Thursday, January 19, 2017

In Memoriam: R. C. H. Briggs

Author and Barrister R. C. H. Briggs

The editors and staff of the University of Tampa Press and the Tampa Book Arts Studio share a deep sense of loss at the passing of a friend and mentor, the British writer, barrister, and editor R. C. H Briggs.  He died peacefully on December 28, 2016, in his bed at home in Coombe Bissett, near Salisbury, with his family around him. He was 92.

Ronald Charles Hawkswell Briggs was born in West Yorkshire, and graduated from New College, Oxford. After serving in the Royal Armoured Corps (RAC) from 1943 until 1947, earning the rank of Captain, he completed a Master of Jurisprudence degree and an advanced degree in French.  He became a barrister at law, and following a period of practice at the Common Law Bar, in 1972 he accepted  appointment as Legal Secretary for the independent legal watchdog organization Justice, the UK section of the International Commission of Jurists. There he advanced the group’s mission of “promoting human rights” and “improving the system of justice.”

During his years at Oxford University, and even as he began his legal work, Ron was also becoming a leading authority on the work of William Morris. He was drawn to Morris for a host of reasons, from printing to politics.  In 1957, Ron proposed and successfully launched the first important traveling exhibition of Morris’s work as a printer and typographer: The Typographic Adventure of William Morris. He completed a groundbreaking "Handlist of the Public Addresses of William Morris” in 1960, which called attention to Morris’s speeches as a central and neglected part of his achievements. He launched the first issue of the Journal of the William Morris Society in 1961, serving as its founding editor, and continuing to edit and publish it for seventeen years and making it the single most important source for William Morris studies. In his "Editorial" for the first issue, Ron wrote: “Morris’ central theme, epitomized by him as ‘Reverence for the life of Man upon the Earth,’ led him to criticize much in the world around him; and much that Morris criticized still exists.”

As a leading light for the William Morris Society, he served as its Honorary Secretary as well as a trustee of the Kelmscott House Trust.  He designed numerous publications and led the Society’s publishing program, including introducing a custom of hand printing an annual Christmas greetings card, often in the Kelmscott House basement, which housed a treadle-operated Arab press and one of the original Albion presses from the Kelmscott Press. He organized excursions to important Morris sites, launched the William Morris Centre at Kelmscott House, and was instrumental in the historic home’s preservation and improvement. Today it continues to be home to the William Morris Society.

Ron was deeply committed to issues of human rights and human dignity, equitable justice, political integrity and reform, historical preservation, international thinking, and the preservation of the environment.  He worked to sustain and contribute to many of the works and perceptions that Morris advocated.  His friend and colleague Martin Williams, who served with him as an officer of the Morris Society and later became a founding trustee of the Emery Walker Trust, aptly observed: “Ron was a remarkable character—inspirational, idiosyncratic, and truly larger than life. There was something of William Morris about him, with that continuous energy and unrelenting pursuit of what he perceived to be the right.”

As a dedicated amateur printer, Ron was also drawn to the achievements and influence of Morris’s friend and Hammersmith neighbor, Emery Walker.  He campaigned in many ways for greater recognition of Walker's achievements, promoting him as not only an inspiration and virtual partner in Morris’s Kelmscott Press, but for his many impressive achievements as a photographer, photographic engraver, printer, and founding partner of the influential Doves Press. Ron championed efforts that led the London County Council to place a blue plaque at Walker’s residence at 7 Hammersmith Terrace in 1959.  For that occasion, he produced the earliest draft of another influential work, which was later revised and published by the University of Tampa Press—Sir Emery Walker: A Memoir

Ron is survived by his wife, Joan; his children, Julian, Roland, and Jeni; and his grandchildren, Sylvie and Sasha.

A memorial service was held in Salisbury on January 12. In lieu of flowers, the family suggested donations to one of Ron’s favorite charities, the Tibet Relief Fund.

Ronald Briggs at his home a few months before his 90th birthday.


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.

http://kck.st/1IGVvjY
We are thrilled to know that the Mouse is a winner!