Sunday, September 14, 2008

"Shakespeare Appears in a Florida Scriptorium": An Illustrated Talk by Calligrapher Ruth Pettis

The word “calligraphy” contains echoes of the Greek words for beauty (kallos) and for writing (graphe). For thousands of years before the invention of printing, calligraphy was the way of making books. In the centuries since Gutenberg, calligraphic letterforms and page arrangements have inspired type design and book design—and have continued to inspire the public with compelling fusions of the art of beautiful writing with beautiful and significant expressions in language.

St. Petersburg calligrapher Ruth Pettis has earned a national reputation as one of the distinguished calligraphers of our day. Her passion for calligraphy and penchant for experiential research have led her to travels in the Orient, Middle East, and Europe, and her knowledge and mastery of ancient writing as well as creative modern lettering are evident in her sensitive treatment of word as image.

Over the past few decades, Pettis has engaged in the regular practice of writing spontaneously in a studio setting together with other dedicated practitioners, bringing to a well-lit Florida sunroom the traditions and practice of the medieval scriptorium.

Pettis will share her insights and artistry at the University of Tampa’s Macdonald-Kelce Library in a free presentation on October 8, 2008, at 4 p.m. when she presents a talk entitled "Shakespeare Appears in a Florida Scriptorium." Pettis will discuss the scriptorium experience and illustrate her talk with samples from the sonnets of Shakespeare that she has completed during scriptorium work over the last few years.

The event, sponsored by the University of Tampa Book Arts Studio and its Friends, and the Friends of the Library at the University of Tampa, is free and open to the public.

For questions or to reserve a seat, contact the University of Tampa Press at 813-253-6266 or email

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

AAPA Convention 2008: A Review

By Sean Donnelly

This year's convention of the American Amateur Press Association was a great success. President Leland Hawes reports that 49 people attended one or more of the events — 25 members of the AAPA and 24 visitors. This turn-out gratifies everyone who worked for several months to make the annual convention a memorable weekend here in Tampa. The co-hosts of the convention — Leland Hawes along with Richard Mathews and Sean Donnelly of the TBAS — couldn't have done it without the help of many friends, especially (in random order) Victoria Alt, Carl Mario Nudi, Henry Wehle, J. B. Dobkin, Marlyn Pethe, Bill Moss, Gene Hancock, Cynthia Gandee, Gianna Russo, Bob Turner, Jeanette Weiss, Frank Lidiak, Chang Ashby, Curtis White, and Luis Barragan.

The convention's success can be credited to the wide variety of engaging presentations, panel discussions, and hands-on experiences it offered. The conventioneers who arrived Thursday gathered for a traditional Chinese dinner at Hao Wah in South Tampa. Early the next morning the convention officially convened at the Macdonald-Kelce Library at the University of Tampa. The lobby greeted visitors with several displays: an array of vintage printing artifacts loaned by Gene Hancock; a sampling of century-old amateur journals; another display of early AAPA papers; a tribute to long-time member Fred Liddle; and large displays devoted to the work by special guests Mike Anderson and Richard Hopkins. Brief "welcomes" by Richard Mathews (Director of the TBAS), Marlyn Pethe, (Director of the Library), and J. B. Dobkin (Chief of the TBAS collections) were followed by Mike Anderson's talk on his re-creation of Johann Gutenberg's original "D-K" type, created about 1440. A slide show chronicled the painstaking care Mike took in studying the type, cutting his own mats, and casting a font from those mats. Gutenberg's type posed an interesting challenge — some letters occur in multiple forms, notably the letter "i." Mike explained that Gutenberg made these variations in imitation of handwriting because his printed books competed with the work of scribes. Lunch at the Valencia Gardens followed Mike's talk. [This writer sat between Gene Hancock and George Hamilton and enjoyed listening to them "talk shop" about presses and printing equipment.] We returned to the library after lunch for a talk by Rich Hopkins, of the Hill & Dale Private Press and Typefoundry, about making type for handsetting and re-creating a historic newspaper page in metal type with his Monotype casters. Rich starred in and directed a video tour of his plant, located in the basement of his West Virginia home. We saw the machines in operation and marveled at Rich's fusion of old and new technologies — one of his Monotype composition casters is run by a Mac computer!

By mid-afternoon, having nourished our bodies and minds, we were ready to get our hands dirty at the Book Arts Studio. Located in the Library Annex on the west side of the university's campus, TBAS is home to a variety of letterpress equipment. The gem of the collection, on loan from the University of Richmond Museums, is the 1848 Washington Hoe press once owned by woodcut artist J. J. Lankes. Conventioneers also found a Vandercook 4, an Intertype, an 1856 Washington Hoe, a Ludlow caster, and hundreds of cases of type for handsetting. Veteran printer and typesetter Henry Wehle was ready and waiting to demonstrate the Intertype: a machine beyond the dreams of Rube Goldberg. Henry's knowledge is encyclopedic, and his enthusiasm is infectious. He is a marvel to behold as he climbs around the Intertype . . . pulling levers, loading magazines full of mats . . . oiling this, tuning that.

While Henry demonstrated the Intertype, everyone had a chance to print their own keepsake on the Lankes press and the Vandercook. Mike Anderson provided a form that recreated Gutenberg's Calixtus Bull of 1456, as well as the hand-made paper on which to print it. Each visitor had a chance to experience the art of printing as Gutenberg conceived it — inking the form, placing the paper to be printed between the tympan and frisket of the Lankes press, rolling the bed under the platen, pulling the handle to make the impression, and then appreciating the result. To finish the keepsake, it was walked over to the Vandercook for the printing of the initial letter "C" in red. Registration proved to be a challenge, but Mike Anderson quickly solved the problem and everyone had a beautiful letterpress keepsake to take home.

Dinner on Friday night was "on your own." Stumps at Channelside hosted Richard Mathews, Mike Anderson, Sean Donnelly, Rich Hopkins, George Hamilton, and Michael Delgado. Discussion was lively — in fact too lively to give any details on this family-friendly blog — and we all had a great time together. It's hoped that everyone else had a fine time wherever they met to break bread.

The convention served up a traditional program of talks and panels on Saturday at the Howard Johnson in downtown Tampa. Joe Diachenko opened the morning with practical advice on typography and the design of an appealing amateur journal. Long-time newspapermen Al Hutchison and Charlie Robins discussed the fate of print media and the future of newspapers. Sean Donnelly gave a presentation on Walter John Coates (1880-1941), a Vermont poet, amateur journalist, proprietor of the Driftwind Press, and publisher of Driftwind magazine. George Hamilton, a long-time resident of Vienna, Austria, gave a lively talk on his experiences as a travel writer. Bob Tauber and Dale Starr, of Ohio State Libraries' Logan Elm Press, revealed what went on behind the scenes during the planning and printing of their book, Cat & Mouse. Local authors Jack Fernandez and Andy Huse talked about their experiences in getting their books published. The convention officially ended that evening with a group photograph and a banquet dinner. Steve Otto, a columnist for the Tampa Tribune, gave an entertaining talk that touched on his travels with Leland Hawes, his search for the elusive Skunk Ape, and the future of print media.

Many conventioneers adjourned to the hospitality suite on the 14th floor. Leland had it stocked with beer, soda, and snacks, but thanks to a donation from Dale Starr and Joe Diachenko we added four more exotic beers to the fridge. We talked and drank until nearly midnight, and bid one another goodbye, until next year, with great reluctance.

For more points of view and photos of the convention, please visit these links:

The convention photo: seated on floor, Max Feland, Dale Starr, Bob Tauber, Rich Hopkins, and Jack Scott; seated in chairs, Helen Doolittle, Jim Doolittle, Jiyani Lawson, Linda Donaldson, George Hamilton, Susan Petrone; first standing row, Sylvia Fernandez, Carol Robins, Betty Liddle, Fred Liddle, Joe Diachenko, Maurine Scott, Sue Tihansky, Mike Anderson; back row standing, Ray Jerland, Jack Fernandez, Charlie Robins, Sean Donnelly, Michael Delgado, Richard Mathews, Steve Otto, Leland Hawes, Jack Walsh, and Dianne Otto.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

American Amateur Press Association in Tampa June 12-14, 2008

The Tampa Book Arts Studio at the University of Tampa joins AAPA in inviting you to the 2008 convention of the American Amateur Press Association in Tampa, Florida, June 12-14.

Presentations, panels and demonstrations should satisfy the tastes of anyone interested in writing, printing or publishing. Programs and activities are open to AAPA members and Friends of TBAS. Membership information and arrangements for non-member registrations can be obtained by email from

Members planning to attend the convention must make reservations at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel BY MAY 13 in order to receive the special low rate ($85 a night, for either a single or double room). To do so, you must call Maureen McGuire at (813) 223-1351 or FAX at (813) 229-2358. The mail address is 111 West Fortune Street, Tampa FL 33602.

Some of the sessions will include:

• A Mike Anderson talk with PowerPoint visuals on the steps he took from computer to typecaster to reproduce the typeface used by Gutenberg in printing his first Bible.
• A panel discussion by several members on the subject, “How I Got My Book Published.”
• Damien Diachenko on creative computer designs in amateur journals.
• Rich Hopkins on re-creating in metal type the first page of the first newspaper published in Salem, N.C., for display on a period press at Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
• Sean Donnelly on rediscovering the work of amateur printer Walter J. Coates (1880-1941).
• Printing and typesetting demonstrations and hands-on activities in the Tampa Book Arts Studio.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Lankes Scholar Speaks to Friends of Book Arts

     Dr. Welford D. Taylor, America's leading scholar on the work of woodcut artist J. J. Lankes, spoke to the Friends of Tampa Book Arts Studio at the University of Tampa Library April 1.
     Dr. Taylor described some of the formative events and influences upon Lankes as an artist and printer. During his talk, he illustrated major subjects, styles, and techniques in the work of Lankes by showing original prints from the Book Arts Studio Special Collections. He also had brought two original Lankes woodcut blocks from his personal collection for those attending the event to inspect.
     The talk was followed by informal conversation and refreshments, with a chance for everyone to more closely examine the selection of prints and the original blocks.
     Then those attending were invited to the Book Arts Studio in the Library Annex to print a keepsake: a French-fold notecard featuring J. J. Lankes's “Bee and Clover" woodcut, which each participant printed on Lankes's 1848 Hoe Washington Press. In the photo Dr. Taylor stands at the Lankes press with a copy of the printed keepsake. The display board near the press includes a photo of J. J. Lankes in his studio in 1926, and a later photo of his son, J. B. Lankes, at work on his father's press.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Welford Taylor Introduces Woodcut Artist J. J. Lankes

Please join us at the University of Tampa Library on Tuesday, April 1, at 3 p.m. for a short talk by Welford Dunaway Taylor of Richmond, Virginia, entitled "A Brief Introduction to J. J. Lankes, His Work and His Press."

Prof. Taylor edited the splendid new edition of J. J. Lankes's A WOODCUT MANUAL for the University of Tampa Press in 2006, and was instrumental in arranging for the Tampa Book Arts Studio to acquire Lankes's 1848 Washington handpress on long-term loan. He is the leading authority on Lankes, one of the premier American woodcut artists of the 20th century, best-known for his many collaborations with Robert Frost.

Prof. Taylor will speak at 3 p.m. in the MacDonald-Kelce Library, second floor, room AV 2. Original prints and publications by Lankes, some of which were given to the Tampa Book Arts Studio collection by Prof. Taylor, will be on display to illustrate the talk.

Welford Dunaway Taylor taught American literature for forty years at The University of Richmond, retiring in 2004 as James A. Bostwick Professor of English, Emeritus. He is the author of numerous books on American literature and the graphic arts, including THE WOODCUT ART OF J. J. LANKES, ROBERT FROST AND J. J. LANKES: RIDERS ON PEGASUS, SHERWOOD ANDERSON, and REGARDING ELLEN GLASGOW: ESSAYS FOR CONTEMPORARY READERS.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. RSVP to 813-257-3099 or by email to to reserve a seat.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Preserving Traditional Arts & Crafts of the Book

The Tampa Book Arts Studio preserves the traditional arts and crafts of letterpress printing and fine bookmaking. Operated by the University of Tampa Press, the Studio allows students and visitors to experience a historic collection of antique printing presses and equipment. Its library of books about books, including rare books, private press publications, and samples of historic and artistic letterpress printing is a non-circulating research collection of national distinction.

Programs, exhibits, and workshops offer hands-on experiences that will change your understanding of the book and enrich your appreciation for a great tradition.

The Friends of Tampa Book Arts Studio foster and support the work and programs of TBAS. Members receive discounts on publications and special events as well as many other benefits. Please consider lending your support with an annual tax-deductible membership donation of $25. Email us for details.