Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Project: Proofing Antique Donohue Blocks from the Feller Family Collections

Carl Mario Nudi, at the Vandercook 4 in the background, has already completed more than two hundred proofs.

One of the most interesting projects this summer has been the proofing of our complete holdings of antique blocks from the M. A. Donohue & Company of Chicago.  The blocks are just one component of the Les Feller Family Collections now at the Tampa Book Arts Studio. Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi is leading the effort, with help from Joshua Steward, Caitlin Carty, and others. The project involves unwrapping each block, cleaning away at least the first layers of accumulated ink, dust, and dirt with the help of brushes, toothbrushes, and a variety of solvents, and pulling a proof.
One cover block after cleaning, ready to be inked and proofed.


Carl Mario Nudi pulls a proof from the block.
When the project is finished, the studio will have two complete notebooks of proofs that will serve as a catalog of all the blocks in the Feller Family Collections. Donor Lee Harrer and others are already busy locating actual books to match the plates, and this week Carl found a copy of The Natural History ABC.  His copy of the complete book arrived just after he had finished proofing that set of blocks. But, as is often the case with Donohue Company books, the interior and exterior blocks are not always paired consistently from printing to printing. The inside blocks in the case of Natural History are completely different in this physical copy from the blocks held in our collection. This appears to be a standard practice of the company, which supplied young children with interesting and inexpensive books. Donohue & Co. evidently reprinted quickly to replenish stocks, and they appear to have been happy to swap around the texts, as long as they made sense. The outside covers are identical, and both our blocks and the printed book are identified as Series No. 120.
The printed cover, together with our first proof of the black block, which still needs makeready.
Most of the interior blocks in our collection include the signature of the illustrator, Constance White; however, the interior pages in the printed copy are by multiple illustrators—W. A. Cranston, Stanley Berkeley, and Harrison Weir—and they show a range of dates from 1873-1890.  Neither the printed copy nor the set of blocks is dated, though our blocks appear to have been made sometime between 1900 and 1920.

With summer nearly over, there is still a great deal of proofing to be done to complete the project, but each printing session brings fresh discoveries and delightful surprises.  We are looking forward to knowing much more about the full archive—which includes well over four hundred blocks—and about the Donohue Company by summer's end.

Joshua Steward proofs another sheet on the Vandercook 4.



Friday, August 1, 2014

TBAS Library Highlights: Rare Book from American Printer Isaiah Thomas



A battered, heavily worn leather binding from the nineteenth century conceals one of the gems of the Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections: the Columbian Dictionary of the English Language published in 1800 by the great American printer and patriot Isaiah Thomas in partnership with his friend and fellow publisher Ebenezer T. Andrews.

Our copy is a gift from our collections chief, J. B. Dobkin, and is one of only nine surviving copies that we have been able to locate in libraries throughout the world. Dobkin describes it as "extremely rare."   Our copy is inscribed with the name of John Lesslie, who lived with his wife, Polly Hyde, in Plymouth, Vermont.

The book was compiled by Yale-educated Massachusetts teacher Caleb Alexander and includes “many new words peculiar to the United States, and many words of general use not found in any other English Dictionary.”  The elaborate title page also states that “the whole is calculated to assist foreigners in acquiring a just pronunciation of the English language, and to be used as a school book by any who wish to study the language grammatically.”

Isaiah Thomas was born in Boston in 1749 and in his youth was apprenticed to a printer.  He is widely known for his publication of the famous eighteenth-century newspaper named the Massachusetts Spy, which he established just about the time he turned twenty-one. In it he championed American Patriot politics from 1770 to 1776 and the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.  Thomas also printed and published the New England Almanac (1775-1803), published many other important books, established a paper mill, and wrote and published the first comprehensive printing history in the U.S.,  The History of Printing in America (1808).


Thursday, July 3, 2014

One of our favorite things

So many gems are tucked away in the Tampa Book Arts Studio library that it’s difficult to choose one to inaugurate this series of posts about the “best” of the collection. We plan to feature one item, or a related group of items, regularly on this blog, so check back often and see what we've brought out to delight you. Since there are nearly 8,000 items in the collection, it will be a long time before we run out of the “best” of what we have to share.

     We decided to begin the series with the copy of An Essay on Typography that came to us as part of Lee Harrer's generous donation. This first edition was published in June 1931 in an edition of 500 copies. Eric Gill (1882-1940) not only wrote and illustrated the book, he also printed it by hand, with his son-in-law, Rene Hague. This book exemplifies Gill’s versatility. His great talents complemented one another in the fields of sculpture, type design, writing, illustration, engraving, and printing, and he made this book at a high point in his career, having just completed the design of Gill Sans types and finished a major sculptural commission for reliefs on the headquarters building overlooking St. James's Park for the Underground Electric Railways Company of London, which was awarded a London Architectural Medal in 1931 from the Royal Institute of British Architects.
    Gill first trained to be an architect, but gave it up after meeting and studying with the renowned calligrapher Edward Johnston. After that meeting, he became interested in calligraphy and the cutting of letters in stone, and the art of sculpture generally. His work exemplifies the Art Deco style and unashamedly portrays human sexuality and the body. He and his wife moved to Ditchling in Sussex, England, in 1903, where he founded the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic after World War I. The Guild and the workshops he established later were communities of craftsmen that put into practice the anti-industrial ideas that Gill propounded in essays on art and the modern world.
     His career took a new turn after Stanley Morison, the type designer most famous for the ubiquitous Times New Roman, invited Gill to design new type faces for the Monotype Corporation. The results of their collaboration include Perpetua, Gill Sans, and Joanna. American type designer Beatrice Warde was also employed at Monotype when Gill was working for them, and was inspired by Gill’s Perpetua type to write her famous broadside titled "This Is a Printing Office." (Warde was also the model for his woodcut of a female nude called “La Belle Sauvage.”) The Joanna type was specifically designed for Gill’s own press, and he used it to set An Essay on Typography. The year 1931 also marked the publication of Gill's masterpiece in the field of book design: The Four Gospels, published by the Golden Cockerel Press.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Christmas in Midsummer for TBAS Library

The Tampa Book Arts Studio Library Collections received an unexpected summertime visit from Santa Claus as donor Lee J. Harrer brought in some special vintage gifts that complement and showcase the antique printing blocks in our Les Feller Family Collections.  Lee is extending the Harrer Collection of Books about Books to include original editions published by Donohue & Co.  of Chicago that are printed from the antique blocks that were rescued and preserved by Les Feller, who discovered them in the vaults of the Chicago printer. They are now a treasured part of the TBAS Feller Family Collections. (See our post about a title, Jolly Jingles, discovered early on in the Collection.)

This color cover is from the Santa Claus Big Picture Book published by Donohue about one hundred years ago. The Feller Collection blocks include many sets of four-color separations, along with some engravings intended to be printed in a single color.  The Studio plans to produce limited-edition prints from the original blocks and will be making them available in portfolio sets as a fundraising activity.  Meantime, we look forward to being inspired by antique examples of the original printings, thanks to Lee’s book-collecting skills and generosity.

If you happen to have original children’s books from Donohue and Company that you would like to contribute to the library, please contact us at utpress@ut.edu.

Friday, June 13, 2014

23 Students Take Letterpress Printing and Publishing Course

THE TAMPA BOOK ARTS STUDIO WAS FILLED TO OVERFLOWING this Spring with twenty-three University of Tampa students enrolled in a course entitled “Printing, Publishing & Book Arts.” The course was taught by University of Tampa faculty members Richard Mathews, director of the studio and a professor of English and Writing, and Kendra Frorup, a sculptor and mixed media artist and a professor of Art, assisted by the TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi and Studio Associate Joshua Steward. The class met every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday during the 14-week semester.

Students surveyed the history of printing and publishing from incunabula to contemporary artists’ books.  They studied type design and typography from historical and digital angles, and they explored hands-on aspects of letterpress printing.

Nearly every available surface in the studio was utilized while students learned typesetting by hand from the California job case. As they became more familiar with the types available to them, they designed and printed limited edition postcards, larger broadsides with two or more colors, and they planned and completed a variety of individual projects. Most of the students also learned to set and cast lines of type on the Ludlow Typograph, which gave them an even broader selection of type styles and sizes than those found in the cases of vintage foundry types in the studio.  

Frorup instructed students throughout the semester in the making of paper and showed them techniques for producing decorative paste papers and marbled papers. She also taught the students several binding techniques and worked individually with them to help them master different stitches and book forms. Everyone completed at least one binding exercise employing the pamphlet stitch and another using a stab binding.


They also gained experience and confidence in using the array of letterpress equipment in the studio, from composing sticks to galleys to furniture and quoins.  They all completed limited edition letterpress runs using our Vandercook presses—a Model 4 and Model 219AB. They took on the responsibility of printing the work they designed, which involved setting, proofing, and correcting their type, preparing and locking-up forms, and registering their sheets.

The last weeks of the course became a time for experimentation with different materials and with the traditional forms of printing. A few tackled split fountain (or “rainbow roll”) printing, others tried their hand at carving wood or linoleum blocks, monotype printing, collography, screen printing, hand-tinting, and even wood working. The students’ final projects were varied. Many included binding as well as printing, and some created chapbooks of poetry, stories, or essays. The course concluded with a session for the students to show and comment on the work they had done—and to collect all of the letterpress postcards into a die-cut and letterpress-printed portfolio packet designed to hold a complete class set (shown in slideshow below).


Click on photos within the slideshows to see larger versions

Special thanks to Jennifer Deg and Jack Whitaker for additional photographs

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Jim Servies, 1925-2014


FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND ADMIRERS of Jim Servies are mourning his passing in Pensacola, Florida, on May 30, 2014, at the age of 88. He was a champion of books and print culture throughout his long life as a librarian, author, editor, printer, publisher, and bookseller. After graduating from the University of Chicago, he began his career as a librarian there, and then served in various positions at the University of Miami (Coral Gables), the College of William and Mary, and the University of West Florida.
     During those years, Jim edited or wrote a number of books, including A Bibliography of John Marshall (1956), A Selected Bibliography of Virginia, 1607-1699 (1957), Earl Gregg Swem, A Bibliography (1960), The Poems of Charles Hansford (1961), and The Log of H.M.S. Mentor, 1780-1781 (1982). His work on these publications, and his experience as a reference librarian, prepared Jim to tackle a book that would be nearly two decades in the making: A Bibliography of Florida. First, Jim and his wife Lana spent four years cataloging more than 40,000 (yes, forty thousand!) books, articles, and other documents printed in or about the state of Florida. Then, after Jim retired in 1986, they began to work in earnest on their magnum opus. It would be published in four volumes between 1993 and 2002, totaling more than 2,000 pages and 18,052 entries. Michael Slicker of Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg calls it “one of the (if not the) finest state bibliographies ever produced.” 
     Jim and Lana were active in the world of antiquarian books as proprietors of King and Queen Books, which has issued nearly 50 catalogs. They helped found the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association and its much-admired book fair, held annually in St. Petersburg.
     The name King and Queen was also used for their press, which issued occasional hand-printed keepsakes, facsimiles and ephemera, many of which have a Christmas theme. The long list includes The Angels [by John Updike] (1968), An Ode to the King and Queen Press (1968), Christmas All Hail! (1969), The Office of Christmas (1974), Christmas Couplets (1975), Pensacola’s First Christmas Tree! (1978), Welcome Christmas (1979), A Christmas Tree Question (1980), A Christmas Shopping List: 1902 (1982), The New-Year Elephant (1983), A Florida Christmas, 1882 (1986), Holiday Recipes, A.D. 1594 (1988), Christmas Eve at Sea (1989), Little tree, little silent Christmas tree (1990), A Christmas Orange (1991), Florida: A Hundred Years Hence (1992), Christmas on Mt. Olympus (1993), The Eskimos’ Christmas (1997), Jennie’s Christmas, 1901 (1998), and Christmas in the Bag: A Major Jones Story (1999).
     Jim’s friend and colleague Michael Slicker remembers him as “a man of tireless energy and a friend of the book who guided the University of West Florida Library through its early years, sent hand-printed keepsakes from time to time, supported the book fair in its early years, and was always willing to share his time and his knowledge. Moreover, he was a ‘gentle’ man in every sense of the word.  The world is a little darker today without the light of Jim's smile.”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Arts Studio Associates See Stars after Hosting Whirlwind Demonstrations and Tours





The Tampa Book Arts Studio associates were literally “seeing stars” recently as they played host to more than eighty graduate students in Creative Writing. They were here as part of the low-residency MFA program that draws students from all over the world to take part in an intensive ten-day residency of lectures, writing workshops, seminars, and readings. And the stars were being freshly cast in type metal as part of the celebration.



The student visit to the TBAS began in the early afternoon with a presentation by the Studio’s director, Richard Mathews, offering a broad overview of the history of the written word and its printing and publishing developments through time. In a later presentation given to third- and fourth-term students, more advanced topics were discussed. These included questions about the long-term effects on reading habits as a consequence of increased consumption of digital and  web-based texts. He described issues raised by Nicholas Carr in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which include preliminary evidence that there is a subtle (and subversive) training of the brain by digital culture to interact with digital texts in fast and superficial ways, with a consequent loss of deep thought and craftsmanship in digitally-created texts. He concluded the presentation by referring to historical and modern writers-as-publishers, reminding them that writers themselves can have a deep and profound impact in shaping how and what we read.

Dr. Richard Mathews lectures on the history of the printed word and advent of the codex.

Following the presentation, the students tried their hands at traditional book crafts. Kendra Frorup and Carlos Camargo Vilardy, of the UT Art Department, showed them how to create paste papers and marbled papers, and Bridget Elmer—of The Southern Letterpress, Gulfport, Florida, and Coordinator of Ringling College of Art and Design’s Letterpress and Book Arts Center—gave demonstrations on book binding, case binding, and pamphlet stitching.


Kendra Frorup and Carlos Camargo Vilardy demonstrate paste paper techniques. 

Bridget Elmer discusses elements of bookbinding by hand.

Meanwhile, at the letterpress studio, students visited three stations that represent the craft of letterpress printing. First, Dr. Mathews explained Gutenberg’s method for casting individual pieces of type by pouring molten metal into a hand mold, sorting it into a case, and setting it into lines by hand. 


Dr. Richard Mathews explains handset type and hand casting.


At the second station, Joshua Steward of UT Press ran a vintage 1920s Monotype Sorts Caster (the “Orphan Annie”) which mechanized the casting of individual letters and decorative pieces. Students could choose one of three different 18-point star ornaments to be cast on the machine and kept to commemorate the event.



Tampa Press Editing and Publishing Assistant Joshua Steward answers questions
about casting type and ornaments on the Monotype Sorts Caster.

Two of those three ornaments were used on a broadside, created by the TBAS staff in preparation for the event, as another keepsake for the students. As part of the tour, each student printed, with the help of TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi, the second and final run of the commemorative broadside on the Vandercook.

TBAS Letterpress Coordinator Carl Mario Nudi talks with students
about printing on a Vandercook Proof Press.

* * *



“We'll keep on until we're in star country”


The concept of the broadside's design was multi-purpose: the quote used—“We'll keep on until we're in star country”—is taken from a quiet moment of dialogue between two characters in the novel The Tilted World, by Tom and Beth Anne Fennelly, visiting authors for the Residency who gave a reading for the students later that evening on campus; additionally, as this semester marks the completion and graduation by the students of the inaugural cohort of the MFA in Creative Writing program, these graduates are the first to take the knowledge they've gained and strike out into the expansive world of creative writing and other fields of their interest—each reaching for their own “star country.”





Stars and display type were cast on the Ludlow and Monotype Casters, with the colophon handset; the broadside was printed with process black and tinted-blue inks on Crane's Lettra Pearl stock.



* * *

Thanks to Rich Hopkins for the loan of his star Monotype matrices,
and to Kendra Frorup, Carlos Camargo Vilardy, and Bridget Elmer
for their time, effort, and willingness to share their extensive knowledge.