As reported previously, The Prototype Press is the new moniker for Sharp Teeth Press and is operated by Mark Sarigianis and David Johnston in Oakland, California. The goal of their publishing program is to produce first-edition works by local authors and artists, completely in-house. Towards that end, The Prototype Press “Employs a team of rare and unique machines. Metal type is cast with the mind-boggling Monotype Composition Caster and paper is printed on hand-fed super-sized presses. A 1960’s guillotine, air-powered foil stamper and hot glue machine round out the crew.” While I very much enjoyed their previous work at Sharp Teeth (see here and here for examples), their first production as The Prototype Press moves everything up to the next level.
Before seeing the initial production as The Prototype Press, Me, Myself and the Monkeyface Eel, I must admit to some hesitation here on whether it would be something down my alley. Mostly, shhhhhhh don’t tell anyone, but I am not much of a fisherman! In addition, I was not familiar with Kirk Lombard or Leighton Kelly. On the other hand, I have enjoyed fishing related works before (Izaac Walton‘s The Compleat Angler, and The Intruder by Robert Travers, are two examples), love outdoor/nature related works, and especially like when such works wax philosophical, with humor being a large bonus. It turns out, Me, Myself and the Monkeyface Eel has this in spades.
Me, Myself and the Monkeyface Eel is written by Kirk Lombard, and this is the first edition of such. Mr. Lombard writes that he is many things: “writer, teacher, musician…actor, inveterate blogger, raconteur…commercial fisherman, puppet master…tenor, baseball historian, and…champion eel fisherman. In addition to all these, I am deeply passionate about our California marine resources.” This varied background comes across in his writing as does the “dank holes and fetid shores of Kirk Lombard’s mind,” which the prospectus warns us of! The prospectus also tells us it is a “deeply strange” book, which will get no argument from me either! These are very good things, as this “part memoir, part how-to and part poetry” is interesting, informative and quite funny (the introduction, which I will not completely spoil, is hilarious, starting with “This book does not deserve an introduction…” and ending with “Samuel Johnson once wrote, “A fishing rod is a stick with a hook at one end and a fool at the other.” Of Lombard and his poke pole, that is doubly true.“). Here are some other examples of the writing style:
He describes his creation of his first poke pole:
Later that night I found myself jumping a fence, descending a steep hillside, and liberating several stalks of bamboo from their civic responsibility to beautify a drainage culvert near the San Francisco International Airport….Like Ahab before me, I tempered their shafts with pagan blood (my own), baptizing them in the name of old Sammael himself. I used nothing but high quality parts: wire hangers from the discard pile outside my local dry cleaners, and the best roll of duct tape that could be bought for $2.99 at the local discount supermercado…
As Mr. Lombard takes up fishing for Monkeyface Eel, he seems to have an experience out of Kafka:
Strange days followed. I began fishing every low tide. My skin took on a smooth, leathery texture. Orange spots appeared on my shoulders and nape. A thick, fleshy lobe emerged betwixt my eyebrows. I was becoming an eel….Women saw the eel is my eyes and ran screaming or, conversely, sought me out, writhed with me, locking fins in a slippery ectothermic embrace.
On the Plainfin, he says:
Males do most of the work keeping the eggs clean, and protecting the nest, while mama goes out on the town and gets really fat and deposits her eggs on the underside of a rock. When you hunt the plainfin, the fat one is the female, the skinny, dejected and forlorn looking one the overworked and doubtless henpecked male.
About tanning fish skins:
As it turns out, no matter what technique one employs, properly tanning fish skins is difficult to do. Improperly tanning fish skins, however, is easy. Especially when one puts aside the woodchips and deer brains and embraces ancient artisan skin tanning products like Dawn dishwashing detergent. This noble golden fluid is a grade-A number one remover of eel mucous. And removing the mucous is what fish skin tanning is all about.
On meeting who was to become his wife:
…I sidled up to the bar, checked the waters for compatibility, and nonchalantly suggested an eel-hunting excursion. After mulling this about in her mind for a few seconds, eyeing me warily, and then confirming that eel-hunting was not a blatant metaphor for something else, she agreed to join me…
There is much more of this delightful commentary, plus a wealth of how-to and even recipes. The book comes with a separate small chap-book (very nicely done as described below) with some verse from Mr. Lombard to go along with the main text. It is similar in spirit to that just described.
This ‘standard’ edition is another excellent example of what a private press is all about. It is unique, hand-made, and is of the highest quality. The standard edition, shown below, is marvelous. It is printed in three colors on Somerset Book Paper from Monotype Hess Old Style and hand-set Libra types. The paper is thick, with a wonderfully soft texture, and is very flat white, which makes the use of gold foiling (the title page and Parts I and II are gold foil stamped) and red sub-titling pop from the page. I am always a sucker/advocate for the judicious use of color on as many pages as possible (ala Allen Press), and this edition makes nearly perfect use of such. The text type is gloriously readable with nicely laid out spacing and margins.
The numerous illustrations by Leighton Kelly, printed relief from linoleum carvings in what strikes me as a dark seaweed green color, carry exactly the right tone, matching the context and humorous nature of the tome (to use a word that perhaps Mr. Lombard would tongue in cheek use for this large and scholarly work!). Based on his excellent work here, I hope to see more from Mr. Kelly (despite a valiant Google effort, he is a bit mysterious, I can find very little information on him).
The cover is half-bound in soft, light tan cow leather and light seaweed green handmade paper from Twinrocker. There is a second small booklet called ‘The Appendices‘ which is printed on paper handmade by the publishers with the help of Shotwell Paper Mill in San Francisco; the paper bears the watermark of Shotwell, as well as a fishing hook, added specially for this project. The appendices contain a couple works or verse, associated with the main book, also by Kirk Lombard. All standard editions should be so nice!
One often sees very little difference between standard and deluxe or reserved editions. That is not the case here. While this standard edition, shown below, from The Prototype Press is absolutely fantastic, and an excellent value at $350, for those wanting a truly extra special edition, the ‘reserved’ edition takes the already great standard edition and upgrades it by printing it entirely on handmade paper from the University of Iowa, and binding it by hand in Monkeyface Eel leather caught and skinned by the publishers with the help of the author. The binding also makes use of handmade paper with seaweed and cotton rag by Shotwell Paper Mill hand-dyed by the publishers. Wow! The reserved edition also has multicolored endsheets printed from a reduction linoleum cut by the press and comes with a 12″ by 18″ original relief print from linoleum, by Leighton Kelly. It comes in a book box foil stamped with an illustration, also by Leighton Kelly. These sort of substantial additions on top of a standard edition is what deluxe or reserved editions should strive to be. The price for the reserved edition is $1000.
This first work from The Prototype Press demands notice. It is outstanding work, and really makes one look forward to many years of further production from Mr. Sarigianis and Mr. Johnston. I suggest contacting them and getting on their mail list to be amongst the first to know of upcoming works.
About the Edition (Standard Edition)
- Illustrations by Leighton Kelly are printed relief from linoleum carvings
- Printed in three colors on Somerset Book Paper from Monotype Hess Old Style and hand-set Libra types
- The title page and Parts I and II are gold foil stamped
- The cover is half-bound in cow leather and handmade paper from Twinrocker
- The appendices are printed on paper handmade by the publishers with the help of Shotwell Paper Mill in San Francisco; the paper bears the watermark of Shotwell, as well as a fishing hook, added specially for this project
- The standard edition is limited to 75 copies, signed by Kirk Lombard and Leighton Kelly
There is a reserved edition, with the following in addition to the above:
- Printed entirely on handmade paper from the University of Iowa
- Half bound in Monkeyface Eel leather, caught and skinned by the publishers with the help of the author
- The cover papers are handmade with seaweed and cotton rag by Shotwell Paper Mill and hand-dyed by the publishers
- The multicolored endsheets printed from a reduction linoleum cut by the press
- A 12″ by 18″ original relief print from linoleum, by Leighton Kelly, accompanies each copy of this special edition
- Comes in a book box foil stamped with an illustration by Leighton Kelly
- The reserved edition is limited to 25 copies, signed by Kirk Lombard and Leighton Kelly
Pictures of the Edition (Standard Edition)
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