Thursday, July 30, 2009

News Flash

Two miniature book-related items that may be of interest:

Miniature Book Society annual Conclave (3 day meeting of members) takes place in Princeton, NJ, at the end of August. The Book Fair is open to the public on the Sunday afternoon, when miniature book artists and dealers will be selling their books. All welcome.

Drexel University, Philadelphia. Archives and Special Collections has just launched an exhibition of miniature books from their collections, called "Many Littles Make a Much". There is also an online exhibit to whet your appetite.
(Miniature Book Society members will recall that this is also the title of a book by Caroline Lindemann, published by MBS)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Paper Trail 1

So many types of paper, where to start? Usually with the sample books. Of course, the nature of the proposed book and the method of printing immediately narrow the field. This will be a handmade book, printed on an old hand-operated Craftsman iron press, and will be illustrated with hand-pulled prints, hand sewn and hand bound. During the years I worked on repairing and conserving books I learned a lot about which materials and book structures last. My aim is to make books that will endure the test of time. (I'm not saying I always achieve this, just that I aim to.)

Back to the paper, which has an important part to play here. These are the qualities I consider when choosing a text paper, in no special order:
  • Weight: for a miniature book, no more than 100 gsm. Ideally, for a codex style book I like the page to turn over and lie flat. This is almost impossible to achieve with a miniature, because of the page size. Compromises have to be made. With a larger heavier book, people often read them open on a table. With a miniature, they tend to be read with a hand each side of the book, the thumbs holding the pages each side, a more intimate reading experience.
  • Opacity: if you're printing on both sides of the paper, this is very important. Show-through, unless intentional, is usually ugly.
  • Colour: there is an infinite number of shades of white. The very bright white type of paper belongs with the computer printer. I tend to go for a soft white, sometimes called book white, unless I want to convey a particular character. For Qualicum Blue I used a pale blue paper.
  • Sizing: Size in this context means the dressing put into paper or onto the surface of paper to give it specific properties, e.g. strength, a smoother surface, less absorbency. A lightly sized paper suits my purpose.
  • Pressing treatment. A hard-rolled hot pressed paper is not suitable for letterpress, as it will not compress, and the ink lies on the surface of the paper. Paper that contains more air will compress during printing and give a more attractive appearance. Part of the charm of letterpress printing is that the letters are very slightly sunken into the paper, giving the page a 'sparkle' that you don't find with other printing methods.
  • Surface quality: it is important that the surface of the paper isn't too soft and woolly or it will pick up oil and sweat from readers' hands and become dirty quicker. Textured surfaces and inclusions (bits) interfere with small print and are best reserved for those books where the paper is the message, rather than the carrier of it.
  • Composition of the paper: some papers are made to archival quality standards, neutral pH, buffered, made to last and this is something I look for.
  • Papermaking method: handmade, mouldmade, machine made? Each has its strengths and weaknesses, to be explored in my next post.
Papers I've used for past books include Magnani book wove mould made (they make it in three different weights), Zerkall Ingres, Zerkall printmaking paper, Griffen Mill handmade papers, and for earlier books paper made from esparto grass (too soft), a Canson Ingres and a recycled paper called Retreeve, which was a mistake as it was too hard-rolled. I also used some real sheepskin parchment for one book - not strictly speaking paper, but its predecessor.

The photo shows some of my paper sample books. I test-print before I buy these days. In my next post I'll talk about what I eventually chose and why, and hope to have a guest on the blog.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine

Starting a new book is always fun, there's an excitement, the feeling of beginning a journey, the opportunity to try new things and to use ideas that have been fizzing around in your brain waiting for the chance to erupt. I will be documenting my journey with this new book, there will be ups and downs, thrills and spills, and eventually, there will be...a book:-)

I am embarking on a book entitled "Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine", based on a choral work by the American composer Eric Whitacre, with libretto by Charles Anthony Silvestri. These very talented men collaborated to produce an unusual and stunning work, full of action, exploring the concept of Leonardo da Vinci dreaming of his flying machine. I first heard this piece sung by the National Youth Choir of Canada in 2006, a magical performance which inspired me. From this beginning, I began to research Leonardo's notebooks (and along the way filled a few of my own).

Check out Eric's website and scroll down to the 'BYU Sings' entry for March 29 2009 for a sample of Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine. (No, I'm not getting a cut.) BYU = Brigham Young University Singers.

In my next post I'll be talking about choosing the paper for this book. So many types of paper.....where do you start? And why does it matter?