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.