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