Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts

Archive for the 'On The Book' Category

May 28th, 2014 • Posted in On The Book

Jan & Crispin Elsted (Barbarian Press) win Robert R. Reid Award

Great news! The Alcuin Society has awarded Jan & Crispin Elsted (Barbarian Press) of Mission, B.C., its Robert R. Reid Award and Medal for lifetime achievement in the book arts in Canada.

As the press release puts it: “The Elsteds have been creating their magnificent books for years – Crispin, designing (and often writing) them and Jan printing them. Both are masters of their arts, and have shared their knowledge and experience unstintingly, mentoring many fortunate younger artists.”

For more about them, and about the award itself and its previous winners, visit the Society’s newly-designed web site here:  The award will be presented in Vancouver at an event later this year.

Listen to my interview with the Elsteds here

Interested in owning a Barbarian Press book? Check this out. Then pull the trigger here. And, if you still have ammo, here.

May 20th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books, On The Book

R.I.P. Terry Cook, Archivist

I was saddened to learn from Shelley Sweeney, Head Archivist at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections that Terry Cook died last week. As the Library and Archives Canada website puts it “Terry was a pivotal figure in the archival community for many years, a mentor to an entire generation of young archivists, and an internationally respected thinker whose strategic approach to archival appraisal continues to serve as a foundation by archives around the world. 

Terry’s contributions to the world of archives will long be celebrated.”

I had the privilege of interviewing Terry Cook last year.  You can listen to our conversation here

October 16th, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Bixler Monotype Matrices

Just back from a trip to Skaneateles, N.Y. to visit Michael and Winnie Bixler at their letterfoundry. They showed us some of their gorgeous Monotype matrix cases used

for casting metal type, along with some of the books they’re most proud of having helped produce. Specimens of the Bixlers’ type can be seen here on their website.

During our conversation, which should be up on the site within the month, mention was made of the Wells Book Art Center, and its Summer Workshops. Have pretty well convinced myself to attend one next year. On the way out of the shop Michael pointed out these lovely cans

used for solvent if I recall correctly. Things of beauty, the kind of beauty that seems so often to accompany those things that are made with care, that are made to last not to be thrown away.

August 28th, 2013 • Posted in Nigel Beale's Biblio File Interviews, On The Book

Audio Interview with Abigail Rorer on The Lone Oak Press

Abigail Rorer is a wood engraver, and proprietor of The Lone Oak Press which publishes limited edition, fine press books using…letterpress & wood engraving. Please listen here to our conversation on the why and how of what she loves to do (please stay tuned for accompanying photos).

August 15th, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

What the literary tourist thinks about e-books

While new technology has enabled us to incorporate audio and video, and Twitter and Facebook, into e-books – delivering more information, and more opportunities to share it in more formats than ever before – nothing can replace the unique, deeply satisfying, solitary, uninterrupted intellectual joy of quietly sitting in a comfortable chair, cracking open, reading, and reflecting upon a good solid, well written, well-made book.

August 7th, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

A touchstone against which to measure printed wood engravings

Ever since interviewing Jan and Crispen Elsted I’ve been biding my time, waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger on Endgrain Editions Three: Peter Lazarov

Regular Edition: Quarter bound by Rasmussen Bindery in Sienna cloth and patterned paper, printed label on spine.
15 by 10 ½ inches [381 by 267mm]
132 pages. 150 copies.

This because Jan cites it as one of the books she is most proud of having printed, and, as such, because by owning and examining it regularly, I can carry it as an ‘Arnoldian’ touchstone – an example against which I can measure the printing quality of other fine press books that I happen across during my travels.



do no justice to the images. You’ll just have to seek out a copy of the book and admire its excellence in person.

August 7th, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Abigail Rorer’s Horse

Last month I drove down to Petersham, Massachusetts to interview Abigail Rorer. Abigail is a wood engraver and the proprietor of The Lone Oak Press which publishes limited edition, finepress books using letterpress & wood engraving (buy yours here).

Driving up to her place I spotted

this (her, it turns out)




Oh yes, and this


July 23rd, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Audio Interview with Richard Minsky on The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930

Richard Minsky’s The Art of American Book Covers 1875-1930 will be coming out in softcover this fall!

This part was easy. I just clipped and pasted from here. “From ornate floral patterns to cityscapes, the boldest book designs of the Golden Age are gathered here. Readers accustomed to today’s more utilitarian bindings will find breathtaking images—gold leaf patterns intricate enough to replicate the shimmer of feathers, forests rendered in rich color and silver, and elegant allusions to Asian art. The diversity and ingenuity of these books will capture the imagination of book lovers and collectors—and anyone who enjoys design.


Selecting the most beautifully crafted and influential pieces from his two-volume, limited edition catalog, Minsky uncovers the world behind a lost art. Dividing these breathtaking designs into distinct categories, he discusses the use of silhouettes, pattern, Oriental influence and more. He also reveals key artists, their signature designs and flourishes, the designs they inspired, and the designs that inspired them.
Richard Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in 1974 and has worked for more than 35 years to draw attention to book art and encourage artists in the field. His work has been shown around the world and remains in public collections, including the National Gallery of Art and The Victoria and Albert Museum. He has received many fellowships, grants and awards of recognition, including several from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Then came the difficult part: getting Richard to talk about this great project (and if you believe that…). Please listen here:

June 21st, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Audio: Interview with Richard Minsky on Artists’ Books and the Book Arts

Richard Minsky twirling The Philosophy of Umbrellas by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Richard Minsky is a celebrated American book artist,  bookbinder and scholar who at age 13 got his first printing press. In 1968, he graduated cum laude in economics from Brooklyn College, was then awarded a fellowship at Brown University, got his Master’s degree in economics, and then pursued a Ph.D. at The New School for Social Research;  two years later he chucked it all for bookbinding, art and music. He studied bookbinding under master bookbinder Daniel Gibson Knowlton

In 1974, Minsky founded the Center for Book Arts in New York, an organization dedicated to interpreting the book as an art object using traditional book arts practices. I met recently with Richard and his graphic novelist partner Barbara Slate at their house in the Hudson Valley for libation and conversation. My objective was to pry artists books apart from these traditional book arts moorings. Listen to how successful I was here:

June 14th, 2013 • Posted in On The Book

Robert Fulford on the beautiful logic of production

“In those days it was often said that a newspaper was one of the few places where a man could work under precisely the same conditions his grandfather had known. In fact, we were still only one invention past Gutenberg. We were living in the age of Ottmar Mergenthaler, the German watchmaker who in the 1880s had perfected an effective form of linotype and made Gutenberg-style hand-setting of type obsolete. Often, on my message-carrying rounds, I would stop to watch the operation of his masterpiece, a huge apparatus that dwarfed the man who sat before it and gently stroked its big, flat keys. To one side was a pot where a torpedo-shaped piece of lead was slowly turning into the hot metal that would be cast into type. Above the operator’s head the gears chunked away, sending the characters running smoothly down their brass channels to the assembler that would organize  them in neat rows and produce sharp-edged lines of type. I’d watch the compositors put the type together in pages on “the stone” – a huge steel table – and then, having locked up a page, transport it by the “turtle,” a heavy steel dolly, to the machine that would begin the process of turning it into curved plates to be fitted on the press.

All the knowledge that was generously spread before me by the printers that summer is now obsolete, but acquiring it gave me a sense of confidence. It was the first time in my life when I truly understood how things around me worked and also the last. Certainly I have never since felt so close to an industrial process, or as much a part of the beautiful logic of production.

 from Best Seat in the House (Collins, 1988)