Sunday, June 16, 2019

Stephen O. Saxe (1930-2019)



The printing historian Stephen O. Saxe died on April 27th of this year, according to a memorial notice in the New York Times today (June 16th) and a brief note from the American Printing History Association, of which he was a founder. Saxe followed an interesting career path that led him from Yale Drama School to television set design to book design at Harcourt, Brace, but it was for his activities as an amateur (in the best etymological sense of the word) that he is best known, at least among printing scholars and enthusiasts. Among his publications was the book pictured above, the definitive study of the 19th-century iron presses that were the first major revolution in printing technology after Gutenberg. (Appropriately, the book was first published in a letterpress edition by Yellow Barn Press, though a trade edition followed.)

I met Stephen Saxe once. I had written to him with a couple of questions about some research I was doing and he generously invited me — a stranger and total novice to the field — and a printmaking friend to his home in White Plains, where he spent a couple of hours showing us his printing equipment and some treasures from his library, including an extraordinary 19th-century French specimen book filled with elaborate typographical decorations. (The APHA announcement has a nice photo of Saxe at his home.) There aren't many of his kind still around.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Mistaken Identity



An incident that Julio Cortázar (a noted admirer of Verne) would no doubt have appreciated, as related by Alejandro Zambla:
I remember how at sixteen, I convinced my dad to give me the six thousand pesos that Hopscotch cost, explaining that the book was "several books, but two in particular,"* so that buying it was like buying two novels for three thousand pesos each, or even four books for fifteen hundred pesos each. I also remember the employee at the Ateneo bookshop who, when I was looking for Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, explained to me patiently, over and over, that the book was called Around the World in Eighty Days and that the author was Jules Verne, not Julio Cortázar.
"Bring Back Cortázar," from The Paris Review (online) October 17, 2018.

I can sympathize, though, with the poor bookseller, who was no doubt used to dealing with cronopios like this fellow (played by Marty Feldman):


* The phrase is borrowed from the "Table of Instructions" of Hopscotch.

Sunday, June 02, 2019