Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Sabbatical of Sorts

From left to right: the deluxe and standard copies of Pressed for Time (2014), Specimens of Diverse Characters (2011), Æthelwold Etc (2009), and Interstices & Intersections (2014); Prometheus Bound (2007); A Meditation in Rome (2012); Pervigilium Veneris (2009); Mediæval In Padua (2008); Nocturnes (2011); Book of Jonah (2012); Floating Overhead (2007); A Showing of New Foundry Type (2011); The Blog of Specimens (2012); Visionaries & Fanatics (2010); and A Roman Inscription (2010).

It has been a busy seven years. Since 2007 I have completed fifteen books and, with the publication of Pressed for Time, it feels like the right moment to slow down for a while. My recent "big" books have gotten progressively bigger, and the exhaustion of producing them is beginning to wear on me. But exhaustion is not the primary motivation for the sabbatical. Since printing Æthelwold Etc in 2009, I have been developing a very specific technique of multichromatic printing using photopolymer plates. With the publication of Interstices & Intersections earlier this year, I feel that I have taken that technique as far as I can (for now). Making books only remains interesting for me if their making is a process of learning, and I fear that, if I continue working in the same manner as I have been, I will fall into rote production. It is time for the polymer color printing to transition from raison d'être to its new position in the toolbox beside the other tools that are available to me. So what better solution than to spend a year experimenting? 

My plan is not to stop working but to work differently, with one pulsing neon mantra beaming above all else: NO DEADLINES! I intend to spend most of my time sketching but there are two small projects that are certain. The first is a collaborative cookbook, Hungry Bibliophiles, which is meant to test some of Timothy Barrett's ideas about durability and "authenticity" in handmade paper. I have received the paper from Tim and am almost done designing the typefaces in which I will print the book. I will post more information about the book when I am closer to printing. The other project I have lined up is the engraving and casting of a new metal titling face and ornament suite. The type will be produced by Ed Rayher at Swamp Press and will result in a small specimen when complete. (The ornament is a twelve piece, two color combination ornament.) Ed has engraved a sample matrix and everything looked good, so I should receive the finished type sometime in January. 

As I work I will post regular photos on the blog accompanied by varying amounts of text.

Friday, September 26, 2014

First copies of Pressed for Time arrive!

The first copies of the Pressed for Time standard edition have arrived from the binder, Priscilla Spitler. The final push of the production involved a lot of finishing handwork: a letter I from the Job alphabet painted in black gouache by Nancy; an intersection, circle, and arc drawn by me in pencil, liquid watercolor, and India ink to illustrate Eclectic Geometric or, Lunch with Nicolete; and last, but not least, a smoke drawing. With these drawings complete all of the books have been collated and shipped to the binders. I did the smoke drawings in stages so that we could get the binders started before I finished, with the end goal of having a finished book for the Oak Knoll Fest next weekend. In the coming weeks Annie will take better photos of the book but, in the meantime, here are some quick pics.

 Form of my proprietary foundry types and a proof, from the type specimen.

 Nancy Loeber painting the Job "I".

 Drawing the circles for Eclectic Geometric.

 Making a smoke drawing.

 The bound book in slipcase.

The title spread.

The pages describing the Noise series and Incidents.

Titling types from the type specimen.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

October Events

Oak Knoll Fest XVIII, October 3-5
I will be speaking at the Oak Knoll Fest Symposium on Friday, October 3rd and showing my books at the Fest on the 4th and 5th. As usual, there is a great roster of speakers and exhibitors. Visit for details.

The Collecting of Artist Books, Museum of Modern Art, October 11
As part of the Center for Book Arts 40th Anniversary celebrations I will be on a panel, Letterpress Today and Its Relevancy for Artmaking, moderated by Katherine Ruffin. The other panelists include Robin Price, Mark Dimunation, and Duke Collier. Visit for details.

Comprehending a Cube: Eighteen Months of Living with Euclid, The Grolier Club, October 16
I will be discussing my recent book, Interstices & Intersections or, An Autodidact Comprehends a Cube, at a special functions dinner at The Grolier Club. The event is only open to Grolier Club members so, if you are one, I hope to see you there.

Diverse Characters: An Exhibition of Letterforms and Books by Russell Maret, October 23
6:00pm Chang Octagon, Butler Library, Columbia University
An opening reception for an exhibition of my more recent books, timed to coincide with the publication of my new bibliography, Pressed for Time. The show is on display now, closing January 23, 2015. Visit for details.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Announcing a new publication: Pressed for Time

Pressed for Time is a descriptive bibliography of my work compiled by Nina Schneider to mark my twenty-fifth year of printing. It contains bibliographic descriptions of my published and commissioned books, broadsides, and ephemera; anecdotes about the making of the books; a section of four-color photographs of the books by Annie Schlechter; and essays by Mark Dimunation, Chief of the Special Collections Division at the Library of Congress, and Paul F. Gehl, Custodian of the Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry Library. The book is profusely illustrated with original leaves from books; broadsides; type specimens; and marginal illustrations, including original drawings made in pencil, ink, gouache, and candle smoke. The large size of the book (16.5 x 11.5 inches) was determined so that it could accommodate untrimmed leaves from Æthelwold Etc, Specimens of Diverse Characters, and Interstices & Intersections.

Two editions will be published. One hundred copies are printed on Zerkall and French papers, and bound in cloth and patterned-paper with slipcase by Priscilla Spitler. Seventeen copies are printed on two different Twinrocker Handmade Papers, and bound in goatskin and patterned-paper by John DeMerritt. These seventeen are housed in a clamshell box containing a pull out drawer of extra ephemera. Both editions will be published at the end of September, with copies beginning to ship out toward the end of October.

Production is well underway, with Nancy Loeber and I dividing the printing between us. On a normal day, Nancy prints the large text pages while I work on the marginal illustrations. Below are some photos of the production.

Above: The binding dummy of the standard edition, showing the tipped-in bifolium from Interstices & Intersections and CODEX poster, as well as an assortment of sheets in progress.
Below: piles of ephemera for the deluxe edition.

The palette, above, for the ink draw-downs to accompany the description of the Æthelwold Etc color diary, and the process below.

To illustrate my book, Incidents, from 1996, each copy has a hand-printed piece of wood furniture pressed onto the paper below a print taken from the form-roller gear of my press.

To illustrate my series of books, Noise, from 1995-96, each copy has a unique print of hand-brayered ink over blind debossed type, outlined in pencil, in the style of Noise 3.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Interstices & Intersections at The Printing Museum

This past week Annie and I were in Houston to install and open my show, Interstices & Intersections or, An Autodidact Comprehends a Cube, at The Printing Museum. I have never been an enthusiastic exhibitor of my books. Books do not want to be locked in vitrines. Their ontological essence is narrative progression and, when frozen at a single spread in a display case, that essence is arrested and disrupted. So when The Printing Museum approached me with the idea of a show dedicated to the making of a single book, I was excited. The show allowed eight display cases that were assigned as such: one for the standard edition, one for the deluxe, five for in-depth displays of process, and one of various sketches, maps, and schedules produced during the making of the book. Photos are below. For information on the show or the museum, visit The Printing Museum website.

 Two copies of the standard edition.

  The deluxe edition with box, acrylic and watercolor paintings, and a photo of Daniel Kelm at work on the binding.

  Manuscript, watercolors, final prints, state proofs, and polymer plates for proposition xiii.17.

   Manuscript, watercolors, final prints, progressive and state proofs for the twelve color print for proposition viii.15.

 State and progressive proofs and color map for proposition xi.38.

Close up of final print and color map for proposition xi.38.

 Manuscript drawings and state proofs for proposition vi.30.

 Sketches, watercolors, maps, manuscripts, and schedules for Interstices & Intersections.

 Presenting the book to the Houston chapter of the AIGA.

Celebrating the show with, from left, Amanda Rohlich, Amanda Stevenson [behind] Max Koch, Penny Cerling, and Travis Smith. Annie Schlechter behind camera.

Friday, March 7, 2014

First copy of Interstices & Intersections in motion


The first copy of Interstices & Intersections arrived on Sunday from Daniel Kelm. We shot a short video of the book in motion. The cover materials are calfskin (blue) and Tim Barrett's UICB Paper Case (gray) with a white line printed letterpress. Below are two photos of the book standing still.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Interstices & Intersections: Printing Complete!

On Wednesday, February 6, I finished the last press run of Interstices & Intersections or, An Autodidact Comprehends a Cube. At final count, the book's thirty spreads required 225 press runs. During the last month of printing, my assistant Nancy began preparing any finished sheets for binding while I was chained to the press. The binding is a double sided leperello accordion structure that requires dry adhesive to be tacked onto the foredge of every sheet before the books can be assembled. This is an extremely laborious process and it would have delayed the binding by weeks if we had had to do it after all the printing was completed. Instead, by having Nancy prep the sheets while I finished the printing, we were able to collate the books the day after I completed the last press run. Nancy has now been joined by another helper, Katrina Kiapos, and they will spend the rest of the month finishing the prep work while I bask in a languorous state of unfettered leisure.

On Saturday, Annie & I drove the first batch of sheets up to Daniel Kelm's Wide Awake Garage bindery in Easthampton, Mass. After a tour of Daniel's chemistry book and apparatus collection, we were joined by his wife Greta. The four of us stopped by a local ice harvest before heading to lunch.

The finished book hung on the studio wall.

Collating the first twenty-six copies.

The oysters at Keen's Chophouse where Nancy, Annie & I had our Friday wrap party.

 Standing outside the Cottage Street studios, home of the Wide Awake Garage.

Daniel in his chemistry library.

 Havesting ice from the local pond above, tools for said harvesting below.