Tuesday, December 31, 2013

last day of the year

I have no idea what ought, or ought not, be said at such a time - having myself no interest or need in the business of so-called "celebrating" any day (xmas, new year, birthday etc) it remains, even after all this time, a problem for me to figure out what, for others, all the fuss is about - time takes no notice of these apparent markers, nor does the poem, nor does the book, nor does love, nor do the turtle-doves I feed in the mornings, always before I feed myself - 
         yet the quiet hiatus provided by the general social shut-down at this time does provide me with a bit of space - from printing and from organising CODEX 2014 - in which to think about how I'd like to proceed from now on - 
         at such times, I am usually tempted to make overt & all-too-definite pronouncements about what is or aint gonna emerge from this printery henceforth - but I'm too aware of the dangers of that - too many recantings in the past - 
         if anything now, an openness rather than the almost desperate & almost useless planning I have tried to do before - if only I can do this & achieve that, then all will be well etc etc etc  - 
         to make a book in the same way I make a poem - 
         to make a book in the same way I make a poem -
         to make a book in the same way I make a poem - 

you can see the problem

always, at the beginning, with no starting blocks or wall to push away from -

as a kid, swimming in the Hutt River 
to move off somewhere only 
to step into a pothole - 

nevertheless, may you all
have a great 2014

Thursday, December 26, 2013

reviving Hawk Press

over the years I have occasionally wished I had stuck to Hawk Press as my press name, but, as we know, life moves on, decisions get made, and one way & another we manage with things - in recent years, at the same time that writing has become more important to me rather than less, and printing has taken up more of my time & energy rather than less, I have found it harder & harder to either : get my work accepted by publishers; or : seeing the work come out after a publisher has accepted it, then failed to produce it, even up to three years after acceptance - it has been a frustrating four or five years for me in this regard, and of course it may be that my writing life is over, and I'm unable to produce what anyone wants to publish any more - it happens to people, and there's no basic reason why it shouldn't happen to me too - I have now pulled a number of texts from publishers who have held on to them for too long, and have stopped sending texts out to publishers altogether -

however, I have decided, now that I have ten unpublished works on file, to begin publishing them myself - in digitally printed editions of 100 copies @ $30 to $50 each - reviving the imprint of Hawk Press - and I'll sell them from this blog & from home - expect the first of these to show up on this blog in January 2014 - 

Electio will of course continue - more modestly than before - 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

New handpress platen bearers

Nick Summers of Sylvan Type Works in Sydney NSW has designed a new set of adjustable handpress platen bearers. These bearers help make adjusting for any type of form, whether type or polymer, in the handpress, an easier and more adjustable process. They are made of brass, and come with strong internal springs and a set of finely calibrated washers that vary the height of the bearer, evening out the pressure of the downward-driving platen on any printing area, & allowing each corner to be adjusted either separately, or equally across the platen as a whole.

I have had mine now for several weeks, and while it takes time to work out just how the system works and how you can make the necessary adjustments very quickly, I can heartily recommend them for anyone using a handpress, whether an Albion, Columbian or, I believe, any other handpress.

By locating them at the outer corners of the platen on the press bed, and setting the chase on the bed in a fixed and secure way and leaving them there, in the one place, it’s not too hard to get the feel of what sort of addition or subtraction you have to make when setting up any form.

For me, setting up a form for printing involves three things – 1) roller bearer height : I always apply masking tape to those parts of the roller bearers that align with type or printing area that extends beyond the most solid portion of the type block. I do this always and before any proofing whatsoever, as a matter of course. 2) adjusting the roller bearer height, first with a blind proof, then with a printed one. 3) then, and only then, do I look at the prospect of traditional make-ready. The adjustments possible with these platen bearers are so fine, that I now have to do less make-ready than I used to using solid platen bearers.

Nick’s adjustable platen bearers are available for sale now at  AUD$255 the set of four. Contact him at info(at)sylvantypeworks(dot)com.au.  I should warn you, however, that the bearers are made in small batches and that there are currently only six sets available. I’ve got mine – now get yours!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

production restart on Jenson's Greek

fresh paper arrived yesterday from Magnani Papers Australia - mouldmade not handmade -  and which I will experiment printing dry, particularly with larger more solid color areas than 12 pt type - like these, from the forthcoming ode to Nicolas Jenson - 
whether these colors will be preserved is another matter - but I do like them nonetheless - from left to right the letters are 1) a double sigma/theta, in English 'sth', 2) psi, English 'ps', and 3) pi, English 'p' [even tho it looks like omega, in English a long 'o'] - since fifteenth century types, a number of joined and other forms of the letters have dropped away - 

right now I seem to be involved in a kind of revolution in thinking about what I do & how I do it in the printery - as much as anything by reading three things : David Pye, The Nature & Art of Workmanship; Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on Colour; and John J McKendry, Robert Motherwell's "A la pintura", The Genesis of a Book - the proposed connections of course are within mine owne fever'd minde - but while I have often made, in the words of one reviewer, 'colourful books', I have never explored what happens to various colors in the mixing of 'em, nor other color ranges than the traditional printers' black first, then red, then blue, then a few others - among the 'others' have been the metallics silver, gold & copper, but nothing of the the earthy tones used by printmakers, burnt & raw sienna, Umber, red & yellow ochres - and the hell of it is that I have always responded feelingly to these latter colors while using the traditional ones instead - what a conservative & unadventurous lump I have been all these years - SO - a few cans of colored Graphic Chemical substances have arrived from Takach and a few more are coming soon - by the time I get to the type specimen book, the "&" project, there'll be a color shift in the Electio printshop - and I too will therefore be watching this space - I should never forget Alfred North Whitehead's lovely remark, All is there for feeling, plus Keats's note that he wished for a poetry in which thought & feeling both happened at once - if you don't feel it so, don't do it so - my lesson to myself today - 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

what to do with the pressman's angst

so far, I have drawn up two entirely different texts & modalities for "&" - both consigned to the reject pile - usually, when I have an idea for a book, it comes out of the general way of working, something pops up, an idea is triggered by thinking about or working on something else, or an old idea re-emerges as a distinct practical possibility, sometimes while printing or laying out a particular color, or setting a line of type - in other words, each new work tends to present itself while working on other things so that the pressure to make the new book comes from the very making of books itself - but a type specimen book is another matter, or so it has been to me - the idea of the book came first, without any sense at all of how the types may be exhibited - the notion of arranging alphabets on the page does not appeal, tho others have often done it brilliantly and I have been very grateful for seeing them - but for me, this is not how I work - most of the books come from the inside of the process, but the type specimen comes from the outside of it - and I'm now stuck, not sure how to move next - in my diary last night I wrote :

the '&' book has collapsed in the planning - so it's back to the beginning - return to the &s [one of the failed plans had dropped them] - the textual 'illustrations' in Clifford Burke's book ["Printing Poetry"] are more interesting - I should make texts that include caps & lc where they are in the font - in other words, I should compose in the type - & make sure that each text occupies a similar amount of space on each page - 

writing like that is hard to do, would, for me at any rate, take time - and time now is not quite what I have a lot of - it is however, a prospect that has been forming in my mind in writing texts to go alongside a number of images in a specific typeface, possibly different colors, and perhaps different positions on the page in relation to the images - but I have been living with some of those images for some weeks now & I don't expect the words to be too far away when I turn to do the required writing - in other words, while no words are on the paper with this project, I have been 'at work' on it since the images arrived in the mail - but with the type specimen book there is as yet nothing to rub up against, nothing to respond to or be resisted by -it must be put aside for now, and return to Jenson's Greek, waiting for new paper to arrive, and let the "&" book gestate until the emergence of a viable textual idea that will allow it to go ahead - 

Friday, May 31, 2013

setting up for &

setting up for a fresh book at speed is not my favourite or usual way of working, tho I have occasionally had to move quickly - it can work especially if a certain idea or ideas have been floating around in one's mind for some time, even without having taken notes or preliminary plans left to another day - in that sense some things can certainly look as if they had popped out of the blue, or wherever it is that things pop out of - so, a new type specimen book has been in my mind for a couple of years, and a book titled "&" likewise, but it is only recently that the two notions have come together, so that now the title of the next book is & another type specimen book - texts for type specimens are not always easy to come by - will I take quotes from various other great writings - will I prepare a nicely laid out alphabet - will I rummage among my earlier unpublished writings for whatever gems can be found there - will I write new texts, either little separate poems, or a longer poem spread over the several specimens - I decided to 'rummage' amongst my earlier writings and found I had picked out what looked very much like fragments from a longer love poem - I tried again, and found a series of small, somewhat gnomic sayings about the nature of the book itself - preferring the latter, I wondered if I should not actually use those fragments to write a new poem on 'the book' that would be spread across the specimen pages, but which could also be read as a single text - one of the little poems is -
        we have this arrangement
        with words

        they will arrange us
        in their order
it's still being worked on, and as the new paper is still to arrive, there is time yet to establish the specimen texts - with any luck, the weekend will see the poems completed, even tho, as the last one is likely to say - 

Friday, May 24, 2013

production halted on Jenson's Greek

there are times, and this week is one of them, when a risk one takes just doesn't pay off at all - the purchase of 120 sheets of handmade paper one's never used before - and I now find it is not taking the ink either like nice damped paper is supposed to do or as dry paper sometimes does - and naturally the paper is already cut to the sheet size of the proposed book etc - I hope Miriam can use it for drawing - and, &, AND, I have to admit that my Dante type, 12 on 14pt, is now too worn for a book - so Jenson's Greek will have to wait until I get fresh type in from the U.S. - and fresh paper from er, well, somewhere! - over the next few days I will therefore bring another book forward, for which I have had only the most rudimentary ideas and almost nothing 'down on paper' as they say - its title? - 


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

production started on Jenson's Greek

it's taken months of fluffing around trying to get a real handle on my next book, Jenson's Greek - I intended, to begin with, making a straightforward reproduction of Nicolas Jenson's Last Will & Testament (1480), translated by Pierce Butler & published by the Ludlow Typograph Company, Chicago 1928 - but when I found copies of it freely available online, it seemed that a handprinted reprint was somewhat redundant - in the meantime I had a couple of blocks made, calligrapher Deirdre Hassed had redrawn six of Jenson's letters at a large size and blocks were made of them also, and Bixlers in New York has set the type which I would then put thru the stick and re-space it all - since then it has been a struggle to figure out what to do - now, this aspect has been figured out : three 'poems' have been made by using words & phrases from the Last Will; a number of poems by yrs truly written; a fresh polymer plate of the original printing made by Nick Summers, and I have a book to print. . . here then, is Nicolas Jenson's Greek type as it appeared in his 1471 edition of Noctes Atticae, a commonplace book with commentary written by Aulus Gellius (second century), followed by three of Deirdre's six hand-drawn letters (tho the latter have appeared here last year - 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

with Carolee Campbell at CODEX 2013

I'd like to write heaps on what I saw, thought, heard, felt, & otherwise experienced & who I met at CODEX 2013 in Berkeley in February this year - and I will, over time, say a few things about that - but I wanted here to show one photograph kindly taken with printer/book artist Carolee Campbell at her Ninja Press table - her table was one of four tables at the Book Fair which featured fine books of my writings, in her case my poem The Sirens which can be seen a bit at lower left of the picture - 

while I'm at it, there are a few things I learned while at the Symposium & Book Fair, one of the most interesting being this : that, while in Australia letterpress as a primary book-making technology is a minority practice, in the US letterpress is the norm - when keynote speaker Sandro Berra of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione put this up on the big screen -        There is No Way to Letterpress
Letterpress is the Way
the whole audience almost cheered in agreement - but what was also brilliantly clear in so many of the tables there was that North American book artists & many Germans also (tho there are no doubt others, I was unable to get around all or even most of the 180 tables at the Fair) are wonderfully adept at adding computer, laser, and digital technologies to their already established repertoire of letterpress technologies in their making of books - 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

the Ampersands printed

at last I have printed the Ampersands cut in wood for me by Nick Summers - the design, as I said previously, is Umbra, designed by R H Middleton for Ludlow in 1935 - Nick has called them 'Umbrasands' - I think it suits them very well - 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Loney book from The Press at Colorado College

Aaron Cohick of The Press at Colorado College has just announced the publication of a book of mine, Orpheus the stutterer - I don't have copies for sale, so buying should be direct from the Colorado press - 

Another note for Alessandro Zanella

by the kindness of an anonymous comment on this site, here is a URL for more information on the late & great printer Alessandro Zanella - the whole site is in Italian, but even so, one can get a good idea of the scope of his printerly life & activity

Monday, March 25, 2013

New wood letters from Nick Summers

here's a nice clutch of ampersands made for me by Nick Summers at Sylvan Type Works in New South Wales - after I re-cover the tympan on the Albion I'll ink them up & print them, and post the result here - the design is Umbra, designed for Ludlow by R H Middleton in 1935 - 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Gill Sans Shadow 338

Electio has just acquired a font of 72pt Gill Sans Shadow 338 from The Printing Museum in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. They can produce a number of types and those interested should contact them for their list. They were kind enough to pull a proof for me and here it is - 
BUT, when the type arrived, it did so in a good, strong, wrap of card with a bit of printing on it which, amazingly, I didn't look at until the next day. It turns out to have been a nice piece of old Linotype packaging, and I confess I'm tempted to rename my press because of it - 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Vale Steve Pratt

looking this morning at Milroy Rollins's blog (Heavenly Monkey) I'm distressed to find that the maker of my Albion press (and one of Milroy's), has died of cancer. Go to Milroy's blog to see more of Steve's history - here's a photo of Steve Pratt and one of his Albions - I have, I have to say, taken this direct from Milroy's blog - 
each of the Pratt-Albions (as they are sometimes called) are dated and numbered - mine is number 11, dated 2001 - and the last information I have about the most recent one is number 18 - tho, if there are any later ones, I'd very much appreciate knowing - what I do know is that a small gathering of Pratt-Albion owners will be at CODEX 2013 in February -
here's mine (even tho I have posted this before - 
Steve Pratt's Albions are reproduced from a small (foolscap folio) Albion made by D & J Grieg, Edinburgh (I think in the 1860s - anyone have better information?) once owned by the late great printer Lewis Allen at his (with his wife Dorothy) Allen Press in California - 
at Allen's death, his printery was gifted to the University of Utah, and somehow a decision was made to strip the little Albion down and make reproductions - for me, owning this press is a special story - in the mid-1970s I discovered Lewis Allen's Printing with the handpress (Van Nostrand Reinhold 1969) and this book became, and was so for many years, my close-read handbook on printing, along with Clifford Burke's Printing poetry -  later, in 1982, in Fine Print Vol VIII, No. 1, Lewis Allen reviewed I book I had printed, of short aphorisms on the creative process plus a number of drawings by designer-bookbinder Edgar Mansfield - Allen was very kind in his review, and I wrote to him saying so and with thanks - after that we had an occasional & sporadic correspondence that I should say did not venture into the craft of the art of printing at any real level - and the last card I had from him arrived just a few months before he died - so, to have a copy of one of his presses (which I ordered just over 20 years after Allen's review) on the other side of the world was and is to me one of the most significant connections I have with the centres of the craft, which are decidedly not in Australia or New Zealand - now, all my printing is done on the Lewis Allen press, and I am thus in daily memory of him and of Steve Pratt - in this sense, every time I touch the press I honour the memories now of both men, and salute the pleasure & information I have gained from their labours - Vale, Steve Pratt - Vale, Lewis Allen -

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013 is here, and so are we. . .

usually, when I need photos for this here blog, I ask Miriam if she'd be so kind to take 'em, and I set them up and all sort of thing, but today she looked into the printery and said she'd like to take a picture or two - and here I am, the happy recipient of these to kick off the new year - all to do with the binding of RED SQUARE being ready to enter its last procedure - 
tho it was the ball of cut threads ready for sewing that first caught her eye -
which then led onto this -
with two variants on a more or less single view -
and this -