms upstairs where I keep my book inventory. My wife and I actually own a duplex, with two apartments (one up and one down). We basically live in the first floor apartment, and I have filled most of the second floor apartment with books (although Ellen has a meditation room upstairs where she practices and studies Buddhism). My office is also on the second floor.
Fortunately, the basement is almost at ground level, so it stays very dry, and I store much stuff down there - it's a wonderful full basement with high ceilings, so I have lots of room for lots of stuff. I have a framing shop down there where I frame fine prints that I sell at a local antique mall.
Finally, the press is out in the garage, and you can see that it is not a place of beauty. People familiar with Vandercook presses will notice that my press has extensions on the legs that raise the press about 6 or 8 inches higher than most presses sit - I guess that this was an option that the original owner wanted. It does help keep me from having to lean over to operate the press, which is pretty nice, actually. In the wintertime I put the press in mothballs, moving everything from the other side of the garage so that my wife can park her car in there - it's too cold to do any printing during the winter, unfortunately, which is why I hope to one day move to a house with a walk-out basement that I can put the press into. The press weighs about 2,000 pounds, so bringing it into the house and down the stairs to the basement is out of the question. The temperature extremes in the garage mean that I have to keep the rollers in the house, and bring them out to the garage every time I want to do some printing. I also have to schlep the type forms and various other stuff back and forth between the house and the garage (which is probably 40 or so feet behind the house) every time I go to print - it's a pain in the ass, to be blunt about it.
Anyway, that's it. I work in this crummy space, but I still love it! I have CD-players around to listen to music (I have about 4,000 music CDs, which is crazy, but true), and there's nothing quite like putting on some nice music, getting an adult beverage, and distributing type! Heaven!

Schizophrenomania, by Matt Jasper

Here's one of my favorite Contre Coup Press books. As I've mentioned previously, I think, my main purpose in printing is to make books that people will enjoy reading, and here is a book that I think is a really great read!
The book came about because I was visiting in St. Louis one day in 1997, and I was browsing in Streetside Records, a large store on Delmar Blvd. that I had frequented when I lived in St. Louis, only a few blocks away. I was looking at fanzines, and picked one up that had this essay printed in it. The essay really blew me away, so I bought it, and when I got home to Louisville, I contacted the author for permission to reprint it (yes, I know, it's very unlike me to actually ask permission, but I did so in this case). Not only did he give me permission to reprint the essay, but he also sent along some poems that were very relevant, and so I interspersed several of them throughout the book, set in a slightly larger typeface (14 pt., while the text was set in 12 pt.)
The book is 8-1/4 inches tall by 5 inches wide and has 31 pages. I set the text in Cochin and printed the book on Basingwerk Parchment paper (God! I wish they still made this paper - it was one of my favorites!). I used no decoration whatsoever in this book, wanting the words to totally speak for themselves. I printed a total of 16 copies on the Vandercook SP20.
The book was bound, as usual, at the Campbell-Logan Bindery. I asked Carol Blinn to pick out a selection of her paste papers to use for the bindings, and she sent along an interesting variety - the books are bound in several different designs of paste paper; I can't remember how many different ones there were, but perhaps six or eight different designs.

Cefmor British Composing Stick

Here's another variation of the typical British composing stick. This one is stamped "Cefmor London", so I assume that Cefmor is the manufacturer or distributor. This stick is twelve inches long, and has a depth of only 10 picas - rather shallow. The stick itself is stamped out of sheet metal, and it appears to be nickel-plated, rather than being stainless steel. The knee is very similar to the typical British knee, with the strap encircling the stick. But the clamp is different than the typical stick. This clamp consists of a lever attached to a screw mechanism that is at an angle to the stick, and exerts pressure on the strap when turned, thereby locking the knee in place. One oddity is the end-plate, which is a quarter-circle shaped block that is riveted to the stick - the final photo shows the rivets on the back - I've not seen one quite like this before.
For some reason my pictures are rotated on this post - I don't know why. Sorry.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ludicrous Book Price Inflation

I don’t know if any of you have looked up a relatively common book on an internet bookselling site, only to find that the prices of the copies being offered are insanely high. Ever wonder why that happens? Here’s an example of how it works. I’m looking for a copy of Mark Twain’s “Following the Equator” in the Oxford University Press edition published as part of The Oxford Mark Twain in 1996. Volumes from this set typically sell for anywhere from $7.50 to $20.00 per volume, with the average price probably about $15.00. There are several copies of the volume that I am seeking currently being offered on Abebooks.com: the lowest price is $149.00. Now, how can that be? This is not a rare book. How in the world can it be that copies are listed at such inflated prices? Well, here’s how it happens. It starts out with, say, six copies of the book being listed for sale, with the top price being $20.00. Some idiot comes along and lists a copy at $200.00. The six copies listed at $20.00 or less gradually sell – sometimes the purchaser thinks that he is getting a great bargain because someone is offering the book at $200.00 – “Gosh, the book is ‘worth’ $200.00 and I only paid $20.00!” Now, while the cheap copies are slowing selling, other booksellers are acquiring copies of the book. These booksellers – who know nothing about nothing when it comes to pricing books – invariably check the internet to see what other people are asking for the book, since they can’t depend on their own nonexistent knowledge. They see that somebody has it at $200.00, so they don’t want to “give it away” at a price like $20.00, so they list it at $175.00. So now, in addition to the reasonably priced copies, there are two copies listed at outrageous prices. The reasonably priced copies continue to slowly sell, while other booksellers come along and see that two booksellers are now listing the book at a high price, and so they list their copy at a high price as well. Eventually the time comes when the last reasonably priced copy sells, and the only copies left that are being offered for sale are these ridiculously high-priced copies. Nobody ever actually pays these prices, but because these are the only copies currently being offered for sale, the moronic booksellers who base their prices on what others are asking for the book on the internet invariably put a great big price on their copy – “After all, the cheapest copy on the internet is $175.00, so I should be able to sell my copy for $150.00, which is a bargain.” For a $20.00 book!! No copy has sold for more than $25.00 in the history of the world (and likely never will), but the no-nothing booksellers (now mostly amateurs and na├»ve entrepreneurs who have no background or expertise in the book trade) all act like sheep and list the copies at these stupid prices. This grievous state of affairs is becoming increasingly common. When bookselling sites on the internet first came along, booksellers were very excited, because they figured that they would now have a much greater audience for their books – why, instead of only having customers who were in their home town, they could have customers across the world! What they didn’t realize was that while their presence in the marketplace had expanded throughout cyberspace, the bookselling sites also enabled every other bookseller in the world to compete with them both locally and worldwide. And because it was so cheap (no renting of a shop, no issuing of catalogues, no need to have a significant inventory), every Tom, Dick and Harry was in a position to become an instant bookseller on the internet. The results have been disastrous. Most professional used booksellers – who, honestly, never made a comfortable living from bookselling in the first place, but who usually got by – found that they couldn’t compete, with the internet glutted with outrageously cheap copies of books and outrageously overpriced copies of books. They had more money invested in most of their books than hundreds of these amateur booksellers were asking for their copies of the same books, and they couldn’t hope to sell their copies unless they absorbed a painful loss. Thus, many bookstores rapidly went belly-up, and only the very high-end rare booksellers were able to survive at all, for the most part (since the nincompoops merrily wrecking the used book market didn’t have access to truly rare books and therefore couldn’t compete with the high end booksellers). Further, the influx of amateurs further damaged the used bookselling industry by undermining the confidence that customers have in purchasing books via mail order. Many of these people either don't know how to describe their books - particularly the condition of their books - or don't choose to take the time to type out a description. They also don't waste their time packing the books in such a way as to assure that the books are not damaged in transit. Many customers have been disappointed so many times that they are loathe to purchase books over the internet, which hurts all booksellers. Booksellers thought that the internet was a new golden opportunity – little did they know that the internet was actually going to destroy the industry, a process which is steadily taking place as we speak. The advent of e-books, while not an immediate threat, will ultimately be the final death-knell to used booksellers, and probably to retail booksellers as well. Books used to be one of the few products that supported a secondhand marketplace, and this anachronistic enterprise is now running its course. Those of us who remember what it was like to visit a city like New York or Chicago 30, 40 or 50 years ago and find scores of bookstores and booksellers tempting us with their wares find it sad and disappointing to have lived through the changes that the last decade or two have wrought. Those “good old days” are surely gone forever, and book collecting will certainly never be the same, for good or – as some of us believe – for evil. How’s that for being an old fuddy-duddy?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

L.F.B. to P.H.D. re: C. & V. H.

By 1990, I found myself in the position of having to move, and in possession of a printshop that was so large that I was unable to obtain the space to house it. I had been living in a large house that I had purchased when I moved to Louisville in 1985, and I had quickly amassed a gigantic collection of type, mostly acquired when I purchased the printshop of John Cumming in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. I had sold my Chandler and Price 8 by 10 platen press when I moved from St. Louis, and had purchased a Vandercook Universal I when I got settled in Louisville. I ultimately ended up with around 750 cases of type, most of which I never used, and much of which I would never have used had I kept it. So I concluded that my only option was to sell the shop, which I did.
A few years later, after an abortive attempt at starting printing again with a C & P New Series Pilot that I was never comfortable using, I purchased a Vandercook SP20 from a company in Indiana (thanks to the assistance of Dave Churchman), and got started printing again. The first little project that I carried out was to print this pamphlet.
I had purchased the library of Leonard F. Bahr after his untimely death, and I found amongst his files a carbon copy of a letter that he had written to Paul Hayden Duensing describing a visit that he and his wife, Ann, had made with Victor and Carolyn Hammer in Lexington in 1966. The letter bubbled with enthusiasm, and I thought that it would make for a nice little booklet.
I entitled the pamphet L.F.B. to P.H.D. re: C. & V. H.: Being the Text of a Letter from Leonard F. Bahr to Paul H. Duensing Concerning a Visit with Carolyn and Victor Hammer in 1966.
The book was set in the Cochin typeface (I had purchased some Cochin from Kay Kramer, but only the roman in 12 and 14 point - no italic), and I used Legend for the titling. I printed it on Antique Ingres paper in black, brown and green - don't ask; I just wanted to see what green would look like. The page size was 9-3/4 by 6-1/4 inches, and there were 6 pages. The pamphlet was sewn into wrappers of Fabriano Ingres Heavy paper. I printed a total of 40 copies, completed and issued in 1994, and sold those that I didn't give away for $12.50 - I just noticed that a bookseller has listed a copy on Abebooks.com for $50.00.
It's a very interesting letter. Of course, Victor Hammer was a figure of such incredible talent that he still is held in reverence in Lexington. I was fortunate enough to visit several times with Mrs. Hammer, and found her to be very gracious and generous. My older son, as a high school senior, wrote his senior thesis on Victor Hammer, and we visited with Mrs. Hammer as part of the research for the paper. She showed my son, Jordan, the books that Victor Hammer had printed, as well as paintings and other artwork of Hammer's that adorned her lovely home. As we were about to leave, Mrs. Hammer presented Jordan with a pencil sketch that Hammer had done as a study for one of his paintings, which Jordan still treasures. Many people in Lexington seemed to be in awe of Mrs. Hammer, and tiptoed around her as though she were a hand grenade ready to explode. I never understood this, as I always found her to be as pleasant and approachable as anyone I ever met. I suspect that she did not suffer fools lightly, however, so she may have come across somewhat harshly in some situations.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Wooden Poster Stick

Here's another real beauty. This is a typical high quality wooden composing stick, often called a "poster stick" because its large size allows for the setting of line lengths adequate for poster-size work. The stick is about 24-3/4 inches long, with a depth of 14 picas. I'm not positive what kind of wood that this stick is made of, but wooden sticks are typically of mahogany or walnut, and I believe that this stick is one of those woods.
The knee is solid brass, without a brace, and the clamp is also brass. There is a brass lining on the end-plate of the stick. This stick was obviously used and treasured, as it has been skillfully repaired in several places. Whoever owned this stick valued it enough to repair it rather than discarding it when it was broken.
There are no markings on the stick. I obtained it from England, so I am presuming that it was probably made there, although it may have been imported originally from America.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

How Not to Burn a Book, by Ray Bradbury

Here's a book that got me into a little bit of hot water.
I was casting about for a text when I ran across this wonderful lecture that Ray Bradbury gave at the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1975. The lecture had been printed in Soundings: Collections of the University Library, Vol. 7, No. 1 in September of 1975. I just thought that it was great, so I decided to print a small edition. This was in 2002.
I used some more of that paper that Henry Morris had given me - the offcuts from one of his books - so the book is one of those square things, 7-3/4 by 6-1/4 inches. It runs to 60 pages. Greg Campbell chose the binding material for the book, and as usual did a great job. The book was set by hand in Bembo, and a poem that was included was set in Lutetia. The titles were in Lilith. I printed a total of 27 copies.
Bradbury is such a playful and enthusiastic guy, and I wanted the design to reflect that, which is why I used the Lilith for display. I also used fists (pointing hands) to reflect Bradbury's kind of show-offy manner, his "look at me" approach in the lecture, which is charming and kind of childishly innocent, I think. So the fists point to each of the chapter openings (I broke the lecture up into chapters, which was not how the original was presented), and I moved them here and there, turning them upside down and even going outside the margin on one occasion.
I wanted to print these fists in bright shiny gold, so I got this gold ink. Boy, what a mistake! I learned later that you can't use this stuff on regular paper - it's made for use on coated papers. It also dries at an ungodly quick rate, and repeatedly dried on the press before I could complete a press run of only 27 copies! It was just a nightmare. And instead of being shiny gold (as it would look on a coated paper), it ended up looking like a dull brass color. Not terrible, but not what I had in mind either.
I also committed an error of careless language in the book. I put a little note at the beginning telling where the essay had originally been printed, and I noted therein that Bradbury had slightly edited the text from the spoken lecture. Well, several people were led to believe by this statement that Bradbury had edited the original for my edition of the book, which he most certainly did not (he had edited it for the periodical appearance) - indeed, I didn't even get his permission to reprint the lecture, being the unscrupulous pirate that I am. But I figured that 27 lousy copies couldn't represent much of a copyright infringement, and since I lost money on the deal, as usual (I sold the copies that I didn't give away for $45.00 each), I didn't feel too terribly guilty about it.
But I did feel guilty when I got a telephone call from Bradbury's bibliographer, who was not at all happy that I had printed the book and sold it out immediately. I apologized all over the place, and I told him that while I didn't have any more copies for sale, I would be willing to give one of my personal copies to Bradbury himself if I could get his address, which the bibliographer provided to me. So I sent a copy along to Bradbury, who did not acknowledge its receipt (I hope that he actually got it, but who knows).
Well, the price on the secondary market immediately skyrocketed, and booksellers started listing it at $600, $800 and more, apparently immediately selling their copies. Finally a bookseller in Santa Barbara listed a copy for $1,850.00, but interestingly enough, he listed the book as being signed by Bradbury. So I figure that if Bradbury signed a copy (and he lives in Santa Barbara, so it's a pretty safe bet that he really did sign this copy), then he at least was aware that I had pirated it - perhaps the copy for sale with his signature is the one that I sent to him, who knows?
Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the book, all in all, despite the problem with the gold ink. It is a great read, very entertaining and interesting. And that's my main purpose in printing - to print something that people will like to read, and hopefully in a form that increases their reading enjoyment. The last thing that I want is to make books that people will put on the shelf without reading - that would defeat my purpose altogether.

Cheesy European Composing Stick

Lest anyone conclude that Americans are the only ones who make cheap, cheesy composing sticks, we offer this bit of evidence to the contrary.
This is a very cheap, primitive stick that bears a superficial resemblance to the typical higher quality European sticks. The knee looks a bit similar, and there appears to be a strap surrounding the knee and the stick to exert pressure with the clamp to tighten the stick. But there the similarities end.
The body of the stick is made of aluminum, and it is 10 inches long. Unless I am mistaken, the knee is also aluminum, as is the end-plate. The end-plate is actually just screwed to the body of the stick, using round-head screws!! I have never seen this method of attaching the end-plate before. Even with the knee removed, this stick won't lie flat because of the protruding screw heads.
The strap that goes around the knee is not a complete strap, but just a bent length of steel, as can be seen in the photograph above. And instead of the screw mechanism that is used on the typical European stick, this one just uses a simple thumbscrew that presses against the knee, using the partial strap to exert pressure.
Junky, junky, junky. I suppose that it would do the job in a pinch, but it doesn't feel right in the hand at all - kind of like a cheap toy instead of a tool. Yuck!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"For My Daddy" by Leon Retharp

Sometimes you're just fooling around, and you print a little piece of ephemera just to amuse yourself - this is an example.
When my younger son, Noel was about five years old, he abruptly said to his mother one day, "Write this down!" She got out a paper and a pencil, and he said, "This is for my daddy." He then proceeded to dictate the exact words that I printed on this little broadside. It's very funny, very zen, sort of. I think that it was basically an effort to document his accomplishments. If you click on the illustration, you can see a larger format that you should be able to read.
The broadside is 8-1/4 by 5 inches. It was set in Van Dijck and Cochin Open typefaces and printed on Okawara student grade paper. I printed 175 copies, of which 151 were for the Amalgamated Printers Association, to which I belonged at the time.
Leon Retharp is Noel's first and middle names spelled backwards - Noel Prather. Years later, when Noel was working as a musician, he played some instruments on a CD that listed his name as "Brather" - some kind of bastardization of Prather. Go figure.

"Turtle" Composing Stick

Here is a stick that was purportedly quite popular, although there don't seem to be a lot of survivors. This is the "Turtle", or "Turtle's Standard Job Stick", which you could read in the shield on the illustration above if the picture were clearer. According to Speckter, this stick was manufactured on the East Coast between 1910 and 1930 by one David Turtle, a retired compositor. To better market the stick, Turtle stamped his International Typographical Union card number on the stick, thereby hoping to connect with other union compositors. Also stamped on the bed was an aide to copyfitting - a table showing the number of words to the square inch of various sizes of type. In some versions (including this particular stick) a ruler in inches is stamped on the inside of the rail as an additional aide.
This particular stick is 12-1/2 inches long, with a depth of 12 picas. The rail has a line of round holes punched through it, into which a small round post on the knee fits - the holes are 6 points apart, so the stick can be adjusted to picas and half-picas. The clamp is otherwise virtually identical to the Rouse job stick clamp.
I don't know if the knees tended to be fragile, but this one is unfortunately broken - a tendency to fracture may be why the stick is pretty uncommon, despite having been quite popular. This hypothesis gets further support from the fact that the illustration of the Turtle stick in the Speckter book shows a Turtle stick with a Buckeye knee, which obviously is a mis-match, since the rail is clearly punched with round holes while the Buckeye knee is not fitted with any sort of post to fit into the holes in the rail. Apparently the original knee for Speckter's Turtle wasn't around any more when he took the picture.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mark Twain's "1601"

One of the most widely reprinted humorous sketches by Mark Twain is "1601: Conversation as it was by the Social Fireside in the Time of the Tudors", written in 1879. This bawdy little piece was written by Samuel L. Clemens for his own amusement and that of a few friends, and its original printing is still a bit of a mystery. In any case, it is very funny, and I believe that every self-respecting private press has a duty to do a printing of it - here is mine, printed in 1996.
It actually all started when I stopped by an art supply store that was going out of business and bought a small number of full sheets of Fabriano Roma paper, a gorgeous handmade paper with a gaudy watermark. I think that I only got about eight sheets - maybe a few more, I don't remember. Since this was obviously only a very small amount of paper, I wanted to print a short text on it, and 1601 immediately came to mind. I figured that I had enough paper to print about eight copies of the book, which is really enough. While I think that all private presses should do a 1601, they don't need to be printing large editions, since there are already so many around. So eight copies was just fine with me.
I ended up printing a book that was 9-3/4 by 6-1/2 inches, with 17 pages. The book was bound by the Campbell-Logan Bindery with a beautiful marbled paper for the sides. Since the book is very humorous and written tongue-in-cheek, I thought that a design that was pretty tongue-in-cheek was called for as well. So I printed the darn thing in as many different typefaces as I could work in. The main text was set in Goudy Thirty, with the little introductory page in ATF Civilite. I used Solemnis, Goudy Text Shaded and Weiss Initials for display - it's a bit of a crazy-looking book.
Now, I had purchased the paper in full sheets, and since I didn't have a paper cutter, I trimmed it with a cheap office paper-cutter, and I suspect that it was the irregularity of the trim that may have caused me a huge problem. I printed the book in several colors, and this included the page numbers in brown. I had printed brackets at the bottom of the page in black, and then started to print the page numbers in the middle of the brackets. To my horror, I spoiled sheet after sheet because I couldn't seem to hit the register correctly, and the page numbers would print right over the brackets, or so far out of center that they looked horrible. I would check and recheck the register with waste sheets, and would hit the spot perfectly - then when I went to print the actual sheet for the book, it would miss. I figured that the problem was how I had trimmed the sheets, but it may have been something else. The result was that I only ended up with four copies that were acceptable, ruining the other four copies. So the book was finally published in a limited edition of just four copies, all press-numbered. Two of the copies I kept for myself, leaving only two copies to sell. So if you are a collector of printings of 1601, then you're really going to have a problem finding this one!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

European Style Composing Stick

Here is a style of stick that is very common in Europe. I believe that these sticks are mostly made in England and Germany. This stick has the titling in English, but it still may have been made in Germany for the British trade. I have been told that the French use a completely different style of stick, but I've never seen a French stick, so I don't know what they're like - I wish that someone out there would sell me one!
Anyway, this stick was made by Cornerstone, one of the major manufacturers of this style of stick. This particular stick is 8-3/4 inches long, and has the typical shallow depth of this style of stick - just eight picas. The body of this particular stick is made of aluminum, while the end-plate and the knee are steel, with a strap on the knee in a yellow-colored metal, possibly brass but probably some other amalgam of metals. The end-plate is riveted to the body.
This style of stick uses a clamping mechanism that is very effective - until it wears out, that is. There is a small lever that is attached to a screw mechanism. The knee is adjusted to the desired line length, and then the lever on the knee is depressed. This lever is attached to a screw. When the lever is depressed and the screw thereby turned, it exerts pressure on the strap, that goes completely around the stick and the knee. There is a section of the knee and strap that is cut in at a 45-degree angle, and so as the knee is pressed against this 45-degree angled section of the strap by the screw, the knee is pressed tightly against both the body of the stick and against the rail by the lever action, thus holding the knee firmly in place. Changing the setting is as simple as lifting the lever, moving the knee, and once again depressing the lever. So this style of stick is very easy to adjust.
Unfortunately, it is my experience that this style of stick also has a tendency to wear out. What happens is that the metal of the strap becomes fatigued and stretches, or the constant sliding of the strap causes it to wear as the inner surface of the strap rubs against the outside of the stick. Thus, the lever no longer exerts enough pressure on the strap to hold the knee tightly in place. I have purchased several sticks in which this has occurred, and the printers have inserted copper or brass thin spaces between the knee and the rail to try to adjust for this problem, but it's not a very good solution. One might think that you could just spin the screw around 360 degrees to tighten it, but the tolerances are so small that this won't work. As the stick wears, the lever must be depressed closer and closer to the body of the stick, finally hitting the stick before the clamp is tight - that's pretty much the end of the usefulness of the stick. The other drawback of this type of stick - a minor drawback, to be sure - is the fact that due to the strap wrapping around the bottom of the stick, this style of stick will not lie flat on the table or bank.