Qin Guan Details and Photos

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As promised, here are some more pictures of the regular edition of Moon as Bright as Water for you to enjoy. This book is exceedingly difficult to photograph with the batiked paper changing color at different angles.

The book is printed in three colors on 150gsm Hahnemühle Biblio and type is composed in Dante. This edition is covered in a sage Asahi book cloth with cotton indigo colored Shizen batik paper with a hint of gold highlights and has a velum spine title. It is housed in a slipcase of warm grey cotton book cloth.

There will be 10 in the deluxe edition which will be quarter bound in a vellum spine with a yet to be determined paper housed in a nice drop spine box. 10 copies reserved for David Young and other contributors to the project. 10 unbound for bookbinders leaving a regular edition of 65 to 70 copies. The regular edition is priced at $650.00, unbound copies are $400.00

I will have it on my website available for purchase upon my return from the Oak Knoll Fest this coming weekend.

A Taste of Qin Guan

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Tomorrow there will be some proper photographs of the new book enclosed with a slipcase but the first prototype cases are still drying in the press at the moment. Allow me to introduce the regular edition binding of Moon as Bright as Water by the exiled 11th century Chinese poet Qin Guan. This is the first time these poems will be printed in English, our thanks to David Young and, posthumously, William McNaughton for bringing forth these translations.

Copies will be available this coming weekend at the Oak Knoll Fest in New Castle, Delaware. My partner in Chester River Press, James Dissette and I will be at my table along with my other Deep Wood Press titles that are currently available. More details to come in the following days.

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Progress on Qin Guan

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Printing is coming along nicely on Moon As Bright As Water with all but a few pages of the introduction and the color runs to do.

I’d forgotten how dusty Hahnemühle Biblio is, after 3 runs of 100 sheets the press must be cleaned up completely – new ink and vacuum the whole thing down. It doesn’t help that I’m running it with one natural deckle on the fore edge of the page. Such a nice soft sheet though with a nice heft at 150gsm that takes ink and impression so well.

I should have copies ready for Oak Knoll Fest coming up the end of the month on September 30 – October 2nd in New Castle, Delaware. Jim Dissette and I will be there as usual with books on the table and enjoying the camaraderie of our fellow printers and enthusiasts from around the globe.

Previous apprentice Daniel Schneider, Bonnie Loukus and another former apprentice, Erin Murray, will be here in the studio next week to assist in the bindery as loose sheets turn into folios and are sewn into book form ready to be covered in some sage Asahi book cloth and a lovely cotton indigo Shizen batik paper with a hint of gold highlights. Stock I found at Hollander’s in Ann Arbor last weekend as I once again presented at the Kerrytown Bookfest.

There is already high demand for the unbound copies of the edition so if you are a bookbinder looking for books in sheets let me know soon as they will ship upon my return from Oak Knoll.

Looking forward to wrapping up this project and getting back to my Kafka madness.

Here is a photo of some of the piles of sheets taking up space in the bindery. The wood engraving on the left is for another project. More updates next week as things head into the bindery side of the shop.

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Qin Guan and Moon as Bright​ as Water

Guest Post from James Dissette at Chester River Press

I first saw the Qin Guan manuscript in 1986 shortly after I printed my first book, David Young’s remarkable translation of Pablo Neruda’s masterpiece, The Heights of Macchu Picchu. At that time, David had been working with William McNaughton to translate the Chinese poet, and our plan was to publish a limited edition through my first press, Songs Before Zero. I loved the seventeen poems, their condensation, their sharp emotional centers, their sense of exile and lost love, and saw the book clearly in my mind as beautiful and a significant addition to the canon of Chinese literature.

I don’t recall the literary ambiance of the small press resurgence in the late 80s. Everyone was off on their own path, as it should be. Exciting titles were coming out of Copper Canyon, and Greywolf and valuable trade book translations of European poets were arriving from Oberlin’s Field translation series under David’s editorship. Somewhere in the background, Rexroth’s 100 Poems from the Chinese wove in and out of my life, Gary Snyder’s enriching forays into Chinese translation, and Pound of course, but I had no firm intention to set out on a course of publishing poetry in translation. Instead, I was writing to W.S. Merwin who graciously offered the possibility of a limited edition of The Miner’s Pale Children, and at the same time trying to snag Greg Corso during one of his sojourns through Bandon, Oregon.

Then Qin Guan (Chin Kuan) came along as a complete surprise (and it still is 30-some years later), so I cleared my desk, talked with Harold Berliner about monotype fonts (I’d used his Lutetia for The Heights of Macchu Picchu) and Twin Rocker about paper.

But life does not orchestrate around one’s desires. Back to back family tragedies, a divorce and loss of my press forced me into commercial graphic design as the smell of ink on the press grew faint in my memory, but not my longing for it.

Sixteen years later I moved back east to Chestertown, Maryland where I’d gone to Washington College, and which had over the years developed an active letterpress shop under the expertise and care of Mike Kaylor who has dedicated much of his life to teaching students the magic of the printing arts. I was invited as a “guest printer” to print John Barth’s  monograph Browsing and was swept entirely back into the craft I’d missed for so long. But…I was up against a strict deadline—I was moving to Michigan and needed to finish the book. Unfortunately, the Vandercook I was using broke and required work I could not accomplish in time for me to finish. Thinking I might complete the last few pages somewhere near me in Michigan, either through begging or payment, I discovered Chad Pastotnik and Deep Wood Press. Chad, in his always gracious style, saved my ass and invited me to complete the book at his press. More importantly, he and I became fast friends and established a partnership that produced the Chesapeake Voyages of Capt. John Smith (sold out in 3 months), and Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which gleaned the Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design. While the press imprint reads Chester River Press, CRP exists as our collaborative effort separate from his own inimitable and gorgeous book production.  More than that, we have fun and work intuitively together on the projects. If you’ve ever worked with another in a small press-room you quickly adjust to a kind of slow dance  to stay out of each other’s way but within arm’s length of any needed assistance. Either it works, or becomes awkward and counter-productive. Designing a book together requires a similar flow of creative movement. It only takes the raising of an eyebrow, a pause in the phone conversation, a smirk, to read the signals from each other.

I showed Chad the Guan mss. sometime around 2007. I’d been haunted by it for 20 years and still hoped that somewhere along the line the project could be revisited. But surely in all this time it had been printed? Additionally, I was a bit ashamed for not having  been in touch with David Young for so long. I bit the bullet and contacted David regarding getting in touch with Franz Wright who had ben a student of his at Oberlin and he told me that although William McNaughton had since passed away the manuscript remained unpublished. So began round two of publishing Moon As Bright As Water and another deep dive into the art of translation, and the wonders this significant manuscript offers.

Next: About Qin

Moon as Bright as Water by Qin Guan

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The Hunter Gracchus is currently undergoing a major redesign. I was unhappy with the format and size of the book so have undertaken a new approach which includes a larger folio size, heavier paper stock to better accommodate the intaglio prints and new layout for the text.

So in the interim:

 

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I am pleased to announce the impending publication of Moon As Bright As Water: Seventeen Poems by Qin Guan under the imprint Chester River Press that I share with my partner James Dissette.

Translated by William McNaughton, former chair at Hong Kong University, and poet David Young at Oberlin College, these poems showcase Qin Guan, a relatively unknown 11th -century master of Chinese verse whose company could include the likes of the esteemed Li Po (Li Bai) and Du Fu. Praised by the illustrious Wang An-shih, Guan was a disciple of Su Shih (Su Dongpo) one of China’s masters of multiple literary forms, and who strived to loosen the poetic conventions of the day.

As an acolyte would, Qin Guan blew out the conventional even more by writing about his encounters with courtesans, a subject considered to be a major indiscretion by Chinese society in Keifing. He wrote is a style called t’zu, a lyrical form that McNaughton likens to “cabaret songs” or “words to music” often chosen by the courtesans to sing during their professional entertainments.

Quong lived a tumultuous life during the Northern Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1127) Political clashes led to a string of banishments and exiles, his poetry was shunned for its sensuality, and he suffered from the vicissitudes of love—all of which moved him to write these brief, incandescent poems of departure and “long goodbyes.”

A streak of his poetic melancholy and gift for imagery appears in the poem “Eight Six”:

the pleasures of love run off

with the flowing streams…

the sound of the white silk string breaks off

and the stick of incense — kingfisher green —

burns up

This limited edition of Qin Guan’s poetry eschews the temptation to use ornament. Instead, Dissette and Pastotnik serve Guan’s voice by offering it an open, breathing page without distraction with the feeling that the poet’s imagery is enough to engage us.

The text is set in Dante and printed in two colors on Hahnemühle Biblio paper, 8×10.5 inch page format. Cover treatments are still being worked out but the edition is set at 100 books with 10 deluxe copies and 5 sets of folios reserved for hand binders. Printed by Chad Pastotnik at Deep Wood Press and hand bound in his studio.

The book is designed by James Dissette and Chad Pastotnik, whose collaboration in the past included John Barth’s Browsing, The Chesapeake Voyages of Capt. John Smith and are Hertzog Award recipients for Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.


William McNaughton (1933-2008) studied with Ezra Pound 1953-1956 and established the Chinese language programs at Oberlin College, Wabash College, Antioch College Denison University and Bowling Green State University. He was the founding Program Director of the University of Hong Kong’s BA Translation and Interpretation program where he worked until his retirement in 1998. He has written ten books on Chinese language, Asian literature and Russian literature.

David Young has been Longman Professor of English at Oberlin College since 1986 and an editor of FIELD magazine since 1969.  He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Field of Light and Shadow (Knopf, 2010); Black Lab (2006); At the White Window (2000); Night Thoughts and Henry Vaughan (1994), which won the Ohio State University Press/The Journal Award in Poetry; The Planet on the Desk: Selected and New Poems 1960-1990 (1991); Foraging (1986); Earthshine (1988); The Names of a Hare in English (1979); Work Lights: Thirty-Two Prose Poems(1977); and Boxcars (1972). His translations include Out on the Autumn River: Selected Poems by Du Mu (2006) and Clouds Float North: The Complete Poems of Yu Xuanji(1998), both with Jiann I. Lin; Selected Poems by Eugenio Montale(2004), with Charles Wright and Jonathan Galassi); The Poetry of Petrarch (2004); The Book of Fresh Beginnings: Selected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1994), Miroslav Holub’s Vanishing Lung Syndrome and The Dimension of the Present Moment (both 1990),Five T’ang Poets (1990), Pablo Neruda‘s The Heights of Macchu Picchu (1987), and Rilke’s Duino Elegies (1980).

Moon As Bright As Water was edited by Richard Kent, Professor of East Asian Art History at Franklin Marshall College. He received his B.A. in English from Oberlin College and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Chinese art and archaeology from Princeton University.

 

Gracchus Musings & Interpretations

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As I’ve been working on The Hunter Gracchus this past year or more I’ve read probably to much about Kafka from the terrible recounts of friend Max Brod to David Zane Mairowitz’s and R. Crumb’s musings on his life.

One of the most intriguing and humbling interpretations I’ve found is this short independent piece by Canadian film maker Glenn Stillar:

GracchusLink to view Glenn’s adaptation (20 minutes)

Perhaps it is the north woods sensibility that draws me to this adaptation – the dialogue is paraphrased and, out of necessity of place and time, the setting is altered but in a wonderful fashion. Filmed in three days and starring Stillar’s relatives it nonetheless captures an essence of Kafka’s story and — the burgomaster is a treasure.

A Long Absence

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It has been over a year since my last post, my apologies. A few things on the home front have complicated life in the studio tremendously since last spring.

But – I’m back. And there’s a few things I’d like to catch you up on.

First up, I will once again be in New York next month for the FPBA Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair on April 9th. It will be held at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer across the way from the New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. With luck, the new Kafka book, The Hunter Gracchus, will be completed and ready for viewing. All of the text is composed, corrected and ready to go in galleys, the paper is here, cover materials and presentation pretty well set. Just something funny about being an artist sometimes and the work doesn’t flow – I am not yet content with my intaglio prints that illustrate Gracchus and I won’t release the book until I am. That’s about it unfortunately.

I have a few small treasures to bring along regardless, a very small book by Robert Frost, Christmas Trees, which is a 100th anniversary printing of the title and a few small broadsides with artwork.

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A couple of the galleys of type ready to go for Kafka


An exciting forthcoming project is a new collaboration with my old partner James Dissette which will come out under our Chester River Press imprint. Moon as Bright as Water is a newly translated body of poems by Qin Guan dating from the 11th century Chinese Northern Song dynasty. Never before published, this translation is by William McNaughton and David Young with a foreword by William McNaughton. Jim and I first started talking about this project over 1o years ago and sometimes things just take a little longer to perk their way into existence. Look for it this summer as we are now doing page layouts with the final text editing completed now. Here is an early prototype of the title page for your amusement:

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I’ve also been busy here close to home, a collaboration with Blackbird Arts in Traverse City to create a new book arts center in Northern Michigan – Blackbird Book Arts & Press. Work began last fall with planning and moving presses into the space and I am pleased that our initial offerings have been a huge success. The space includes facilities for letterpress, intaglio, silk screen and workspace for bindery activities. Things will ramp up this summer with a variety of workshops and classes given by myself and other talented practitioners of the “black arts” from across the country.


I have been honored with being given one of the 2016 Michigan Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Awards. The grant is administered by Michigan State University Museum’s Michigan Traditional Arts Program. It was established with the support of the National Endowment for the Arts and is sustained through a partnership with the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs. This years current apprentice is Daniel Schneider who started working with me last September. Some of you may have met him at the last couple Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum Wayzgooses where he has presented his research on worker skill and industrial wood type production.

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Daniel doing the Vandercook shuffle


More to come soon. Would love to “wow” you with something new in the next month.

Preview ~ Franz Kafka, The Hunter Gracchus

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Here is a small preview of my newest book project that will be available to view at Codex later this week. The latest working prototype for The Hunter Gracchus by Franz Kafka which is a short story I fell in love with decades ago and now, finally, I get to have my way with it.

I’ve already gone over most of the details of having a new English language version made in an earlier post but late last week I received the final working draft from my translator, Jamie Lee Searle. Now I can finally commit to some of the intaglio prints I’ve been working on for the book. Only one of them is ready to show and it is still just a proof but I think I’ve narrowed it down to 4 or 5 others that will be used in the book. They are all mostly moody and tonal created with mezzotint, roulette and stipple with a little bit of burin work. I will be using 14pt Weiss for body type and currently the page size is about 7 ¾ x 9 inches. I’ve been liking the results so far using 175gsm Somerset Book paper for the intaglio printing, the velvet surface and moderate sizing content is wonderful for tonal print work and text is beautiful with the dampened sheet.

All of this is subject to change of course, the margins, and title page particularly, will vary as I experiment some more but here are pictures for proof of concept. The fragility and delicacy of the intaglio prints will definitely make this a short edition of no more than 60 books if I’m lucky.