Flint glass

Before I go too far I want to wish you, whoever you are, a good week for Thanksgiving. May there be no tears, ah well, just the same. Last post I commented on how the quote (Poets & Writers) left out “tears” but it would have been, I suppose, to get away from the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears.” I still think that as poignant as blood sounds, (symbolically? As in energy) tears are more likely to be shed than blood is at an independent press. To bare “the impossible architecture of language” but of what other great center of expression does love and the tear come from than the heart?


FLINT       for Penelope


The tears. Where would we be
without the brine of tears?
Tasted blurred vision
pain relinquished, escaping slowly
heart waste, basted,
tears wrung out, dry tears
tear upon tear
tears that will not fall
even in our sleep
from what well of hearts
run down cold window panes
late November fog,
brain fog, lifted
sweat on the cold
metal of the mind
cobweb of relished dreams
glimmering in morning sun,
redemptive tears.




Did I sound jaded on the last post? The Poets & Writers special section on indie presses contains inspiration. “This Thing I Made” evokes book-arts workshops, the hand and eye of inspiration, the stuff of cognitive development any discovering student might confess to, as would I.


The Oregon-based Independent Publishing Resource Center raised my eyebrow, as did the RISD equivalent of a type lab visited several years ago when I saw young students exploring and trying ideas out in heavy metal on Vandercook presses, much the way I did over thirty years ago in Alabama.

The quote I mentioned in the last post spoke to me as a designer publisher rather than to me as a writer, which may be whom the special section might be for, though that might be too limiting, but it presents a collection of writers and their experience with presses.

Consider this, there are over 400 independent presses represented by Small Press Distribution in Berkeley, California. The number seems to grow every year. What I especially liked about the quote:

“Independent publishing is . . . people who love books, who love stories and ideas and the impossible architecture of language so fiercely and furiously that they back it with blood, with sweat and cash, and precious, precious time.”

—it conveys with few words an enormity of work, of time invested, and love beyond the bank account or bottom line.

Sometimes my posts are hurried. After posting I often think I left out something, or I could have made a cohesive point, been more market oriented, spiced up the impression of Deerbrook Editions as a caretaker, enabling a writer or artist with the good work of a well designed trade book. Some days I don’t know which hat I am wearing and I guess it can show. Isn’t that a natural display of human condition, one that some of us appreciate when so much of the world is polished and glamorous, so much so as approaching the impersonal?

When I used to read about bookbinders in magazines 30 years ago, I was always impressed by the photos of well-organized neat and tidy benches of the craftsmen being written about. Fine book binding requires a certain organization and planning for one book alone can have some 24 steps to complete, as even the modest case binding or portfolio has many, and each step requires a clean and prepared space, tools that are clean, materials that are ready, waste paper for pasting or gluing, all for the optimum carrying out of handwork, because you see, it has to be perfect and always clean.

pressman copy

Anyone who remembers working in a general bindery or print shop, where income is determined by how much work anyone can turn out, remembers that neat and tidy would not be the norm. Operating a windmill Heidelberg job press that could run at speeds of up to 2500 impressions an hour working on a multiple part stationary order would find me surrounded by reams of paper, type on stones, boxes, carts carrying trimmed stock, as well as the type and materials for other orders in job jackets that had to be run. That was before the Mac computer.

It was before digital, and the partial demise of that letterpress-printing house came in the form of the cutting edge photo-typesetting machine. Previously, “repros” as they were called, were printed from metal type on special paper and then photographed to make negatives, which would then be stripped to imposition sheets to burn offset plates. The photo-quality typeset machine could have a person (actually wired to it) type into the machine and it would produce perfect repros of type pages in any size. It took up an entire room. One day it was discovered that the pages were not uniform or were coming out looking fine but if one measured one side of the type page, the block of type was longer on one side then the other, not good for quality work where book pages are supposed to back up. Even with offset litho printing this was important and pages had to be square. The problem was that the paper passed through rollers and if these rollers were off by a fraction of a millimeter the paper did not pass through squarely.

Anthoensen card

In those days some books were still being printed letterpress and a printers weight was in the quality of his product. The same thing could happen to a page of linotype or monotype during lock up in the bed of a press but the problem usually can be solved by the pressman without waiting for an expensive part and a special technician to be flown in at a pricey hourly wage. A printing-house is as good as his expert pressman.

Even today the desired “perfection” of book pages; the quality of holding a page up to light and seeing the baselines backup and the margins match; is a challenge for digital printers for the same reason—of so many movable parts—and the rollers. Machines have to be calibrated every so often to produce perfect work, which is only likely to happen once a day because, again, it is about the bottom line. The discussion about craftsman ship, where it may be going, will be for another day.

I guess the point to my story is that things are not always as they appear. An artists’ space is not always tidy, there can be piles and collections and messes here and there left in the heat of discovery at work. Don’t let anyone fool you that neat and tidy studios are the only ones that turn out beautiful work. Nor that they reflect an unable crafts person who is not paying attention to details and organization. In fact, don’t let anyone in to your study who is snooty about some clutter or disarray. If they are not “seeing” past what surrounds a work of art they are probably not worth talking to.


OK. For those of you who have gotten this far, you deserve the pitch.

Deerbrook Editions is an independent literary press publishing authors in well designed trade books. Previews can be found on issuu.com and books can be bought at deerbrookeditions.com, shipping is included in the cover price and many titles are marked down for extra saving. Purchasing from our Website means you are doing more to support our writers as well as the press. As ever we need your help so if you would like to make a tax deductible donation visit our fiscal sponsor project page.


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