Monday, May 10, 2010

Written & Printed And Bound

This space having been notably deficient in color of late, I will try to atone with these scans of one of the most visually dazzling books I know, a privately printed poem by the American educator, poet, and maker of books Loyd Haberly (1896-1981), who not only wrote and printed and bound it but also designed the typeface, which is known variously under several names, including Paradiso and Gregynog (the latter because it was designed during Haberly's brief tenure as director of the Gregynog Press in Wales).

The cover is decorated paper over boards; the leather spine has NEECHA, the name of the poem, stamped in gold.

Here's the title page, which is noticeably wrinkled because of the handmade paper Haberly employed. (Making paper, though, was the one major step in the bookmaking process that he, unlike the papermaking historian Dard Hunter, didn't get involved in.)

But the glory of this book is the page spreads, all eight of which appear below. I'm afraid some of the scans are less than ideal, but they're the best I could do with my hardware and without risking damage to the binding. Around each text block Haberly has arranged a pattern made up of colored squares. Each square is an individual piece of type, and since the pages were printed by letterpress he must have printed each color separately, meaning that some pages -- the two that have yellow, red, green, and blue squares, in addition to the black text -- would have to have gone through the press five times. If you look very carefully, you'll notice that some of the squares are slightly out of alignment with adjacent squares of different colors. I'm not a printer and so I don't know the tricks, but I can't imagine how he managed this. I guess it's no surprise that the book is short, or that Haberly only printed 32 copies.

The poem itself is no great shakes, I'm afraid, but Haberly thought enough of it that he produced two versions. The one above is from 1944; a year earlier he had printed an edition of 48 copies, set on a smaller page size, without the mosaic border but with three hand-colored vignettes. Both editions were completed while Haberly was associated with Washington University in St. Louis. He later continued his printing activities at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey. The collection of handmade books that he left to Fairleigh Dickinson is now at Drew University. There are other collections of his work at several institutions, including the University of Iowa and the New York Public Library as well as the Multnomah County Library, which recently sponsored an exhibition dedicated to Haberly. The best overview of his work is an article by Jay Satterfield in Books at Iowa, 58 (1993). An online version is available.


Unknown said...

an extraordinary find

Jim Carmin said...

Great to see another copy of Neecha. FYI: the Loyd Haberly exhibition in the Collins Gallery at Multnomah County Library has been extended until June 20th.

Patrice Berlin said...

I have a copy of Neecha from cover however is done in black leather with a gold red and green geometric design n the front with the letters A B M.
The book is signed and dedicated "To Abi With love, Hab."

I have always loved this book but have never found one exactly like it especially signed. Would love to know the value.

Chris said...


Good to hear about your copy; I assume it's in the same edition as the one pictured above, and not in the other format that I mentioned in the text? I've seen a couple of copies, one in the New York Public Library, one in the collection of a printing historian. It's hard to say what the market price would be, especially since relatively few people know Haberly's work, but certainly several hundred dollars. I'd love to see a picture of the binding if you ever take one.