Bookmaking At The Source
Most of us know where printing and bookmaking all started, right? (That would be Venice, Italy - although the Chinese did much more than this many years prior, so let's give credit where credit is really due.) So, if you had a chance to visit 21st century Venice and do the same thing, would you? Well, there just may be an opportunity for you (read on).
I recently attended another lecture at the San Francisco Public Library called, Printing in the Shadow of Aldus: The Making of a Fine Press Book in 21st Century Venice, and it was quite fascinating. I think Mr. Manutius, himself, would have been proud (not to mention Mr. G).
Anyway, Peter Koch, who is an acclaimed publisher of fine editions and artists books, wanted to pay homage to a favorite author of his, Joseph Brodsky, the exiled poet from Russia who fled to Italy, and went on the quest to print and bind the work, Watermark, the way it would've been done in the 15th century.
He contacted a friend of his, Sandro Berra, and Italian graphic designer as well as Executive Coordinator of the Tipoteca Italiana Fondazione, to assist with the visual style. Koch and his partner, Susan Filter, wanted to output the piece and have it be reminiscent of Manutius' most beautiful and enigmatic book, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. So they did it.
The evening's lecture was filled with slides and images of Venice, of course, and the process by which Koch and Filter went through to get the work finished. They had to find a studio, an apartment, ship a printing press on a gondola through Venice, make the Twinrocker "Da Vinci" paper, hand-set and print the text from Monotype Dante type (cast in lead from the Olivieri Typefoundry in Milan), and ship it all back to Berkeley, California where it was bound by hand. Of course, this sounds like a quick and easy thing (right!), but, in the end, it was anything but.
Watermark was printed in 50 copies, with a few being special edition, and the rest are for premium sale.
There were a few of the books at the reception that followed, and they were perfect as well as a feast for the eyes.
One side note for this lecture was the slide show that Sandro Berra gave on the Tipoteca Italiana Type and Printing Museum, in Cornuda, Italy. My mouth was watering as I saw the magnificent presses, lead type, and beautiful pieces that are printed there. I now know where my next "business" trip will be! I also know that Mr. Koch is ready to do the whole book thing all over again. Any takers?