28 July 2010

Hired Hands

Unlike computers and cellphones (and even, to a lesser extent, printing presses), paper cutters hold their worth. If, as at Gaspereau, your sensibilities and your budget tend to lean toward to bargain bin, you’ll wait a long time before you see a cheap used paper cutter for sale. We’ve been watching for a while now. We have three paper cutters in our shop, one guillotine style and two with manual fence and clamps but motorized blades. Trimming books has always been a bit of a bottleneck in our production process, so we’ve been looking for a cutter more modern programmable cutter. This one came available recently when another printer in the region upgraded. There’ll be some welding to do and a motor to repair, but perhaps we’ll have this fella up and running in time for the rush of fall books. The big question isn’t whether Gary can fix it. The big question is ... where the heck are we going to put it!

Presently in the bindery is the most recent North American edition of the International fine books journal Parenthesis. The sheets are printed and folded and ready to gather, sew and bind.

I spent part of the day making polymer plates for the cover, which I will handprint on a Vandercook proof press. Given it’s subject matter, I feel that at least some part of this journal ought be hand printed.

I also managed to escape to the basement of the Acadia University library this week and spent some time lollygagging around in copies of The Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, published at Halifax by John Howe and Son in 1813. John Howe (1754–1835) was a Boston-born Loyalist printer who came to Halifax after the American Revolution. In Nova Scotia, he was appointed the King’s Printer, publishing The Nova Scotia Royal Gazette and the Debates of the Legislative Assembly. As interesting as his life had been, John Howe was eclipsed by the fame of his son, Joseph Howe (1804–73), journalist, publisher, and politician, who successfully defended himself against charges seditious libel in a landmark case that helped establish freedom of the press in Canada.

Tucked in among the proclamations, sales notices and notes from foreign correspondents was this example of an early Canadian book ad for a sea captain's narrative published by Howe.

I have always loved the stories of everyday life an old newspaper can tell. Perhaps a careful investigation of the 64th Regiment’s paperwork from this period might reveal a sudden shift in the quality of the handwriting sometime after this ad was printed. It might even tell us whose hand was hired. But the fate of the red heifer at Nine Mile River is likely to remain a matter of conjecture.


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