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The Tampa Book Arts Studio has launched its first-ever Kickstarter campaign to assemble a project that brings an unpublished story of notable American woodcut artist J. J. Lankes into print in a fine, limited letterpress edition.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printed his woodcuts to illustrate books by Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, and others, we aim to bring a previously unpublished text by Lankes himself into print, together with his illustrations for his own work.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.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

TBAS Library Highlights: Printers of the World, Unite!

     Printers have long been at the forefront of the struggle for workers' rights. From the dawn of the American republic, they have organized locally and regionally to protect their rights, privileges, and wages. Printers' unions actually pre-date better-known organizations like the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters, and the American Federation of Teachers by many years, as revealed by a recent gift from J. B. Dobkin.
     At a glance, the 1850 edition of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel De Foe looks like just another one of the hundreds of editions of the classic work produced in the United States in the nineteenth century. But look closely, and notice the handsome device on the cover of the elaborately decorated binding. Beneath a tangle of iconography that includes angels holding hands, a radiant star, a bald eagle, and a laurel wreath, is something immediately recognizable to anyone who has set type: a hand grasping a composing stick. (Actually, if you look very closely, you'll see “Stick & Rule" engraved on the edge of the stick. We learned that this is an obsolete name for the composing stick used until the early twentieth century.) In the ribbon below the composing stick is the name “Journeymen Printers' Union." That organization, based in Philadelphia, is credited as the publisher on the title page, and one of its members edited this edition. The reader has only to turn another page to learn why the Union issued the book themselves, rather than one of the publishers that its members worked for.
     According to a two-page “Advertisement," the union was founded on June 27, 1850, “to improve the condition of the craft." One thing they did to achieve that end was to adopt a scale of prices — what we would call a minimum wage — for the various kinds of work its members did in newspaper offices, and in book and job offices. The scale went into effect on September 2, and while the majority of employers conceded to it, some employers refused to comply, which led to the dismissal of nearly one hundred union members from their jobs. The union went on strike against those employers, and decided to support the unemployed members by printing and selling this new edition of Robinson Crusoe. Our copy is from the third edition, following a first edition of 1,000 copies and a second edition of 2,000 copies. Ultimately, five editions totaling 17,000 copies were issued, but the venture cost the union money. Even though it was unprofitable, the venture was a great exercise in solidarity and fraternity, as the strike went on for nearly six months, and only a handful of members “left the cause to which they had solemnly pledged themselves and subscribed their names. These, in printers' language, are denominated rats, and as such, no doubt, they will find snares set by themselves at every opening to their lurking places."
     As the strike drew to a close, a meeting was held on December 2, 1850, in New York City, bringing together the Journeymen Printers' Union and representatives from similar unions in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Kentucky to form what would become the National Typographical Union, which was formally organized in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 5, 1852. Philadelphia's journeymen's union became the Philadelphia Typographical Union No. 2.
     The future of organized labor must have seemed bright. We wonder if those printers of 1850 would be surprised to know that the struggle continues, 155 years later, “to redeem men from the virtual slavery into which they have been reduced by the unrighteous ascendency of capital."

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ringling College Letterpress Students Visit the TBAS

Crossing Tampa Bay earlier this Spring, students of the Ringling College Letterpress and Book Arts Center (Sarasota) made their way to the TBAS, led by book artist Bridget Elmer, coordinator of the Ringling program. Our focus during their visit was to highlight two particular strengths of the Tampa Book Arts Studio: working typecasting machines and pre-1900 iron hand presses.

After welcoming the class and making introductions, Studio Director Richard Mathews began with a small tour of our “casting corner,” where the Intertype, the Monotype Composition and Sorts casters, and the Ludlow Typograph sit. He explained the workings and mechanics of each machine and spoke about their differences, advantages and disadvantages, and how each was typically used in commercial and book printing.

Following that initial talk the class separated into two groups. One group stayed to do hands-on work with the casters to set and cast their own lines of hot metal, while the other group moved to the hand press to ink and pull their own prints.

Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi manned the Intertype, and after a bit of instruction had the students sit at the machine themselves to type their lines on the keyboard and cast their own slugs.

Both Carl and Studio Associate Joshua Steward split time helping students set large display type in Ludlow sticks and cast their settings on the Ludlow Typograph.

Because the students at the Ringling Book Arts Center primarily print using mid-century Vandercook cylinder presses for their projects, we gave them the opportunity to hand-ink and pull prints on our 1860s Hoe Washington iron hand press. In the spirit of Bridget Elmer’s other letterpress venture, Southern Letterpress, we had the students use a large hand roller to ink up the forme (a short quote by Benjamin Franklin, fittingly, a hand press printer himself) with a “rainbow roll”—a three-color gradient, blue to yellow to red.

Thanks to Bridget Elmer and the Ringling College Letterpress & Book Arts Center.
The TBAS is glad to add typecasting, hand-inking, and iron hand press printing
to the students’ growing knowledge and experience in letterpress printing.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Itinerant Printer Revives a Printerly Tradition by Visiting the TBAS

Letterpress printer and book artist Chris Fritton turned the TBAS into his personal studio for a few days last week as part of his year-long project called “The Itinerant Printer.” Fritton is traveling the nation in part to renew the lost tradition of tramp printers—printers’ apprentices who left the Master Printer’s shop where they had learned the craft of printing to travel and see more of the world, finding work in other places and learning other printing techniques before opening their own print shops.

Taking advantage of Chris’s visit, two University of Tampa art classes stopped by the Studio to listen, watch, and print as they took part in informal presentations and demos. Chris explained the history of printing, showed the basic elements of letterpress printing and typecasting—having the students cast their own names on the Ludlow Typograph and print a class keepsake—as well as guiding them through his portfolio of prints and talking about his traveling “tramp printer” project.


Chris also set aside time to create and print some original letterpress works of his own. During his two-day visit, he designed, set up, and printed a three-color poster and two editions of two-color postcards to fulfill pledges that are part of his Indiegogo online fundraising campaign. Visitors were invited to stop by, talk with him, and see him at work during an Open Studio on Monday afternoon.

Chris officially began his Itinerant Printer tour, which is projected to take him to 48 states, the last week of January in the Miami area, making the Tampa Book Arts Studio only his third stop, following IS Projects (Ft. Lauderdale) and the Jaffe Center for Book Arts at FAU Libraries (Boca Raton). While in the West Central Florida area, Chris also visited the Letterpress and Book Arts Center at Ringling College in Sarasota and The Southern Letterpress in St. Petersburg before moving north to the Florida panhandle and Georgia.

More information about the Itinerant Printer project and a schedule of the tour can be found on the project website,

Thanks to Chris Fritton (The Itinerant Printer) for his visit, and to Ina Kaur,
Jono Vaughn, the UT Art Department, the Dept. of English and Writing, Writers at
the University, and the College of Arts and Letters for sponsoring The Itinerant Printer.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Celebration of Companion Old Style

The Tampa Book Arts Studio completed January 2015 by beginning its year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great American type-designer and printer Frederic Goudy—a party capped-off by casting type from the only surviving matrices for his unique Companion Old Style types. The event centered around a talk given by Richard Mathews, Director of the TBAS, who described the impetus for the creation of the face, its design, and the history of the use of the typeface. Mathews, drawing from a large volume of research, including materials from our own Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections, began by discussing Goudy’s early life and his development as a type designer, moving into a discussion of Goudy’s first types and into the commission Goudy accepted in 1927 to create a new typeface for the Woman's Home Companion magazine. Mathews pointed out unique elements of the typeface itself and discussed the face in context with Goudy’s other types and ornament designs. The talk ended with the story of how amateur printer and type enthusiast Les Feller discovered the Companion Monotype matrices during the liquidation of Monsen Typographers in Chicago, and how the Companion matrices found their home at the TBAS.

As part of the event, two films were played on a loop that could be viewed whenever convenient by those who attended.  The first was a 2014 video interview with Les Feller, describing his discovery and rescue of the Companion matrices (click on video at right to play). Paired with it was The Design to The Print by Frederic W. Goudy, a silent film from the 1930s that enables the viewer to look over the shoulder of Goudy as he shows his process for creating a new type, from first drawings, to engraving the matrices, to casting the type.


Following the talk, the crowd moved from the classroom into the Studio where there were opportunities to ask questions of the associates, learn more about Goudy, and to see a demonstration of typecasting from the original mats on a Monotype Sorts Caster, which produces individual pieces of type just as Goudy did in his foundry. Designs by Goudy, enlarged photographs of Fred and Bertha Goudy, and enlarged, signed proofs were displayed, together with items from the TBAS collections, including original copies of Goudy’s type publication Ars Typographica, original copies of Woman's Home Companion, and the first book to be set entirely in Companion, Water Colors, published in 1979 by Konglomerati Press. Notable items of the display were a grouping of facsimiles of Goudy’s first, dated proofs of three sizes of Companion (courtesy of the Cary Collection at RIT), photographs of Goudy's home and studio at Deepdene, and a printed sample of Companion known to be hand-set by Berthaoverlaid over a photo of her setting type in a composing stick.


Casting on our Monotype “Orphan Annie” Sorts Caster from the Companion matrices themselves, TBAS Associate Joshua Steward demonstrated how Goudy’s original engraved Companion mats would have been used to cast type for hand-setting and printing. The 36-point Companion Italic capital “G”s that were cast on the machine as part of the demonstration were handed out as small tokens to take home for those who attended.


At the Studio’s Vandercook 4 printing press, Richard Mathews assisted attendees to print their own keepsake designed for the occasion and handset in 36-point, 18-point, and 12-point Companion roman and italic types. The broadside included decorative Bruce Rogers ornaments also cast on the Monotype. The broadside design will serve as the basis for a more elaborate limited-edition keepsake for a portfolio of tributes being assembled by the Rochester Institute of Technology as part of their 150th Anniversary of Goudy.

Thanks to those who attended the event and special appreciation to
Rich Hopkins for his Monotype typecasting advice and support

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A “Lost” Goudy Type Becomes Our New Companion

Goudy’s Companion Old Style Comes to the TBAS

A sample setting of Companion Old Style
arranged by Richard L. Hopkins
       A rare and virtually unknown typeface designed by the acclaimed American type designer Frederic Goudy now has a new home here at the University of Tampa. Thanks to a David Delo Research grant and the generosity of the Lester Feller Family, the only known surviving mats for Goudy’s Companion Old Style type have become jewels in the crown of the Feller Family Collections at the Tampa Book Arts Studio.
* * *
     Richard Mathews, Dana Professor of English and Writing at the University of Tampa, and Director of the TBAS, received a David Delo Research grant from the University of Tampa to acquire, document, cast, and write about Goudy’s little-known type, Companion Old Style.  As part of the grant he will give a talk on the history and discovery of the mats at the Tampa Book Arts Studio on January 31, 2015, where he will explain the background and design of the roman and italic fonts and demonstrate their casting on the Studio’s antique Monotype “Orphan Annie” caster.

     The brass Monotype matrices arrived in sixteen battered plastic cases, each containing a complete roman or italic alphabet. They are the masters for casting an exceedingly rare private typeface, never made commercially available. Commissioned in 1927 by Henry B. Quinan, Art Director for the Woman’s Home Companion magazine, the type was designed for exclusive use in the magazine, which had a national circulation of more than four million in the 1930s. Goudy worked on the project for several years, during which time he taught himself how to engrave the mats, developing his own tools for cutting the shape of each letter, number, and punctuation symbol into a flat brass matrix designed for use on the Monotype casting machine. The finished types first appeared in the The Woman’s Home Companion for June, 1931. In the end, not only did he make the patterns for each letter, but he also cut each of the mats himself. The mats today include 12-, 14-, 16-, 18-, 21-, 24-, 36-, and 42-point sizes in roman and italic.

How Companion Made Its Way to the TBAS

     The mats were discovered and saved by Lester Feller in 1976 when the equipment of Monsen Typographers of Chicago was being liquidated. Feller, an amateur printer and type enthusiast who founded and operated the Twin Quills Press in Niles, Illinois, and later established the Printer’s Row Printing Museum in Chicago, collected antique types and cuts throughout the 1960s and 1970s for his serious letterpress hobby that he pursued from home base in a crowded garageAt the liquidation Les noticed the unidentified mats in custom Monsen Typographers plastic boxes with the Monotype number 359 identification, a number he was not familiar with, and he took a few mats out of the case to see if he could recognize the face. Though he couldn’t identify the type, he thought the slant of the letter “o” was interesting and he noticed that the old style numerals had a certain flair, and so decided to buy the mats without knowing what they were.

* * *

     Les later showed a one-line printed setting of the word “Companion” to Rich Hopkins at a meeting of hobby printers, the Almagamated Printers Association Wayzgoose in Indiana in 1977, still not knowing what he had. Printers often saved scraps and type samples from job work that could show what a typeface looked like, and Les thought that “Companion” might be a word from a headline or ad to show the type. It certainly didn’t strike him as the name of a type, let alone being a type designed by Frederic Goudy. He had unsuccessfully looked through Monotype lists in various catalogs and specimen books, but he had not been able to find number 359. Hopkins was also intrigued, and turned to his own extensive references, including two different typeface encyclopedias, but the mats were not listed in any of the usual sources.  Rich remained on the chase, following various clues that eventually included that one-line sample word, and he was able to identify the mats as Companion Old Style, an exclusive, private type commissioned by the art director of the Woman’s Home Companion, and used exclusively by the magazine.

* * *

     In 1979 Rich Hopkins wrote the whole story of the discovery and identification of the type in a beautifully printed issue of his Typographic Curiosities, set in Companion types cast from the mats that Feller had loaned especially for the booklet. Dr. Richard Mathews, who was directing the Konglomerati Florida Foundation for Literature and Book Arts at that time, knew Rich through the American Typecasting Fellowship and soon heard about the Companion discovery. He contacted Les and was able to arrange to have enough of the type cast to complete the first book ever issued in the private typeface: a collection of poetry by Ohio poet Hale Chatfield entitled Water Colors. Published in 1979, it was typeset by hand in Companion, letterpress printed, and hand bound at Konglomerati Press, with partial funding by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

     Feller and Mathews had lost touch over the years since then, but as the Tampa Book Arts Studio was first taking shape a decade ago, they made contact again. Les and his wife, Elaine, were spending winters in Florida, and they arranged to stop at the University of Tampa to see the new setup.  Presses, type, and typecasting equipment from Konglomerati had been supplemented by donations from others, and the growing collection reminded Les of what they had hoped to do with the Printer’s Row Printing Museum: inform and inspire others with an appreciation of the history and the desire to keep the equipment in use.
Future Legacy of Companion at the Tampa Book Arts Studio

Les Feller speaking about his 1979
discovery of the Companion mats
     Les and Elaine established the Feller Family Collections as part of the special collections library of the Tampa Book Arts Studio. They have contributed hundreds of original antique printer’s blocks from the early twentieth century children’s books published by the Donohue Company of Chicago, antique letterpress models, displays of wood-engraving processes, hundreds of printed books and pamphlets on letterpress printing, and a collection of antique letterpress posters and broadsides from the seventeenth through the nineteenth century. Many of these are framed, and now hang permanently in the TBAS.
* * *

     Today the Companion Old Style types will form a unique living legacy as the highlight of the Feller Family Collections, offering a very special opportunity for students to handle a private typeface found nowhere else in the world. Faculty and students together will explore new ways of utilizing this distinctive and nearly lost typeface by America’s best-known and most prolific type designer.  Here it will be cast sparingly and used for special projects. Most importantly it will offer students a hands-on experience with history. In the process, they will also contribute to history and scholarship themselves as they find ways to feature and reveal the possibilities for expression that this virtually unknown typeface holds.

Frederic Goudy wrote of Companion in his book A Half Century of Type Design and Typography 
“Companion Old Style and its italics show greater consistent
original features than any other face I have ever made.”

The Tampa Book Arts Studio is thrilled to be the permanent home for this extraordinary type.

Friday, October 24, 2014

TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Visits Lead Graffiti in Delaware

Jill Cypher and Ray Nichols in the Lead Graffiti studio, Newark, Delaware.
      When Tampa Book Arts Studio Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi headed North last month to visit relatives and friends, he was happy to see that his road trip would take him near Newark, Delaware, where the creative letterpress studio Lead Graffiti is located. Jill Cypher and Ray Nichols, the studio’s owners, greeted our “itinerate inquirer of all things letterpress” with gracious and overwhelming hospitality. 
      Lead Graffiti not only produces unique and innovative books, broadsides, and other book arts pieces, but Jill and Ray, and Ray’s son, Tray, also do commercial letterpress commissions. They work with traditional materials in surprising and contemporary ways. Their studio resources include a variety of traditional wood and foundry types, supplemented by new and wonderful wood type that they have designed and manufactured entirely in-house.
An example of the wood type made at Lead Graffiti.
      During Carl’s visit, Jill and Ray generously took the time to show him around and explain some of their techniques.  They also presented him with some inspiring samples of their work to share with the TBAS associates. One of the most interesting broadsides is from the 2014 series of their “Tour de Lead Graffiti” project. The sample print they sent back to Tampa is one of twenty-one posters interpreting the stages of this year’s Tour de France bicycle race held in July in France and nearby European countries.

Some of this year’s posters from Tour de Lead Graffiti.

      Each day during the Tour de France, Jill, Ray, and a team of collaborators watched television coverage of the race and related activities to soak up the atmosphere, and to catch some of the memorable commentary, interviews, and incidents. They would then go to lunch and discuss how to translate and interpret their impressions into a poster using wood and metal types, decorative elements, and colored inks on a 14.5” x 22.5” sheet. What is immediately obvious about this project is the spontaneity that the finished work communicates. Even the composition and lockup were done directly on the bed of their Vandercook press without preparation.
 Bringing the Tour to TBAS.

      The posters are limited editions—this year being the fourth in their yearly series—and copies of many of them remain available for purchase. Check out Lead Graffiti’s web site to see more of the series, along with some of the other great stuff they are doing: