Last week I was able to visit the Pyracantha Press in Tempe, Arizona. As described on their website, the Pyracantha Press was established at Arizona State University in 1982 as the production and research imprint of the ASU Herberger Institute School of Art’s book arts program. The press undertakes book arts projects that have particular merit in literary content, result in visual or technical research or provide for significant collaboration between writers and artists or between artists. Publications of the press are not done as class projects, but are produced with professional care and quality by the director, the staff printer and graduate research assistants. Professor John Risseeuw, who came to ASU in 1980 to establish a book arts program within the printmaking area of the School of Art, directs the press. In addition to being a printer/typographer, Risseeuw is a printmaker and papermaker. Dan Mayer, the book arts printer, manages the shop.
I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State, though unfortunately, not in the Book Arts program! I was very impressed with the shop. They have an amazing amount of type (my understanding is perhaps the third largest university collection in the U.S.). The books I was able to see, some of which are shown below, are fantastic in quality and originality. In talking with Professor Risseeuw and Mr. Mayer, their enthusiasm for the book arts and knowledge of all aspects of book design and creation is obvious. Arizona State, and the Phoenix area itself, is lucky to have such an excellent resource at their disposal.
There are a handful of pictures below of various books the press has published. Couple caveats…time was running tight on my side, so some of the pictures and lighting are not perfect! Pyracantha’s Venus and Adonis, shown below, is particularly fantastic for a classicist like myself! Also, Puello, by the eighteenth Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress James Dickey (1923-1997), best known for his 1970 novel Deliverance, is very nicely done, as is The Warrington Poems by well regarded poet Alberto Rios. Eco Songs, from Macedonian composer Dimitrije Buzarovski, is beautiful to hold and flip through. The Other Side of the House, written by United States Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove, is very nice, especially the beautiful and insightful photographs by Tamarra Kaida. In particular, I just loved the paper selection and paper quality in all these books. Like I feel about most fine presses, I would love to see more selection of traditionally classic works, freshly done.
Pictures of the Press
(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)
Pictures of ‘Venus and Adonis’, by William Shakespeare
- Printed in quarto
- Typeface is Montotype Bembo
- 100% rag handmade paper from HMP Mill in Woodstock Valley, Connecticut
- Text was machine set at Harold Berliner’s Typefoundry in Nevada City, California and reset in the shop
- Illustrations by Leonard Lehrer
- The stone lithographs were printed by Joseph Segura and his graduate assistants in Pyracantha’s Print Research Facility
- Bindings executed by Earle Gray Bindery of Los Angeles
- The typographical ornaments were drawn by John Risseeuw, director of the Press, who also designed and printed the book with assistance from graduate research assistant Colleen Oakes
- Limited to 120 copies plus 30 proof copies
Pictures of ‘Puella’, by James Dickey
- Stempel Palatino type from Almond Tree Press
- Designed, handset, and printed on Arches Text Laid paper by John Risseeuw with assistance from Colleen Oakes
- Illustrations drawn by Brenda Bodney
- Signed by James Dickey
- Limited to 150 copies
Pictures of Other Books and Broadsides