I will be in Manhattan next Saturday across from the NY Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. Our Fine Press Book Association (FPBA) Shadow Fair venue is the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Ave at 66th Street. Saturday April 29, from 10 AM to 5 PM.
Come see all the beautiful books and people from around the world!
There will be 40 presses showing this year, here is a link to the list. I remember the first fair in 2014 and all the wonderful experiences associated with the event, the city, art and food along the way. Each time finding new inspiration and ideas – looking forward to another visit.
No new book for the table this year, I’ve been busy binding deluxe and presentation copies of books since the completion of The Wind in the Willows. These books are already sold and most of this type of work I do is commissioned from my current and previous titles so it will be nice to show a few examples of some of my presentation bindings before they disappear into private libraries.
Only another six or so bindings to go before I’m caught up and get to be a printer again! Some really delicious poetry coming soon from James Bernard Gross via the charming volume The Liquorstore pomes (not a typo) and we continue to refine The Machine Stops for the Mad Parrot Press imprint.
Spring is finally near here in the Deep Wood. A few crocus and daffodils making the appearance along with wild leek, trout lilies and fern poking through in the woods. Spring peepers and wood frogs came out earlier in the week, turtles crawl out of the muck to sun themselves on logs and geese honk all night long in their efforts to perpetuate the species. These clear cold spring nights are good for some things beyond our sphere as well.
The past year has been a full one. A vast amount of my time has been spent working on presentation bindings, a few of which as yet still backlogged on my bench. In addition, I spent a month in the fall in France where I made a connection with the Foundation Louis Jou in Les Baux de Provence. That connection led to an invitation to join the Foundation board and I am honored and pleased that I was elected by fellow members this spring to help guide the organization forward.
Louis Jou (1881-1968) was a prolific fine book printer, wood engraver, type designer and book binder. He was born in Catalonia but moved to Paris in 1906, attracted by the growing artistic scene and by 1921 he was designing his own proprietary typeface, having it cast in Spain and releasing his first imprint – Machiavelli’s The Prince. In 1939 with most of his staff leaving to join the war, Jou moved his studio to Les Baux where he began the restoration of the Hotel de Brion, though he could not move the presses to the location until after the war. Of the 167 books he created, 95 were printed on his iron hand presses. In 2017 the Foundation was created and work began to restore the workshop, museum and make Jou’s work more accessible to the public. I immediately felt a kindred relationship with Jou as I too do every step of the book creation process “in house” and am drawn to the classical ideal of a fine press book.
The studio is well equipped with three Stanhope iron hand presses, a wood framed intaglio press, book presses, Jou’s gravers and other tools. The composing room doubles as a workshop space and the walls are lined with type cabinets full of Jou’s proprietary types. Upstairs is an apartment for workshop students and staff with a small kitchen, dining space and 3 bedrooms. Across the street is Atelier du Livre where François and his daughter Marie Vinourd, book and paper conservators, ply their trade. As you can imagine, I immediately felt right at home despite the frequent language barrier.
My partner, Madeleine Vedel, lived in this region of France for 20 years before we met in Northern Michigan. She and her former husband had a noted cooking school and B&B in Arles and after their separation the opportunity to establish a goat farm creamery and make cheese brought her back across the ocean with her sons. Her goat adventure behind her, she has recently created a small but thriving chocolate business. Madeleine concurrently taps her connections with artisans and locations in France to offer specialized tours (often centered around food and wine) through her Cuisine Provencale. All this back story is a lead-up to the individual who in fact made the connection for me with the Foundation: Madeleine’s friend and goat mentor Claudine, now retired from cheese making, is a docent at the Jou Foundation and encouraged us to visit. Not expecting much from this visit I was blown away by the legacy of Jou and the possibilities the space had to offer. I immediately made contact with the Foundation offering to make some needed repairs which turned into a brilliant working holiday where I became good friends with another board member and was introduced to many other printmakers, bookbinders and printers during my stay.
From my position on the board I am tasked with developing international programming for a workshop series, helping restore the equipment and composing room and to be “ambassador for the book.” Other goals include creating a book with some of Jou’s unpublished wood engravings (in his type) and bringing graduate level book arts students to Les Baux for extended workshops and internships. More information to come on these latter goals in future blog posts.
I am pleased that for this inaugural year I have lined up two instructors so far. Richard Wagener (Mixolydian Editions) will be teaching wood engraving in September and Joanne Price (Starpointe Studio) will also teach a wood engraving class in October. I will teach a type composition class in October as well. When the schedule is set I will offer more information here but if you are interested in any of these workshops and want to travel to an amazing location this fall in the South of France mark your calendar now!
Before and following the release of my last project, The Wind in the Willows, I have been inundated with the creation of presentation bindings for that book as well as a back log of special bindings, slip cases and solander boxes for some of my earlier editions. I will confess, I’ve never had a best seller before where special bindings were sold out in advance, these usually trickle in at a manageable pace. This is solitary work, each binding is a work of art in itself and – they take time. I’m not complaining, I’m thrilled that my bindery work has achieved such recognition and desire but I am ready to get back on the press again and create new books! Below you can see some of the bindings I have completed in the recent months.
Work on The Machine Stops and my Mad Parrot imprint with James Dissette is progressing slowly and I have another commission for a book of poetry, The Liquor Store Pomes (not a typo) by James Bernard Gross who had an earlier book (Fingerings for Words: selected poems) produced by Chester Creek Press in 2016. Along with a couple other small projects that need to get on the press it will be another busy year in leather and ink.
I (and Madeleine too!) will be at the eighth annual Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair next month on Saturday, April 29th from 10 AM to 5 PM. Our event is at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, 869 Lexington Ave at 66th Street across the street from the NY Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory.
I hope to see you there!
Before I left for Europe I had a visit from Dave Seat who helped me replace all the heaters on my Linotype machine with modern solid state controllers. A little more work and the machine will once again be producing beautiful type for future books.
Since the completion of the standard edition of The Wind in the Willows I’ve been busy in the bindery working on the 10 deluxe copies of the book. There are an additional 9 books queued up for presentation bindings to fill orders placed in the past few months for my past books including The Intruder, In the Penal Colony, and The Mad Angler Poems so those will make reappearances here in the future in their new clothing as well. I seem to be more a binder than a printer these days….
I am usually loathe to share images of unfinished work and only a couple of these are even close to completion so apologies for the less than stellar images taken with my phone on the bench with plenty of glare. Quite a bit of leather onlay and underlay work, tooling, bits of foil and great fun refining binding structures. I stocked a fair amount of new leathers for this endeavor in both goat and calf as well as a few fair skins that I’ve dyed to suit my needs. These will all be in solander boxes when completed and accompanied by a suite of the 12 full size illustrations from the book.
This Friday I’m off to CODEX in Berkeley, CA for yet another gathering of fine press makers and book artists from around the globe. I’m excited to see everyone again and have volunteered to help Peter and Susan with all the gory details of show set-up, shopping and general flunky. That’s what friends do!
Visit me at Table 56 to see the new work and catch up.
Upon returning from California I’ve a few days to repack for the Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on Saturday, April 23rd from 10am – 5pm. The last “in-person” fair I did was Manhattan 2 years ago just as Covid was hitting the USA. I managed to escape back to Michigan unscathed (though quite a few friends were not so lucky) where I have been practicing social distancing and isolation for 30 years now here at DWP.
Winter was lacking in many ways here on the Michigan 45th parallel, bitter cold prevailed but not the kind of snowfall we have historically enjoyed, so cross country skijoring with the dog was a limited activity which is one of the things that keeps me sane during our long winters. Life was interrupted by a power outage during the holidays, I was out for 5 days but the worst part was when power was restored it dumped high voltage through all the buildings and AirBnB rental taking out the furnace controller, refrigerator, ceiling fans, gfci outlets, audio gear and all kinds of other little things that sometimes take weeks to discover. Needless to say, this took priority for a while along with all the fun of dealing with insurance, ordering and installing replacement items.
There is still snow outside as I type this though spring is around the corner. There are geese and ducks on the river verbally making themselves known to potential mates. Coyotes, fox and bobcats are on the prowl and the otters and beavers are enjoying their icy slides. On a sunny day last week I say my first turtle that had emerged from the winter muck to sun himself on a log. A few early hatches that the trout have ignored and when I return from New York trout season opener will have already happened here in Michigan on the 24th. Don’t worry, I’ll keep focusing in the bindery. Mostly. You know I’m looking forward to printing The Machine Stops this fall and the drawings we’re getting from Marc Castelli will blow your minds.