Posts Tagged ‘Parenthesis’

Gaspereau Press Title Takes The Giller Prize!

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Giller prize winner Johanna Skibsrud (middle), author of 'The Sentimentalists', receives a hug from her sister Kristin Skipsrud Ross (R) and friend Rebecca Silver Slayter (behind) during Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremony in Toronto, Ontario, Tuesday, November 9, 2010. (National Post photo.)

Very good news, everyone: The Giller Prize, Canada’s top literary prize, has just been awarded to Johanna Skribsrud for her debut novel, The Sentimentalists, published by Gaspereau Press — the very press who designs and prints the North American issues of Parenthesis. The prize was announced in Toronto late on November 9th, 2010.

In the weeks since the Giller finalists were announced, the Canadian literary establishment has found it difficult to make out what Gaspereau Press — a hybrid trade and fine press — is really all about.

The Globe and Mail ran this story about Gaspereau’s commitment to making The Sentimentalists their way: letterpress jackets, guts printed on their ‘house’ paper (Rolland’s Zephyr Antique Laid), sewn bindings, etc. — in spite of a large trade publisher’s offer to mass-produce more copies for them. In this article, Gaspereau’s co-publisher Andrew Steeves explains the philosophical underpinnings of his approach to making books in this way, and eloquently defends his decision not to mass produce — even in light of the spike in demand for copies of this book that he could not immediately meet.

Andrew Steeves at Gaspereau Press. (Globe and Mail photo.)

Hours before the Giller was awarded, The National Post described the “clash of cultures” that takes place when a small literary press is nominated for a prize dominated by the big publishing houses:

“This [approach to publishing] may seem like willful eccentricity on the part of Andrew Steeves and Gary Dunfield, Gaspereau’s co-publishers. It’s actually something much more interesting: a commitment to a thoughtful, rigorous, refined mode of publishing. While publishing is usually discussed as a business, or an industry, all of the finest small press publishers practice it as an art form. The books that they choose to publish aren’t chosen to fill out a season with a handful of products that stand a reasonable chance of selling. Their lists are cultural projects, embodying a few individuals’ ideas of what literature can be. Biblioasis’ loose collective of editors, all of them excellent writers and notorious contrarians, are heterogeneous in their tastes but share a commitment to rabble-rousing and literary excellence. Gaspereau, and the handful of other companies that operate in a similar way, take this conceit to its logical extreme: both the process through which their books are made, and the physical objects that result, are inextricable from their editorial objectives.”

And that is why the Fine Press Book Association hires Gasperau to design and print the North American issues of Parenthesis year after year!

Now it’s time for some video. Here’s Andrew Steeves printing letterpress jackets for The Sentimentalists late into the night.

And here’s the book blocks being sewn on a Sulby binder.

Contratulations, Gaspereau!

— Paul Razzell

FPBA Annual Student Membership only US$25!

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Good news!

Students in the Americas can join the FPBA for an annual membership rate of US $25. This includes all the benefits of a standard membership, including a year-long subscription to Parenthesis, the Association’s journal.

Want to know what’s happening in the world of fine printing and the book arts? Parenthesis is the journal for people who are serious about fine printing and other aspects of beautiful books.

Join the FPBA now!

— Paul Razzell

FPBA members: one of these prints will be yours!

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Parenthesis 19: nearly there!

Most copies of Parenthesis 19 have been bound and, as promised, an original silkscreen print (produced by Tara Books of India) has been hand-inserted into each copy. If you are a member of the FPBA, one of these prints will be yours. Become a member now.

In the photo below, Canadian novelist Susan Bailey stopped by Gaspereau Press and helped fold jackets. Note the mountain of untrimmed copies of the journal behind her. Susan appears to be saying, “How many more do I have to fold?!” Copies of the latest issue will be mailed out to members very soon.

Photos from the Gaspereau Press blog.

— Paul Razzell

Parenthesis 19 jackets coming off the press …

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

We’re lucky our printer (and designer), Andrew Steeves, had his camera on hand while he was printing the jackets for Parenthesis 19. Andrew writes:

Today, I started printing the final colour on the jackets for Parenthesis. I mixed this blue by eye using mix of yellow, rubine red, reflex blue, and transparent white. I usually ignore colour matching systems like Pantone® when I’m mixing inks for my own letterpress jobs. I neither need nor desire perfectly matched colour. I don’t want to be able to reproduce this again, exactly the same, six months from now. A letterpress printer never dips his pallet knife in the same ink twice, Heraclitus might have said.

I’m still chained to my press today, cranking out Parenthesis covers. Hand-cranking 1200 sheets of paper through a Vandercook, watching the same inked form flash by over and over, gives you time to think about things. If there are problems with the job which are beyond your control to repair, it makes for a long and depressing run, knowing that what you are making falls short of your intentions. But if the work is sound and the press is running well, there is joy and fresh discovery to be found in each sheet through the press.

Although I had originally intended to print the body text in black, the decision to run the text in a separate pass from the ornaments (which required massive amounts of ink) opened up the opportunity to introduce a third colour. I’ve selected Warm Grey no. 4. This flexibility, this ability to alter a design to suit what occurs on the press, is one of the reasons that I like printing the things I design personally. This is not to say that you shouldn’t plan a job carefully, only that you should be attentive and responsive to opportunities and challenges as they present themselves.

Photos: Parenthesis 19 cover on the press

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

More photos from the Gaspereau Press blog showing Parenthesis 19 in production. The letterpress-printed jacket will feature Gaspereau’s proprietary Memorial Hall ornaments, shown here in photopolymer. you can see a few more sneak-peek pictures here and here.

Parenthesis is the journal of the Fine Press Book Association and deals broadly in fine and private press printing as well as bookbinding, typography, collecting, publishing and related areas. Richly illustrated in full color, it is published twice a year and is available free to FPBA members. The coming issue will be larger-than-normal, has a special focus on fine printing in California, and will include a loosely inserted limited-edition print from Tara Books in India. FPBA members whose dues are paid up will receive their copy toward the end of September. If you have been thinking about joining the FPBA, now would be a great time to do so. Membership in the FPBA is surprisingly affordable, and you can do it online here.

— Paul Razzell

Parenthesis 19 Sneak Peek…

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

The fall 2010 issue of Parenthesis is in the bindery and is on schedule for a September release. Here’s a pic from our designer-printer, Gaspereau Press, showing the photopolymer plate they’re using to print the letterpress cover. And below, folded sheets ready for binding. It won’t be long now until members receive their finished copies!

— Paul Razzell

Slideshow: Parenthesis pattern papers in production

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Every time we publish an issue of Parenthesis, our 100 de luxe members receive a special limited edition of Parenthesis which is case-bound and presented in a slip case with a parcel of items specially printed by presses from around the world (see photo above). For example, past parcels have included wood engravings by Gaylord Shanilec, Frank Martin, and Simon King, printing from Henry Morris and Nicolas McDowall, pochoir by Peter Allen and Ian Beck, and a poster for the Pennyroyal Caxton Press edition of the Holy Bible.

This fall, the slipcases for the de luxe copies will be bound in a specially commissioned pattern paper made by Leigh McClellan of the Meadow Press in San Francisco. If you’d like to see a series of photos showing these papers being made, go to and click on the link at NEW! How to Make 125 Paste Papers in a One-Bedroom Apartment.

To become a de luxe member of the FPBA (and receive a handsome limited-edition copy of Parenthesis twice yearly) or to be come a highly valued Standard member (and receive 2 copies of the standard issue each year) go here.

— Paul Razzell

First proofs of Parenthesis 19 looking very good!

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

This will definitely be the best-looking issue ever produced by the North American branch of the FPBA. And it will be the largest. After months of working with words, words, words, it’s great to finally see these 28 articles come to life in spreads with their vivid illustrations and handsome titles. A big thanks to our amazing designer, Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press, for all his elegant design solutions. More news and a sneak peek to come. . . .

— Paul Razzell

Parenthesis 18 is now out! Check out sample articles online.

Monday, May 31st, 2010

All FPBA members should have their copies of Parenthesis 18 (the Spring 2010 issue) in hand now or in the next few days. Our European Editor, Sebastian Carter, has pulled together a strong typography-oriented issue with articles on

  • Christopher Wakeling’s Typographic Design Unit
  • a review of the film Helvetica
  • a critical study of dual serif/sans serif types and
  • a survey of books of typographic instruction

among other features on fine presses, and reviews of fine press books. If you’d like a taste of Parenthesis 18, we’ve posted two articles on our website and a complete list of the table of contents here (sample articles are set in boldface).

Parenthesis is issued twice a year to members of the Fine Press Book Association. To become a member, click here. Happy reading!

— Paul Razzell

Lumiere Press Wins AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers Award

Monday, May 31st, 2010

FPBA member Michael Torosian of Lumiere Press just sent me the very good news that his recent book, Paul Caponigro: On Prior Lane: A Firefly’s Light, has been selected as one of the “50 Books of the Year” by The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). (Since 1941, the AIGA has sponsored a juried contest for the 50 best-designed books published the previous year.)

I was very pleased to run Torosian’s detailed account of his process of designing this book in the fall 2009 issue of Parenthesis (#17). (Lumiere Press’s An American Gallery was reviewed in this issue as well.) For anyone who thinks good book design comes easy, this essay is a must read. Torosian recounts his many false starts, dead ends, glimmers of inspiration, late-night frustrations, and trial settings that preceded the book’s final design. It’s great to see his hard work recognized by the AIGA. Congratulations, Michael!

What’s more, Torosian has been awarded a Chalmers Arts Fellowship. As characterized by the Ontario Arts Council, the cultural agency entrusted with administering the award, the aim of the Fellowship is “to provide such support at moments in artists’ careers when a concentration on personal and/or artistic growth or renewal and exploration is most likely to have the greatest impact on their long-term artistic and career development.”

Now would be a good time to head on over to the Lumiere Press website and see what all the fuss is about.

— Paul Razzell