Guest Post Number 1: Lunch with the Typophiles
by Jason Dewinetz


A cursory glance at the names of speakers who have presented short talks to the Typophiles is daunting. That list includes Bruce Rogers, Fred Goudy, Stanley Morison, Daniel Berkeley Updike, and Joseph Blumenthal, to name only a few of the figureheads of twentieth-century typography and printing. I confess, therefore, that I received my invitation to speak at this semi-annual luncheon at the National Arts Club in New York with mixed feelings. The invitation from David Rose of Five Roses Press, and Paul Romaine, secretary to the Typophiles, came early in 2009, with a request to provide an introduction and commentary on fine press publishing in Western Canada. Without considering the history of this series of talks, I quickly accepted, thinking immediately of the chance to speak about three printer/publishers whom I greatly admire, and who have been ceaselessly encouraging and supportive of my own early letterpress efforts at Greenboathouse Press.

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The talk focused on the Barbarian Press of Jan & Crispin Elsted in Mission, BC, Rollin Milroy’s Heavenly Monkey in Vancouver, and Jim Rimmer’s Pie Tree Press in New Westminster. Beginning with a few brief notes on the background of each proprietor and press, the talk then focused on a single project by each publisher: Milroy’s recent Iskandariya, Rimmer’s magnum opus Tom Sawyer (for which Jim designed, cut, and cast Hannibal, an 18pt Venetian roman), and the Barbarian’s upcoming Pericles. The presentation included over 50 slides, providing the audience with context and examples of each printer’s work, as well as sneak-peaks at the forthcoming and impressive Pericles. On hand were copies of Iskandariya and Tom Sawyer, ephemera from each press, and, tucked off to one end of the display tables, some early projects from Greenboathouse.

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The event took place Wednesday, June 10, at the intoxicating National Arts Club, which was filled floor-to-ceiling with nineteenth and twentieth-century art, sculpture, and furniture, not to mention a breathtaking stained glass ceiling over the main lounge, created by Donald McDonald in the 1860s. The audience comprised 20 private collectors, librarians, and designers who enthusiastically hovered over the display tables long after the lunch began.

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As a book designer relatively new to letterpress and, clearly, to the well-versed gathering of bibliophiles, the experience was a pleasure and an honour. The talk went off without a hitch, and a lively question-and-answer session followed, with many surprising and exciting comments and queries. Each of the presses mentioned have played important roles in my own early efforts, and it was wonderful to have the chance to sing their praises to an eager New York audience.

An additional pleasure was the sale of the display copy of Jim’s Tom Sawyer, which was taken up quickly after the talk by publisher and collector Jean-Francois Vilain, a lovely man who kept my partner Jody and good friend Pauline entertained throughout the afternoon. David and Paul were very kind hosts, and the lunch menu was beautifully and deliciously prepared.

Should any reader of this brief note ever have the chance to attend or speak at this long-running event, I highly recommend taking up the call: despite nearly a century of history to weigh heavily on one’s nerves, it was a thoroughly enjoyable and nourishing afternoon.

Additional images of the event can be found on the Typophiles Flickr page.

Note: An expanded version of this article which includes accounts of Jason’s attendance at the Hybrid Book conference in Philadelphia, dinner in New York with Paul Romain, Jerry Kelly, and Ron Gordon, and visits to various NY book sellers, will appear in the Summer issue of Amphora, the journal of the Alcuin Society.

Top: Jason Dewinetz at the Typophiles Luncheon, June 2009 at the National Arts Club in New York City.

Middle: Jason’s letterpress invitation to the Luncheon.

Bottom: Entrance to the National Arts Club meeting room.

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