Last week I visited Les Baux-de-Provence and finally made face to face contact with the Fondation Louis Jou along with the Bibliothèque nationale de France to begin a relationship with both organizations for when I will eventually live here on a part time basis with my partner Madeleine Hill Vedel at her home in Avignon just 40 minutes away. Covid had delayed the trip a couple years but now we are back on track. The initial visit was wonderful giving me a chance to assess the current condition of the three hand presses on location and to visit with Atelier du Livre François and Marie Vinourd – book and paper conservators, across the lane.
This weekend and through next week I’ve been invited to stay with Jean-Louis Estève at his home and workshop in the Les Gorges du Verdon region and then we will make our way back to Les Baux where a wood engraving workshop will be given (hopefully I will be doing intaglio if a spare plate is to be found) where we will stay on premise and, with luck, do some initial basic repairs that are needed on the large Stanhope press that Louis Jou printed a majority of his wondrous books on until 1967.
I’m currently moving about Provence until November 7th. I still receive email but my phone is non-functional here until my return and I neglected to update my voicemail before leaving. Apologies to anyone who has tried to contact me for any urgent matter.
Upon my return to the comparably frigid Northern Michigan I will be right back at finishing the backlog of deluxe and presentation bindings that are lingering on the bench, continue layouts for The Machine Stops with James and interviewing a couple of potential apprentices for the 2022-23 season. Thank you to those who have been patiently waiting for your books, it was not my intention to leave you in expectation for so long.
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.
Just moments ago I sent off the (I hope) final text edits and layout for In the Penal Colony to translator Breon Mitchell and artist Dellas Henke. Lucky for all of you we are perfectionists and because of that this new manuscript from Breon has undergone nine (I think) revisions in the past six months. I must say I’ve had too much fun doing this — for an otherwise usually grueling process it’s been fun sparring with my collaborators from anything from syntax to making calls on typographic “house style.”
Here is Dellas’s sixth etching for the book,”Entitled” to be used as the frontispiece.
All of the intaglio prints have been pulled and are awaiting another dampening for the text run. All but three more sets….
— We’ve decided to print an additional three special copies on some old Barcham Green “Windhover” stock saved by Dellas while he was working with Kim Merker and the Windhover Press during his graduate student days at the University of Iowa in the ’70s. I will contribute some lovely old stock Fabriano sheets from the ’40s for fly leaves or doublures. Some three discriminating individuals or institutions will enjoy these lovely folios of crisp sheets hand pulled by an iconic craftsman and paper mill and impressed with our impressions of this interesting little story.
UPDATE: The manuscript is finished! To the press soon!
I’ve not been idle while waiting for manuscript revisions. Progress has been made on my other Kafka project, The Hunter Gracchus, with completion of the last engraving and mezzotint intaglio work and adapting the other plates to the new size format. I’ll post some pictures of layout revisions soon.
Also, James Dissette and I have not neglected our Mad Parrot Press venture! We’ve brought Marc Castelli back on board to illustrate our new production of EM Forster ‘s The Machine Stops. Marc has worked with us in the past on our books under the Chester River Press imprint for both Heart of Darkness and The Chesapeake Voyages of Captain John Smith as well as other ephemeral projects. However, we’ve run into a snag with the Forster estate at the moment but hope to work it out to all of our benefit in the very near future. I’ll keep you posted of course as I’m always timely with my blog….
Looking toward fall:
I’ll once again be at the 16th annual Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor, Michigan peddling my books and demonstrating intaglio printing as I have for the past 16 years.
I’ll also be at Oak Knoll Fest XX in New Castle, Delaware on October 5-7th. Please join me and 40 other fine presses from around the world as we convene for this very special 20th anniversary gathering at Oak Knoll where the Fine Press Book Association was born.
All books convey a message through printed word and image. The fine press book is not just a vessel for an idea, but a message in and of itself. When the careful combination of paper, typography, printing, and binding accentuate the ideas contained within in a distinctive and artistic way, then the book as an object takes on special importance. How this evolving practice is viewed by artisans, collectors, institutions, and dealers is what Oak Knoll Fest is all about.