Second Round: A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)

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Second Round: A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)

1consensuspress
okt 24, 2022, 2:16 am

Second Round: A Canticle For Leibowitz (Miller)

I think this great classic of post-apocalyptic fiction deserves a fine press edition. I envision the book printed octavo, on very good, but not extravagant paper, to make bulk and cost manageable. No illustrations, but prominent drop capitals at the chapter heads, decorated whimsically with elements from the text. Bound in a style consistent with a medieval psalter, with the Hebrew “לץ” embossed on the upper board. Blueprint endpapers, of course!

This proposal received 56 yes votes in the first round.

The proposer has been notified of this discussion thread, and may receive help or advice in expanding the proposal.

2kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 1:44 pm

Hi folks, I'm the proposer here -- please chime in with suggestions.

This may get confusing, as another Canticle proposal also made the cut for this round. While that proposal is interesting as well, I think there are fundamental differences in the two approaches. I believe that I'm proposing a somewhat more understated treatment, with a set of parameters that will make it (hopefully) not too challenging to produce or pay for. Let me get the ball rolling:

Format: I prefer smaller books that are comfortable in the hand while reading. I like the octavo format that Thornwillow typically uses, but this is a longer work, which might result in too thick a volume at that scale. So I'm thinking a taller octavo for this one, something on the order of 7x11 inches like Arete and No Reply used for their recent Sherlock Holmes offerings. That should also (I hope) allow use of a type size large enough for comfortable reading. I think a slightly unusual aspect ratio would also help signal a retro aesthetic (i.e., medieval psalter) without resorting to extravagant materials or effects.

Paper: I'm a paper-lover, gotta admit it! I love the feel, the sound, the way the surface and edge looks. Sometimes I forget to keep reading while I pause to fondle the page. But that doesn't necessarily mean a super-thick, handmade sheet -- again, I'd like to keep the cost and the girth of the book reasonable. Maybe a good mould-made paper from Arches or Magnani (like Tallone uses for the "standard" state of many of their books)?
I recently discovered an amazing paper, that the Gehenna Press used for Burns' The Jolly Beggars. It's hand-made from Amalfi, but incredibly thin and smooth; and, despite being thin, it's quite opaque enough to support the press' razor-sharp, medium-bite printing. I don't know if anything like that is available today, but it might make a longer work more manageable in thickness.
Whatever the source, I'll be disappointed to have cut/trimmed fore and bottom edges -- gotta love a nice deckle!

Type: I love the Romanee type that Allen Press used for Rappaccini's Daughter, and the Van Dijck types they used for their Pushkin. (The Van Dijck type used for the LEC Secret Sharer is also great.) I also love the Dante (Mardersteig?) typeface used by Officina Bodoni, as well as by the Chester River Press in their Heart of Darkness. Also pretty good: the Bembo type used by Pyracantha Press for their Venus & Adonis, and the Jenson type that Thornwillow used for Shakespeare's Sonnets and other publications.

Printing: I'd like a medium bite to the printing, given the expected thickness of the paper and relatively small type size. I'd want it to be tactile, without degrading the reading experience.

Decorations: I don't think illustrations, per se, are called for here. Large drop-capitals, in blueprint blue, decorated with line drawings that pick up some narrative element from the chapter (comical or somber as appropriate). The LEC edition of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is one example, though I'm envisioning something even less elaborate that that (smaller scale, no gold leaf, etc.).

Binding: In my mind's eye, I see a full morocco binding with heavy raised bands, but maybe a similar effect could be achieved with less costly materials -- suggestions?
Also, I envision having the Hebrew letters “לץ” (scrawled on a rock by Miller's wandering Jew for Brother Francis in chapter 1, as an abbreviation of "Leibowitz" or the Hebrew word for "fool") either embossed or blind-stamped on the front cover. And I think having blueprint end-papers is a must-have for this edition. A gilt top-edge would be a nice enhancement, as would a slipcase with sides matching the end-papers.

Extras: I haven't considered whether an introductory essay could be reprinted or commissioned for this edition, and I'm not wedded to the idea, but it would definitely be an enhancement.

3ambyrglow
okt 24, 2022, 1:56 pm

My binding preference is pretty firmly "not leather," so I'd love to see some ideas for cloth bindings here. (The other Leibowitz proposal is looking at some interesting-to-me paper covers, but no reason for the two proposals to replicate each other!)

4kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 2:00 pm

>3 ambyrglow: Yes, I'm looking for ways to get the right look-and-feel without leather. I'm also looking at the other Leibowitz proposal, and I also like Cave papers. :-) Not sure how this will shake out, but it seems like there's at least a lot of interest in the book.

5caszius
okt 24, 2022, 2:23 pm

>2 kermaier: Hey kermaier! I proposed the "other" Canticle :) Love the way you're approaching, and will be thrilled if either wins. Per your positioning here, I mentioned on my proposal that it'll likely be a bit more pricey; figure that might be a way we can try to differentiate. But just wanted to reach out and wish you luck, and (although I'm not sure how exactly...) if you have any other ideas for how to ensure the community has two distinct options here, I'm happy to refine. Cheers!

6Glacierman
okt 24, 2022, 3:07 pm

>2 kermaier: Here is the source for Amalfi paper: Cartiera Amatruda.

I don't know if you'll find what you want there, but there it is.

7allbummereverything
okt 24, 2022, 3:38 pm

I really like the understated approach you are suggesting here particularly around focusing more on paper, type, and carefully designed drop letters and less on significant commission of illustrations. I would also be in the camp of preferring not leather.

8kermaier
Redigeret: okt 24, 2022, 4:22 pm

>5 caszius: Thanks for the encouragement -- your proposal sounds like it could turn into something really lovely. The two do seem different to me, with yours soundig like a SF novel nestled within a fine-press medieval psalter, while mine is more like a fine-press treatment of a SF novel with a few nods to the "canticle" aspect. The risk, I think, in both cases, would be leaning too aggressively into either approach, to the point of either design becoming wildly infeasible or depressingly pedestrian. :-)

Edit: Of course, polarization of approaches increases differentiation....

9kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 5:58 pm

I'm soliciting binding ideas that present a non-boring alternative to full or half leather.

10ambyrglow
okt 24, 2022, 6:03 pm

>9 kermaier: Is blind debossing the blueprint design into the cover fabric, instead of on the end papers, too over the top? I'm picturing a much more straightforward electrical diagram than the illuminated art Brother Francis produces, something more in keeping with the original transistorized control system as Leibowitz designed it. I suppose the endpapers could have the illuminated version for contrast.

11kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 6:06 pm

>10 ambyrglow: I'm hoping to have the book cover design call to mind a medieval psalter -- at least in some fashion. But I *love* the idea of having a blind-debossed blueprint fabric covering the slipcase!

12Shadekeep
okt 24, 2022, 8:31 pm

>11 kermaier: I'm not sure how economically viable this aspect would be, but what about an alternate type of leather as an element of the cover design? There are some unusual varieties out there, with pineapple leaf leather looking especially nice. I also like the look and grain of this leather made from cacti.

This doesn't solve the design aspect of the cover, but could provide some additional interest and variety to whatever is settled on. And there's something science-fiction-y about plant leathers, as though they are cured triffid hide.

13kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 8:34 pm

>12 Shadekeep: Interesting! Any idea how durable or long/lasting they are?

14kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 8:34 pm

How about quarter Morocco with wooden or veneer boards? Thoughts?

15Shadekeep
okt 24, 2022, 8:46 pm

>13 kermaier: From what I've read, the pineapple leather lasts 3-4 years as clothing, and the cactus leather 10 years. Naturally this is as a worn garment exposed to the elements, so it would be considerably longer as a book cover. However, they are somewhat new technologies, so it's hard to know how they might appear in twenty years under natural aging. It really depends on how adventurous you want to be!

>14 kermaier: I thought about leather over wood the first time you mentioned psalters. Those call to mind baroque covers with relief details and ornaments, and often leather over a wooden substrate is the perfect medium for such a design. It would have to be well designed to work in a slipcase, perhaps a solander makes more sense in this case?

16NathanOv
Redigeret: okt 24, 2022, 9:10 pm

>15 Shadekeep: I’d be against the idea of any leather substitute (because why not simply choose another material rather than mimic one?), but cactus leather would be particularly fitting given the desert setting and opening passages of the book. I’d love to hear the boards thoughts on that as a binding material.

17dlphcoracl
okt 24, 2022, 9:01 pm

>12 Shadekeep:
>16 NathanOv:

Foo on faux leather. Do it once, do it right. Fine Oasis Nigerian leather is the preference of many top-notch bookbinders for good reason - it is both attractive and durable over many decades.

18NathanOv
okt 24, 2022, 9:04 pm

>17 dlphcoracl: Oh, I’m against faux leather 99% of the time, but I would love the thematic use of cactus as a binding material for this particular text if it turned out to be an appropriate material for bookmaking.

If the proposer went that direction, I think a “desert psalter” might narrowly edge out the “medieval manuscript” concept of the other proposal.

19dlphcoracl
okt 24, 2022, 9:08 pm

>18 NathanOv:

It makes for a prickly decision.

20kermaier
okt 24, 2022, 9:08 pm

>17 dlphcoracl: I agree, no faux leather. I prefer at least quarter leather, myself, but I’m willing to consider alternative materials on their own merits (not as leather replicants).

21Shadekeep
okt 24, 2022, 9:11 pm

>17 dlphcoracl: >18 NathanOv:

I'm not a particular fan of simulated materials either, but I see these plant leathers as a novel material in their own right. There's an element of the uncanny when handling a material that comes from an entirely different kingdom on the tree of life from what it represents. And I do like the suggestion from NathanOv that cactus ties in thematically with the work.

But at the end of the day these materials are unknown quantities and we probably don't want to be experimenting with them until they are proven, unless their use is in a component of the book which has some latitude regarding durability concerns. Still, it would be fun to look into these later down the line.

22elladan0891
okt 25, 2022, 10:27 am

>20 kermaier: Alternative materials could be great choices. Bark-cloth made of the bark of the bark-cloth tree used for binding the 1961 Story of an African Farm LEC comes to mind. It still looks great 61 years in. But you need to know what you're doing when selecting exotic materials or it could be a bad gamble.

23Glacierman
okt 25, 2022, 1:00 pm

Plant material is not leather. It might be a leather substitute, but it ain't leather. Leather comes from animal hides. Accuracy in terminology is essential.

24Shadekeep
okt 25, 2022, 1:38 pm

>23 Glacierman: I agree that clarity of terms is important. I think in this case there has been some drift on the word "leather" to define a type of texture and resilience rather than a material's provenance, ever since the snack "fruit leather" gained currency. Still, when talking about leathers in this context, it is useful to use another term for the plant-derived materials. Some of the makers use the term "vegan leather", but that doesn't really make the proper distinction. Perhaps it's simplest to just use "material", and then stipulate its leather-like properties of those apply.

25NathanOv
okt 25, 2022, 2:03 pm

>24 Shadekeep: As much as I love your "fruit leather" theory, "artificial leather" dates back to the 1920s so we're about 100 years late on correcting the usage. 30+ on "plant leather." At this point, it would be confusing to try to call it something else.

26Shadekeep
okt 25, 2022, 2:19 pm

>25 NathanOv: Good points. Language is a mutable thing, and there's only so long one can hold back the tide of public parlance. I can see how certain usages would rankle, though, and I try to be conscientious in those cases.

27kermaier
okt 25, 2022, 2:49 pm

In any event, I'm disinclined to go with plant-based composites that are processed into a leathery surface -- at least for this book.

At the moment, I'm leaning towards quarter-morocco with wooden boards. And I'd be interested in exploring the feasibility of CNC laser-cutting the Hebrew letters into the surface of the wood.

28kermaier
nov 4, 2022, 3:18 pm

I've submitted my detailed proposal via email!

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