Thursday, March 24, 2011

History of Printing

Caleigh Minshall, clearly a future star of the book promotion world but for the moment an intern at the magazine DA The Devil’s Artisan, sent me a few copies of DA – and look, it worked.

DA is published just twice a year ("printed offset on the Heidelberg KORD at the printing office of the Porcupine's Quill in the Village of Erin, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada"), and is now up to issue 67. If it  were about science fiction or underground music, it might be called a ‘zine, for it is a labour of love by people who do deeply researched studies of a subject hardly anyone else cares about. In this case the subject is the history of Canadian printing, typography and book design. In DA's world, people who can operate a nineteenth-century handcranked cast iron printing press are rock stars. Of course, unlike the grubby xeroxed or Gestetnered zines of yesteryear, DA is beautifully printed, with elegant bookmarks, prints, and other little extras inserted in each issue.

DA also manages to be full of historical significance. DA 62 is an exhaustive study of the impact of Allan Fleming on the history of design in Canada.  You know his work, know it or not (e.g., see at right).  DA 61 considers the book design career of poet Bliss Carmen.   

Who knew that the poet Robert Bringhurst wrote a book, The Surface of Meaning, as a “reaction to the perceived deficiencies in the History of the Book in Canada project, a gargantuan three-volume set that the author takes to task”? (DA 65)

Who knew that Frank Newfeld and Dennis Lee, illustrator and author of Alligator Pie and other classics of Canadian children’s literature, were deeply at odds throughout the project, and Newfeld seems kinda pleased that similar books Lee did without him were not so successful? (DA 65)

And my favourite, from DA 54: an appreciation of the life of Louis Blake Duff, newspaper publisher and friend to fine printing, of whom Peter Saracino wrote: 
Born in the rural village of Bluevale, Huron County, in January 1878, he was named Louis by his mother after Louis Riel, the Métis leader, and Blake by his father, a supporter of the former liberal premier of Ontario, Edward Blake.
There’s a study for some history graduate student: support for Louis Riel among the farmers of southwestern Ontario 1870-1885. Duff, we are told, wrote the first study of his Huron County contemporary William Jackson, who would become Honoré Jaxon and Riel’s secretary in 1885.

Much info, samples, and subscription details re DA are available from the Devils Artisan website.
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