My Kind of Town

CCBP nameplate

Last week I went to Chicago for two days, to see what there was to see. I had lunch with Maia Wright, a now-even-more-cherished visitor to this blog, and spent an afternoon tooling around with Sheila Ryan, whom I also originally met in the comments here and who led me over to my blog-away-from-home, Clusterflock. In between these two planned and much anticipated treats, a friend hooked me up with an impromptu personal tour of the Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts, led by Clifton Meador, who—in addition to making his own gorgeous books—directs the MFA program there.
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Make hay while you can still hit the nail on the head.

Composing stick loaded with a few words

I spent most of last week TypeCon, where I took three classes and attended about half of the presentations. The highlights were, hands down, the day I spent making mudpies at Hal Leader’s aptly named Paradise Press and Erik Spiekermann’s obscenity-laced presentation on opening night (big, big crush).

Overall, I think this was my favorite TypeCon of the four I’ve been to, but few of the conference sessions I attended stand out, so mostly I must have liked it because of my trip to Paradise. Hal’s just such a sweet guy, and he’s so enthusiastic about letterpress, and I love the smell of inky machinery, and I love doing meditative handwork like picking letters out of trays and building them into lines of text. The best TypeCon ever? Would be spending four days just doing that. I’d probably need a wheelchair afterward, though—it killed my feet to stand all day, and the next morning I discovered that I had a major sore spot way deep in my left shoulder from holding a composing stick full of lead all day.

Newsflash: Lead is heavy.

Continue reading “Make hay while you can still hit the nail on the head.”

And attendance is the other 50 percent of your grade.

Free Hand Penmanship Series Writing Charts

Fonts can shape reality in intangible ways, as Phil Renaud, a graphic designer from Phoenix, discovered when he studied the relationship between his grades and the fonts he used for his college papers. Papers set in Georgia, a less common font with serifs, generally received A’s while those rendered in Times Roman averaged B’s.

—Peter Wayner, “Down With Helvetica: Design Your Own Font,” New York Times, June 26, 2008

Man, that’s why I got those B’s in college: Georgia hadn’t yet been designed.

(Thanks, Rose!)

. . .

In other news, I just registered for TypeCon again. Anybody else going?

A thin slice of history

image thumbnails from English Literature Flickr set

I was looking for a particular image (which I did not find) on Google Books last week, and I stumbled across this fabulous tome: English Literature: An Illustrated Record in Four Volumes. Volume II: From the Age of Henry VIII to the Age of Milton. Part II, by Richard Garnett and Edmund Gosse (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905). It has illustrations on nearly every page, most of which are title pages from the books under discussion. Some are gorgeous, some are appalling, nearly all are interesting. And they’re all well within the public domain.
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A love letter to letterpress

proof

Ampersand Duck is setting a book of poetry the slow way, and writing very affectionately about it.

You want the type to be invisible in a way, to let the meaning of the words exist independently. If a word is leaping out at you because it’s thick, dull and broken, it’s unfair to the reader. But the warmth of a handprinted page is delightful, ranging from dark greys to a dense black. It’s a small challenge for the spoilt eyes of a modern reader, to whom variety in print quality means the ink heads are a bit clogged, something to be fixed. It is the finite (and rapidly dwindling) number of letters that made me think about the preciousness of words set or written by hand. Poets are, by their nature, careful with words. It is a marvellous experience to get so intimate with a piece of writing. You may think your eyes and your mind caress a word as you read it, but imagine holding that word, piece by piece, and thinking about all its layers and nuances as you ease it into place (albeit upside down and back to front!).

(Sigh.) Sounds like fun.

Photo: proof_1 by Ampersand Duck; some rights reserved.

A letterpress talkie

If you liked the Heidelberg porn from a while back, you may also enjoy this charming short film by Chuck Kraemer about Firefly Press in Somerville, MA. It has moving people and voices in it!

It’s hosted at the Web site of portrait photographer Elsa Dorfman. There’s also a higher-resolution version (17 MB; but don’t wantonly hog her bandwidth—consider making a donation), as well as some background information.

(Via Coudal Partners.)