Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Never Mind the Colophon

Long, long ago, when I set type and printed my first book, never mind the crowd (1983), I wrote a colophon that became the prototype for all of my colophons everafter. (Letterpress is actually one word. But it was my first book, so have mercy.) I chose the imprint, never mind the pressThe colophon: 
never mind the univers 55 type or the archival poster paper or the king james cast coat cover or that this is her first letter press [sic] book. in fact go feed your dog or something.
What is a colophon? Why should you or should you not have one? Are they popular? Do you have to thaw them first? According to The Book: The Story of Printmaking and Bookmaking (copyright 1943, my copy, 1948. This is on page 558) the colophon contains "authorship, production, and place and date of issue." The word colophon is Greek for "finishing stroke." But there is more:
In addition to such information as the title of the book, the name of the author, the printer's name, and the place and date of printing, they not infrequently contain notes invaluable to modern scholars as to the editor…the patron…and so on.…The colophon, in fact, often included much that in our present-day books is expanded into the author's or editor's preface or introduction.
The first printed colophon is found in the Mainz Psalter of 1457. So, I guess you could call it traditional. Less traditional would  be the addition of the music you were listening to when you made the book, the weather, or what you were wearing. The contemporary colophon, as will become obvious in a minute, has been a free place for me to indulge. I've often picked a theme related to the work and taken off from there.


Here's one from my book Taking a Look Along (1986):
never mind that chameleons change color because of temperature, light & emotional factors. never mind univers & kaufmann dancing on moriki. yes those are photoengravings. is water harmless if it's clear? never mind. this is book 15.…Year of the Tiger!!!
From Magic (1988 edition):
Never mind bOdOni bold & Bodoni (notbold) italic dancing on Fabriano Hv-what? accompanied by Arches cover to the tune of WiLD, wiLd WeSt. I left a MessAGe but they are not answering my Call. book 27.
From Night Monster (2004):
never mind that the people are fictitious; the monster is real. never mind Bodoni bold, Bernhard Fashion, Onyx & Trocadero all set sleepily by hand & letterpress printed on night-black Stonehenge. Book 81. Is that you under the bed, or a cheese sandwich?

What do you want to remember about your book later? What do you want a buyer to know about the process? How do you want to amuse yourself? You can consider any or all of these for your own colophon. The short list of  colophon contents (in any order) might include: year, name, press name, typestyle(s), kind of paper(s), media, other materials, edition number, and how it was printed. You also might include your website, if you have one.


From A Witness to Curious Speed (2005):
never mind handset Caslon 471 ticking to the tune of the letterpress on Lenox, Frankfurt, and Nideggan pasted, painted, and stenciled papers or that I woke in the night with the title, not yet knowing what it meant. never mind the slipcase inspired by Hedi Kyle's visit to SFCB. Did you set your alarm or do you want me to wake you? Book 84. never mind the press.
 From  Driftwood & Roots (2006):
never mind hand set Bodoni bold or italic or Onyx titles washed up on a kind of Somerset paper guided via letterpress during the summer of the 12-week cold. never mind that this is book 87. ___ of 14. does your soap float?
From Flashing Lights with drawings by Cianna Valley (2010):
never mind handset Univers 55 & 56 or polymer plates printed letterpress driving along Lenox 100. never mind this cross flexagon. press back with fingers. up with thumbs along the line or go directly to jail. never mind the press. 2010.
You get the idea. Recently, I've been making one-of-a-kind books, or rather, books and objects in boxes, or rather, handmade cigar boxes, which don't all have a place for a colophon, so I leave it out.


Never mind that this post has been set in Georgia (the font, not the state) and written in Albany (California, not New York), USA. It uses a service called Blogger, otherwise known as Blogspot, and is accessible internationally. Written in its entirety by Alisa Golden, June 2012. This is post number 192 of 192. Read any art lately? never mind the press. (Some of the above information is also available in one concise paragraph in Making Handmade Books on page 28.)

4 comments:

Patricia Anne McGoldrick said...

Interesting, Alisa!
I have researched a lot of History resources along the way & I realize the validity of this little piece of information.
Like your finish to the post! Happy 4th!

Alisa said...

Thanks, Patricia!
Really good point that the colophon documents history in a broader sense. Certain materials may not be available in the future and it's great to keep a record of them while we can.

dinahmow said...

I do appreciate humour in an otherwise serious subject.;-)

india flint said...

enlightened and amused. thank you.