Here's my working definition of "fine press" printing": the creation of books where aesthetic experience of the object is as important as its content. Any other suggestions?
While you think about it, here's a rundown on the fine presses that Dave and I will feature at this year's Fine Press Appreciation Day on Friday August 18 (2-8 pm or until the last guest departs):
CHESTER CREEK PRESS: Bob Walp was studying at Vermont College, with Sarah Bowen of Peacham, Vermont, as his advisor in the senior year. She noted his interest in bookbinding, but at the time, he declined her offer to introduce him to nearby printer/designer Dean Bornstein. He headed instead to Alabama, where he studied book arts with Steve Miller (founder of Red Ozier Press, then of Red Hydra Press at the University of Alabama). In the broader program, he discovered an interest in all the book arts, and when someone offered him his own press, he became hooked. His first production was a 12-copy edition of eight poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay that he now calls “almost respectable.” Bob now uses two tabletop platen presses and a Vandercook proof press. He did eventually meet Dean Bornstein, who kindly gave him the necessary tips to move into more finished work. He attended the Paper and Book Intensive (PBI), and also stays in touch with fellow U of A student Daniel Urban, who apprenticed with Sam Hamill at Copper Canyon Press and is now working with Tuttle Press in Rutland, Vt. Bob just finished his MA and his thesis project, a cased volume of Jody Gladding’s poems, is here, with several other items.
PERPETUA PRESS: Dean Bornstein’s design work for the Stinehour Press in Lunenburg, Vt., from 1993 to 1997 led him into his own press work. A design and printing studio now occupies the small, neat barn at his Peacham, Vt., home. Some of his pieces are principally type (see the wondrous Eric Gill item); others, especially in conjunction with photographer Gregory Spaid, have led him into large-format black-and-white photo projects. Dean’s earlier background included work for Ron Gordon at Oliphant Press (NY); Ron in turn drew from experience at Joseph Blumenthal’s Spiral Press (NYC). Note that this connection too circles back to Vermont, as Blumenthal’s nephew, Chris Morrow, is the current owner of Northshire Books in Manchester, Vt.
LUCKY DOG PRESS: Lucy Swope’s luck in fine press came when she was "artist in residence" in poetry at a local high school, when she spotted a platen press seeking a new home. In 1993 she completed her first book, "The Story of I-Am-A-Dragon." Rich with wood engravings and fantasy, it's a story her son told her when he was 4 years old. (He's now 35.) Lucy's line of books features cats, dogs (lucky ones, of course!), even horses. Early items bear the Elizabeth Farm Press imprint; her move to West Fairlee led to Lucky Dog, a folk art imprint entirely hers.
BRIDGE PRESS: Brian D. Cohen learned engraving on the job as a teacher at the Putney School, and has collaborated with poet Chard deNiord in many of the broadsides and folios issued through his Westminster Station, Vt., press. The most recent offering of the press is a collaboration with his wife and is called The Bird Book; it includes 26 hand-tinted bird engravings, boards of bird’s-eye maple, and title crafted by book artist Julie Chen (Flying Fish Press).
BULL THISTLE PRESS: Political, passionate, precise, and perfectly wonderful to see and hold: These are the broadsides and very limited books from Greg Joly of Jamaica, Vt. Linked artistically and politically with Bob Arnold of Longhouse Press, Ed Rayher of Swamp Press, and Gary Metras of Adastra Press, Bull Thistle began in 1990 with a 600-pound New Champion foot-treadle cast iron platen press (c. 1895). Expect surprises.
We also have nice collections from Brooding Heron Press; Toothpaste Press; and of course The Stinehour Press and David R. Godine.
Drop me an e-mail for directions. We'll provide a light supper so people can hang around a while!