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 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.

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