Monday, January 21, 2008

Joni Mitchell - Between the Forceps and the Stone

True confessions time: I'm a pirate. The Contre Coup Press never asks permission to print copyrighted materials. I flaunt copyright like most people flaunt the speed limit. I rationalize it by telling myself that 1) the copyright holders would never give me permission, 2) my edition size is so small as to be invisible anyway, and 3) I sell the books for less than my out-of-pocket expenses for paper, type, ink, binding, etc, so I'm obviously not stealing for profit. So I know that's a lame rationalization, but it's the best that this criminal can come up with at the moment.
Here is an example of a book that I printed without obtaining permission. I have loved the music and lyrics of Joni Mitchell since she first came on the scene many years ago. I printed a pamphlet of her song lyrics early on in the history of the Contre Coup Press, but it was one of the most unattractive books I ever did. So I wanted to do a nicer book of Joni Mitchell lyrics.
At the same time, my 17-year old son, Noel, had developed an interest in photography. So I decided that it would be fun to do a book of Mitchell's lyrics, and illustrate them with original photographs by my son. There is a wonderful old cemetery here in Louisville named Cave Hill Cemetery that has a large collection of beautiful monuments and headstones. So Noel and I went around the cemetery and located monuments that we thought would be representative in some way of the lyrics of the songs that I had chosen. Noel took the photographs, developed the film in his darkroom and hand printed ten copies of each photograph, which I tipped into the books.
I entitled the book Between the Forceps and the Stone, which is a line from one of Joni Mitchell's songs that reflects a person's life from birth to death - and, of course, also referenced the "stones" that we had photographed. The book was set in Monotype Cochin that I had purchased from Kay Kramer some years earlier. I printed the book on Nideggen paper, with a trim size of 9-1/4 by 6-1/4 inches, with a total of 50 pages. The book was printed in an edition of only 10 copies, and was bound by the Campbell-Logan Bindery with an interesting decorated paper for the sides. I was fortunate enough to get Jerry Kelly to do the lettering for the title page, which he did in return for credit against purchases from Timothy Hawley Books.
One of the truly aggravating mistakes that I made in this book was mis-spelling a word in one of the lyrics. My favorite of all of Joni Mitchell's songs is Shades of Scarlett Conquering. This song is about a woman who is likened to Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. But for some inexplicable reason, I spelled her name "Scarlet" throughout the lyric, as well as in the title! Yikes! And not only that, I had also mis-spelled the name in the pamphlet that I had printed years before! Double yikes!!
I press-numbered four copies of the book - two for myself, one for my son Noel, the photographer, and one for Joni Mitchell, that being No. 1. However, I found myself in a quandary about how to actually get the copy of the book to her. I couldn't trust just sending it to her record company, because I was afraid that someone would just swipe it. I've been stumped, and the book still sits here waiting for me to find a reliable way to get it to her. Anybody out there know Joni Mitchell well enough to tell her that I have a book that I want to give to her?

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