Deadline nears for Type@Cooper West; scholarship announced

November 19th, 2015

cooperTypeLogo_westYou have only until midnight Monday, November 23, to post your application for the three-term Type@Cooper West program. This is an intensive program with in three chunks: a Spring term, from Monday, January 25th to Tuesday, March 29th; Summer term, from Monday, May 16th to Tuesday, August 2nd (skipping the weeks of Memorial Day & Independence Day); and Fall term from Monday, September 12th to Tuesday, November 14th. Classes are scheduled for evenings and weekends so that participants can continue with full-time jobs, should they hold them.

Tuition is $2340 per term, but an Erik Spiekermann & Friends Scholarship has just been announced. The recipient will be selected based on merit to receive a full tuition scholarship for all three terms, contingent on remaining in good standing.

Type@Cooper in New York has earned an excellent reputation. The new San Francisco offering will piggy-back upon the rapidly developing collection of the Typographic Archive, allowing excellent access to a remarkable collection of typographic specimens and artifacts.


–Bob McCamant

Tell us about Turn the Page, Norwich, UK

November 12th, 2015

Just heard about this book event that’s been going for several years now. They describe it as being for “Sculptural books, Altered Books, Limited Editions, Zines & Installations.” Are we talking Printed Matter here, or Codex, or something else entirely? Please add a comment to this post, or if you prefer, send an email to NAEditor [at]

–Bob McCamant

Robin Price to talk at Yale

November 9th, 2015

Robin Price sent along this news this morning:

“In conjunction with the current Song of Songs exhibition at the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library at Yale University — on Tuesday, November 10th, at 3pm, I will be talking about the forthcoming Song of Songs press publication along with my primary collaborator, artist Barbara Benish.

“The event, beginning at the Sterling Memorial Library lecture hall, is sponsored by Yale University Library Bibliographical Press, and hosted by Jae Rossman, who curated “How right they are to adore you!”: The Song of Songs Interpreted Through Fine Printing, on view at the Arts Library through February 19, 2016. After the talk, please join us to print your own keepsake on the Albion hand press.

“Amazingly enough, the event will be available via live stream at”

Sounds like fun if you’re nearby.

–Bob McCamant

Prize Winners at the Oxford Fine Press Fair

November 3rd, 2015

Group1Five books and one pamphlet got prizes on Saturday at the Oxford fine press fair. The first prize to be announced (which included a £400 cash prize) was a one-time one in honor of the late Toby English, whose untimely death not long before the fair was a shock to everyone. Toby had chaired the fair, on behalf of the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association, for ten years. It went to Paul Kershaw of Grapho Editions in North Yorkshire, for his Amphibious Place.

Group2Then the team of Colin Martin, Sandy Malcom, and James Freemantle named the maximum number of items they were permitted (five) as arbitrary “Judges’ Choice Awards.” First to be named was Parvenu Press’s Alchemical Garden. Next to be named was the very same Amphibious Place that received the Toby English prize. The Salvage Press portfolio Imagination Dead Image came next. Russell Maret’s bibliography, Pressed for Time came next. Gaylord Shanilec’s Lac Des Pleurs got the final Judges’ Choice.

Last to be presented were the two awards for affordable items, given by the Oxford Guild of Printers and announced by Paul Shaw. Pamphlet winner was the Bonnefanten Press, of Maastricht, Germany for da du duden and Soundings, by the St. Brigid Press, won for book.

–Bob McCamant


ATypI 2015 in São Paolo

October 20th, 2015

I first attended ATypI in 1987, in a year it was a joint conference with the Type Director’s Club, held in New York. My recollection is that Roger Black was the motive force behind it. This was during the dawn of Postscript, the Adobe-created language which made it possible for every man and woman to “typeset” documents that resembled the work us letterpress folk could produce with our hot metal and heavy machinery. Mind you, “cold type” had been around for a long time. But it, too, was mostly an elite process: except for Letraset and IBM Selectric “composers,” you had to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment that could imitate our work.

This year I attended much of the 2015 ATypI conference, held in São Paolo, Brazil. Just as in 1987, the subjects of the conference revolved around the three elements of the type biz: art, craft, and commerce.

Sao Paulo architectural type

Sao Paulo architectural type

Art. Everyone loves the art. People dig up inscriptions on tombstones, the walls of old buildings, architectural details, natural forms, and old books to inspire the creation of “new” type designs. Only every few hundred years does something really new come along: think Carolingean minuscule or sans serif. But at every ATypI, many presentations tell us what we should be looking at.

I made it to perhaps a quarter of the talks that took place. I missed the boat sign painters of the Amazon region and the history of calligraphic models in Brazilian pedagogy. But I was there for Rob Saunders’ titillating us with samples from his Letterform Archive (Dwiggins, Koch, and Tschichold are among its strengths) and the amazing things keynoter Claudio Rocha showed (I was most blown away by the sand calligraphy of South African artist Andrew Van Der Merwe.) And there were glimpses of the avant garde: Tony de Marco took us word by word through a concrete poem by Augusto de Campos.

Craft. Although there was letterpress around the periphery (a collection of broadsides was on display in the gallery, and each attendee received a randomly-selected set of three in our welcome packet), the real “craft” was all the math behind those Postscript letters. Although I am personally fascinated by that stuff, most of the discussions of it took place before I arrived and after I left. (The whole conference was four days, but I only attended the middle two.)

A huge effort of thought and money is going into creating font formats which can support all of the world’s languages. Right to left and left to right, natch. But also top to bottom, bottom to top, and then–imagine the complexity–a language where each word can slant up and to the right, but the next word returns to the baseline. Or where letter combinations can become single-character diphthongs, but only under specific circumstances. ATypI is a rare occasion for all the people working on these problems can share their notes.

Kevin Larson explained how resolution relates to perception of type features (here, a Chinese character)

Kevin Larson explained how resolution relates to perception of type features (here, a Chinese character)

Another highly competitive field is the presentation of type on computer screens. Long gone are the days when every screen was presumed to be 72 pixels to the inch. Microsoft alone has a department of 9 people working on legibility. A far cry from 1987, when the issue was dots on a substrate.

Business. It was a subtext in almost every discussion, but not often the subject of stage presentations. (Coffee breaks and receptions are among the most important components of any conference.) One exception to that rule was the presentation from the Academy of Arts, Architecture, and Design in Prague, where a semester assignment was to see if it was possible to design and market a typeface expressly to be a “best seller.” With the cooperation of MyFonts, they first studied the elements of design, packaging (including the variety of styles within one “face”), and pricing which would lead to a winner. Then each student designed a font or groups of fonts, figured out a pricing policy, and sold his or her fonts through MyFonts (for a year as part of the study).

Attempted bestsellers. "Rukola," third row middle, was the winner.

Attempted bestsellers. “Rukola,” third row middle, was the winner.

Distribution of sales

Distribution of sales; pricing was a factor

I heard only only one presentation which dealt specifically with handmade or limited-edition books. Kara P. Camargo is a candidate for a Ph.D. in Design at the University of São Paulo, and her topic was “Typography in Fiction Books–from invisibility to visibility.” The first half I found to be a disappointment–she pictured the usual beautiful book suspects. But then she showed a few Latin American books books, none by publishers I had ever heard of. One couldn’t be sure from the photos: I doubt that they were letterpress. But some involved silk screen and other hand processes. All were highly conceptual.

She began with two books by the Brazilian publisher COSAC Naify, both designed by their Art Director, Elaine Ramos. The first was First Love by Samuel Becket, in French, designed by Elaine Ramos in 2004. The text is set in Univers Condensed on the left side, with free scratchings down the right. I believe she told us how the scratchings were created, but I did not make a note. This does not appear to be a limited edition. The second was Bartleby, The Scrivener, a 2008 production, which forced the purchaser to mutilate the book in order to read it: stitching had to be removed along the side which opened to reveal the text. My recollection is that she mentioned that it was a limited edition, but I have not found reference to that on the company web site. Next she showed Los Culpables (The Culprits), a 2008 book of fairy tales by Juan Villoro, which caused enough of a stir that the same publisher produced a limited edition (1000 copies) with illustrations by graphic artist Alejandro Magallanes in 2013. She concluded by showing a book object, where a book was destroyed to make an art piece.

2014-15 was a bad period for deaths of type designers. As always, a feature of the conference was eulogies about ones who had died during the prior year. Erich Alb paid homage to Hans Eduard Meier, Sumner Stone to Hermann Zapf, and Gerry Leonidas to Richard Southall; there were also tributes to Adrian Frutiger, Bernardo Faria, and Jean Larcher, but I can no longer summon up who gave them.

Sumner Stone pays tribute to Hermann Zapf

Sumner Stone pays tribute to Hermann Zapf

–Robert McCamant

Alcuin Society Wayzgoose

October 15th, 2015


For all lovers of beautiful books, paper, and print in Vancouver, BC, Canada, the Wayzgoose is one event not to be missed. It is that time when letterpress printers, paper marbles, bookbinders and other book artists come together to showcase their work and remind us all why we still like books. So join our celebration on Saturday, October 31, at the Main Branch of the Vancouver Public Library, between 10 am and 4 pm. The event is free and there will be demonstrations of the artists’ crafts. And no, we have not forgotten it is Halloween: if you need a challenge, come dressed as your favourite book…

Crowd Sourcing the Barbarians

October 15th, 2015


As Jan & Crispin Elsted embark on their latest publication, they have put together an IndieGoGo crowd-sourcing campaign to help cover start-up costs. The project, possibly the Barbarian’s most challenging to date, is an involved examination and presentation of the Curwen Press’s impressive history with typographic ornaments.

The book will describe, celebrate, and display a significant area of printing history in the 20th century: the ornamented borders of one of England’s most distinguished trade publishers, The Curwen Press, which existed from 1863 until 1984. The press was well known for its artistic designs, and in particular, for its original and exquisite use of type flowers and ornamented borders.

For more information, and to view their introductory video on the project:

The Alcuin Society’s 50th anniversary talk series

October 15th, 2015

This year, the Alcuin Society turns 50. We are fiercely proud of our achievements, and we would like to thank all those who supported, helped, encouraged, and sponsored us. It is through their unwavering passion for well-designed books and their vivid love for all book arts that this society was born, continues to exist, and hopefully will never retire.


In order to celebrate this impressive milestone, we are organizing a series of talks that look at the changes occurring in the last decades in publishing, book selling and, of course, the Alcuin Society, with specific examples. All the events will be held at the Post at 750 (the CBC building across from VPL Main Branch), 110-750 Hamilton Street in Vancouver. The location is easily accessible by transit. While the events are free, seating is limited, so please RSVP for each event separately.

The second talk looks at the ever-changing book selling industry, one of the most challenging fields in the recent times, affected by the advent of the internet and the digital devices. The perspective is none other than Don Stewart‘s, owner of the long-standing MacLeod’s Books, a second-hand bookstore that looks like arising from the happy dream of a staunch bibliophile: piles of books on all subjects towering in corners, creeping on you, some cheap, ruffled and loved, others rare and precious. Don Stewart, with a background in antiquarian books, bought the store in 1973, and since then he has been witnessing the journey of the written word from its more glorious days till today. His talk will be introduced by Paul Whitney, former Head of the Vancouver Public Library, on Thursday, October 22, at 7 pm.

Our series would not be complete without a comprehensive look at the Alcuin Society. Many things happened and changed in 50 years. The society started with a handful of people, and it took a lot of work to get it where it is today, with its wide range of activities, that include prestigious awards, regular publications, and numerous events. Nobody is more knowledgeable in its affairs than Dr. Richard Hopkins, member of the society for the last 46 years. He started as a student who won an Alcuin award and has been with the Society ever since, embarking on a journey that led him to become a member on the Board of Directors, and even to the position of Chair for a few years. Richard Hopkins, owner of Hourglass Books, book seller, collector, lecturer, will approach the society’s history with humour and gusto, in his engaging presentation. He will be introduced by Lynn Copeland, former Head of SFU Libraries on Thursday, November 26, at 7 pm.

For more information:


Hertzog Award deadline November 1

October 9th, 2015

We mentioned this back on August 4, which see below for details. This is just a reminder that the deadline is at hand.

–Bob McCamant

The English private press today

October 6th, 2015

StBrideShowThis exhibition of British private presses, from Alembic to Whittington, and including Rampant Lions, will be on at the St Bride Foundation in London from 26 October to 20 November. Open every day at varying times with free entry. A handsome catalogue has been produced by the FPBA. Perhaps North Americans would have a chance to stop by on the way to or from Oxford. Be sure to look at the exhibit page before going, since hours are a bit limited.

–Bob McCamant