Thursday, September 15, 2016

Good Things Come in Small Packages

The phrase “good things come in small packages” may bring to mind a diamond ring in a blue Tiffany gift box, but it can be applied to the world of books as well, in the shape of miniature books. To be considered miniature, a book must be no more than three inches in height, width, or thickness. The origin of these small wonders can be traced to the earliest days of writing. As long as 4,000 years ago, scribes and scholars made miniature clay tablets, scrolls, and manuscripts. Soon after the invention of printing in the fifteenth century, miniature books became regular productions of presses throughout Europe. It is estimated that about 200 miniatures were produced in the 1500s – including forty-six Bibles and editions of Dante and Ovid. Until the late 1800s, miniatures were often on religious subjects or made for children. Then, grown-up bibliophiles began to discover their charms, and clamored for miniatures of their own. Now, Conclaves are held annually by the most devoted collectors; fine printers specialize in making them; and miniatures are eagerly sought by private and institutional collectors. One of the largest collections is at the Lilly Library at Indiana University, where they have 16,000 miniatures. The Tampa Book Arts Studio is still working on its first 1,000, but we are delighted by those donated by our generous patrons, Lee Harrer and J. B. Dobkin.

Lee recently hand-delivered dozens of miniatures to our office, housed in a custom bookcase. As we cataloged them, two stood out: The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (1978) and Frontier Tales of the White Mustang by J. Frank Dobie (1979). Though they share the same imprint—Somesuch Press—they were produced by different printers – Andrew Hoyem and David Holman, who signed and numbered their books. They are both of high quality, but are also distinguished from one another by typography, paper, and binding. This brought to mind the approach taken by the Limited Editions Club, established in 1929 by George Macy, who hired a different team of typographers, printers, binders, and illustrators to produce each of his books. And so we wondered who was behind the Somesuch imprint. The fact that the press was located in Dallas gave us a clue. A little research revealed that Stanley Marcus, of Neiman-Marcus fame, and his wife Billie were behind these handsome books. Stanley was a famous bibliophile with a deep interest in miniatures. It was his wife’s idea to have a miniature edition made of Stanley’s memoir, Minding the Store. That led to the creation of the Somesuch imprint and nearly two dozen handsome books. We hope the two that we own will have company on the shelves before long.

The title page of “Frontier Tales of the Wild Mustang”

* * *

Jay has been pursuing the books of Achille St. Onge for some time. He has now assembled a substantial run of St. Onge’s handsomely made books. Lee had several in his collection as well, and by luck they didn’t duplicate what Jay had bought. We now have nearly half of the forty-six miniatures published by St. Onge between 1935 and 1977. Though he began with Noel, Christmas Echoes Down the Ages and closed his career with Addresses of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, the majority of his books are very American in flavor – Presidential inaugural addresses, works by or about Abraham Lincoln, Henry David Thoreau, and Paul Revere, and others on the Mayflower, St. Augustine, Florida, and the Declaration of Independence. Beyond the excellent choice of subjects for his books, St. Onge paid special attention to the quality of the books and their design. Some early titles were printed for him by D. B. Updike’s Merrymount Press and The Chiswick Press (the latter with bindings by Sangorski and Sutcliffe). By 1959, though, the venerable firm of Joh. Enchede en Zonen, in Haarlem, Holland, had become St. Onge’s printer of choice, and they produced a long series of uniformly handsome leather-bound editions for him.

The Achille St. Onge titles of the TBAS miniature collection

Friday, April 22, 2016

Official Publication Day for “The Rich Mouse”

Today is the 56th anniversary of the death of the American woodcut artist Julius J. Lankes and it marks the official publication date for our letterpress first edition of his previously unpublished story, “The Rich Mouse.” Since completing the printing of the text last year, we have been working on a companion volume, “The Rich Mouse Compendium,” which includes essays, photographs, and even reproductions of the author’s original draft manuscripts.

The title-page spread from “The Rich Mouse Compendium” set in P22 Village digital type

The special letterpress edition also celebrates another milestone American artistic achievement. It is handset in a special foundry casting of Frederic W. Goudy’s original Village type, and the fact that it was typeset and printed during the year marking the 150th anniversary of Goudy’s birth made it even better.
Today, coinciding with the official “Rich Mouse” unveiling, P22 Type Foundry is releasing the first digital version of Village type, designed by Paul Hunt. This is the same Open Type font we used to produce the “Rich Mouse Compendium” volume, which is the first book publication for this unique type in digitized form. P22 are celebrating an anniversary of their own today—their 22nd Anniversary of offering unique digital types—and are offering the digital Village font for 50% off this month, with an additional 22% discount on April 22. Be sure to visit the P22 website for a full showing

Over the next month we will be gathering, collating, and carefully packing the completed pieces of our special edition. It will be mailed first to the supporters who made the project possible by being a part of the original Kickstarter campaign.

Copies of the letterpress edition are still available, but the edition is limited to only 150 copies!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Binder David Barry Ties Up ‘The Rich Mouse’ Loose Ends

Binder David Barry binds a signature of the book; nearby, the board-patterned cases he has
already completed for The Rich Mouse await being united with the finished book blocks.
Bookbinder David Barry has been working steadily since the beginning of the year to complete the binding of the TBAS letterpress edition of The Rich Mouse.  The first of March finds him threading his way toward the end.

Now all of the signatures are folded and punched, the boards have been covered with the letterpress decorative papers we made especially for this edition, and David has finished all the cases. He is currently sewing the signatures for the complete edition of 150.

We had originally hoped to be mailing copies to subscribers by the end of January, but complications in the final stages of printing—combined with some longer-than-expected research going into the Rich Mouse Compendium companion volume—has slowed us down.

Now we’re a little more than a month behind where we guessed we would be. Still, the array of supplementary photographs and information in the Compendium will make the Rich Mouse even richer!  It still remains to finish this second book—which has just passed 100 pages—so that David knows how big to make the slipcases that will contain the two volumes!

But for those of you waiting for your copies, we think you will agree it's worth the wait! And for those of you who are interested in purchasing one of the remaining copies, you can do so by clicking here!

You can reserve your copy of
“The Rich Mouse” at

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Nearing the end of the Rich Mouse's tale . . .

With the end of 2015 near, the completion of “The Rich Mouse” limited-edition project at the Tampa Book Arts Studio is also in sight!

Early this week, Richard Mathews, Carl Mario Nudi, and Joshua Steward completed the printing of the unique, Lankes-inspired decorative papers for the hardback covers on the Vandercook 219AB proof press.


“The Rich Mouse” is a hand-bound, limited letterpress edition of the nearly-lost short story by woodcut artist J. J. Lankes, accompanied by his woodcut illustrations and printed on his 1848 Hoe Washington iron handpress here at the Tampa Book Arts Studio.

Since the completion of the printing of the four, eight-page signatures of “The Rich Mouse” story on the Lankes handpress, we have continued to work on the various elements needed to complete the project. In addition to the final letterpress run of these cover sheets, we also designed and typeset the title and spine labels, and the other premiums offered as rewards for contributing to the Kickstarter campaign used to raise funds for the production of the book.

The signatures, cover papers, and title labels soon will be ready to deliver to bookbinder David Barry of Griffin Bookbinding in St. Petersburg, who will hand bind each of the 150 copies of the book.

TBAS Associate Sean Donnelly's near-daily documentation of the project’s progress with photographs can be seen on his Flickr page.

You can reserve your copy of
“The Rich Mouse” at

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A visit by USF Students of the Renaissance Book

Professor Helena Szépe, standing at left in the Tampa Book
Arts Studio Library, guides her students as they begin their
“Printed Books ‘Field’ Notes” for printed leaves of the fif-
teenth and sixteenth centuries from our TBAS collections.
They say that the printed page comes to life in the mind of a reader, but sometimes a whole group can bring special life to the page. We saw this first-hand recently at the Tampa Book Arts Studio when pages from books printed in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries on the other side of the world—mostly in Latin—began to speak to a twenty-first century seminar.

Professor Helena Szépe of the University of South Florida, who researches and teaches on books of the Renaissance era, with a focus on illustration, both in manuscript and print, brought her talented, perceptive graduate and advanced undergraduate students to visit the Studio to see some of the basics of typesetting and printing by hand and to examine selected leaves from early printed books held in our Tampa Book Arts Studio Library collections.

Prof. Szépe’s seminar this semester is entitled “The Renaissance Book,” and she and her students are exploring how these early printed pages helped shape nearly every aspect of life and culture, from economic transactions to technology, medicine, education, and art. They are studying leaves from many different types of books, from many countries, but she has focused her students on one undertaking especially—a publication known as the Nuremberg Chronicle that attempted to print all knowledge and history known at the time. It was a kind of Wikipedia of the age.

“The central research project I’ve developed is for the students to look at the various leaves from Nuremberg Chronicle editions which are spread across the Tampa Bay area” Prof. Szépe says, “to figure out from which edition each is from, from where in the book, and to contextualize them further in various ways.”

She has developed a detailed format of five pages as a worksheet of “Printed Books ‘Field’ Notes.” It has students making notes about the “opening line” printed on the page, details of page dimensions, columns, number of lines per page, foliation and pagination, and much more.

Photos from the day by graduate Art History student Shanna Goodwin help show the story:

Richard Mathews, TBAS Director, speaking about early printing and casting

TBAS Associate Joshua G. Steward assists as students
and Prof. Szépe ink and print a keepsake on a handpress.

Special thanks to Shanna Goodwin for her photos!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Rich Mouse Completes the Home Stretch!

Our Favorite Mouse Flings Open the Door and Crosses the Finish Line!

You can imagine our delight as The Rich Mouse Kickstarter campaign crossed the finish line on Tuesday of this week—more than ten days early and just rich enough to guarantee a happy ending!
Cheers, thanks, and fireworks in Tampa!  We are very happy now to turn our full attention to the many details of bringing this J. J. Lankes tale into print in a manner and style the artist and author would approve.
Meantime, we will continue to make the remaining premiums available and will welcome additional support.  We will use any additional funds beyond our initial goal to advance the quality of the finished work. Please help us by forwarding our Kickstarter link and mentioning our project to anyone you know who might be interested.
We are thrilled to know that the Mouse is a winner!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

TBAS launches its first-ever Kickstarter campaign

The Tampa Book Arts Studio has launched its first-ever Kickstarter campaign to assemble a project that brings an unpublished story of notable American woodcut artist J. J. Lankes into print in a fine, limited letterpress edition.  And after just ten days, the project is nearly halfway to its funding goal!

In 1950, nearing the end of his career as an illustrator and woodcut artist, Lankes wrote an allegorical fable that takes place in the lives of two mice, a story that emphasizes the snares of materialism versus the redeeming strength of love and forgiveness. Lankes also completed two illustrations to accompany it, but both the story and the cuts were set aside. They were never published or even publicly known, and they were nearly lost.  In fact, they have been lost—until now!

In 2006, more than fifty years later, the manuscript was discovered by Dr. Welford Taylor, Professor of English Emeritus at the University of Richmond and curator of the University Museums’ recent exhibition, “Julius J. Lankes: Survey of an American Artist.” Dr. Taylor has edited the Rich Mouse manuscript, written an introduction outlining its history and meaning, and proposed its publication to Dr. Richard Mathews, Director of the Tampa Book Arts Studio. As readers of our blog probably know, the TBAS is home to Lankes’s c. 1845 Hoe Washington hand press, No. 3126, on which he proofed and printed his blocks for Robert Frost and others. After his death his son gave the press to the University of Richmond, which placed it on extended loan at the Tampa Book Arts Studio.

This is only the latest Lankes-related project that we have undertaken using his artistic images and his Hoe Washington press. Previously, we have designed and printed a keepsake portrait for the Robert Frost Symposium, designed and produced a broadside including an engraving and quote by Lankes, and printed a hand-bound collection of Lankes’s miniature wood engravings. This time, using the press on which Lankes printed his woodcuts to illustrate books by Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, and others, we aim to bring a previously unpublished text by Lankes himself into print, together with his illustrations for his own work.

A third collaborator, Bob Oldham, a typographer, press historian, author of The Columbian Handpress At 200: An Historical Summary and World-wide Census, and proprietor of Ad Lib Press, who actually moved the Lankes press from Virginia to Tampa—suggested that the text of The Rich Mouse be set in a special casting of Frederic W. Goudy’s original “Village” private press typeface.

We agreed that is a great idea.  So, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the great American type designer this year, we plan to print the book using a hand-set special casting of the original Village type, the face that Goudy designed for his own Village Press. At this point, we have only done preliminary design work, but in addition to printing it on Lankes’s own Washington hand press, we know that we will use a fine mouldmade or handmade all-cotton paper. The edition will be limited to 150 copies. It will be hand-bound in boards covered with special decorative papers we plan to adapt to echo the grain of weathered barn boards in the Lankes woodcuts.

Read a more complete account of the project and see the list of special premiums available when you lend your support on Kickstarter

And please share the news of this project with your friends and colleagues! While we have never before launched a Kickstarter campaign, we do understand that the secret for success is just having effective spread of the news through social media.  We hope you’ll pass the word along.