¿Donde Duermes, Eldorado? y Otros Poemas (1964)

¿Donde Duermes, Eldorado? y Otros Poemas. Clerigo Herrero. La Imprenta de Rojo Escuderos. Warren's Olde Style, 7.8 x 11.9 cm. Cover of Tweedweave or Andora (3 varieties, S.22A, B, & C). 10 pt Bembo; Bembo title. 176 unnumbered copies (colophon states 160[ ) ]. September 6.  (RAS #4)

Published the same day as Nero, but a much more elusive title. Took more than a decade before my various alerts notified me a copy had appeared. Printed in the same Bembo as The Pedestrian, but on the smoother Warren paper used for Nero: the printing is definitely cleaner than The Pedestrian, but not as consistent as Nero. Not sure Bembo was a good text face for Squires; we all have some types we just can't make work, no matter how much we like them.

Besides being uncommon, this publication is notable for its small format, about the same size as the type sample book. He never used this format again, and it isn't clear why he used it here.

Nero / An Early Poem (1964)

NERO / An Early Poem. Clark Ashton Smith. 14.5 x 24.1 cm. 14 pt. small Post Roman; Albertus title. 307 un-numbered copies on Warren's Olde Style (3 color or texture varieties, S.21A-1, -2, & -3), handsewn sheets glued into a Tweedweave Dusty Red or Andorra Tan wrapper; 74 copies on Chroma (3 color varieties, S.21B-1, -2, & -3) glued into a Chroma Gray wrapper. 50 numbered S.21B copies have tipped-in a portrait of Smith; "proof copy" is hand-written in the other 24. Total of 381 copies (colophon states "about 450"). September 6. (RAS #3)

What's with all the variations? This has long been one of the most common & inexpensive Squires titles you'll encounter. Don't know why that is. Quantity of copies & quality of a then-young poet's writing?

Overall this is a much better looking production than The Pedestrian. Squires' printing is crisp  and consistent. Still a light touch when it comes to impression, but the quality of his printing was assisted by a better choice of paper (the copy I have is a smooth finish; the other "texture varieties" may not have aided the printing) and a larger type. (The colophon was set in 12-pt Centaur, and it also is well printed, so the quality of the poem's printing wasn't just happenstance.)

One oddity, an unsuccessful attempt at typographic creativity: the first few words in each stanza of the poem are letterspaced, creating an effect analogous to someone with a stutter.

But overall, an attractive pamphlet and example of Squires' work.


Ray Bradbury's The Pedestrian (1964)

"The Pedestrian. Tweedweave Gray, 14.2 x 21.2 cm. Cover of Tweedweave Midnight Blue. 12 pt. Bembo; Bembo title. An illustration by Joe Mugnaini is tipped in. 291 unnumbered copies (colophon states 280). Before publication 10 copies were inscribed and 10 others signed. September 6." (RAS #2)

This book establishes the basic format most of Squires' subsequent publications would follow: a single signature, tasteful but not exuberant typography, minimal decoration. He sewed his chapbooks with colorful threads, with the knot tied on the outside. Not very tidy, the ends left unnecessarily long, but that was his taste.

The printing isn't bad for an early effort, but his presswork got better. The Tweedweave - a machinemade commercial paper - has a laid texture on one side, and it impedes the 12-pt type's clarity. The inking is a little uneven - too heavy at the edges of lines. This could have been resolved with some adjustments to the rollers and/or makeready. Part of the problem is that Squires was following the custom of commercial letterpress printing of the era, which emphasized a minimum of impression. There's a longer discussion around that, but suffice to say it was in no small part a desire to replicate the "modern" appearance of offset printing, which was overtaking letterpress as the industry standard. Squires was also a fan of the work of Leonard Bahr's Adagio Press, and you can see it's influence on his printing and design; that'll be a subject for a later post.

To this day printers disagree over how much impression is desirable. The best answer is, a consistent amount. What that is depends on the paper & type being used. But you want some impression, because letterpress is a relief printing technique; it requires pushing the image into the paper. The "kiss" impression that some people consider ideal is simply an apologetic attempt to make letterpress appear to be offset. One of the problems it creates (besides lacking any character) is that you need more ink, which is why you end up with over-inked, blobby letters like the ones in The Pedestrian.

The two images shown here are from different copies: you can see the ink is less heavy in the second (below), which is good, but in both instances the letters at the edges (look down the right side especially) are over-inked &/or printed too hard. That's a common problem with clamshell-type presses (I think Squires used a Chandler & Price; more about that later), and also easily fixed. These images also give you a sense of how the paper's texture competes with type for your eyes' attention. This would be less a problem with a larger type size.

Harold McGrath, a renowned New England printer who printed some of the most famous American fine press books in the later 20th century, understood the balance required between impression and ink. He talked about the "kiss" of the rollers over the type: the rollers should be minimally charged with ink, and passed over the type several times to build up sufficient ink coverage, rather than attempting to slather it on in one pass (the lazy approach). Sufficient impression into the paper was then required to achieve clear, crisp letterforms.

A technical digression, but this blog is primarily about printing. As we'll see in future posts, Squires' skills at the press improved quickly and admirably.

One thing to note that will come up again with subsequent Bradbury titles: his signature is printed on the front cover. People frequently mistake his printed signature (i.e. facsimile) for the real thing. The prepublication signed copies of this title must be among the most desirable (& scarce) of Squires' books.


Type Specimens (1962)

"A Display of Type Specimens. Warren's Olde Style, 9 x 13.9 cm. Cover of Andorra Gray. Forum and Bembo title. 48 copies. November 25, 1962." (RAS item F)

Squires didn't count this modest pamphlet as a publication per se in the Descriptive Listing - he considered Clark Ashton Smith's The Hill of Dionysus his first publication. But Type Specimens preceded Dionysus by two days, so it gets precedence here.

This copy came with a note (presumably from RAS; it looks like his printing) about the project:

The faces included in the booklet are Warren Olde Style, Bembo (four text sizes in roman & italic), Lydian (bold, condensed and sloped in titling sizes), Centaur (10-pt & 12-pt), Arrighi (22-pt only), Cable (light & bold in text sizes), and Highspot (thankfully, 18-pt only).


A Descriptive Listing of Publications

"This descriptive listing has been printed on Curtis Rag White Wove paper from 14 point Joanna types with Michaelangelo titling; the covers are Beau Brilliant or Artlaid Ivory. The edition comprised ordinary copies, 15.9 x 24.4 cm. numbered 1-230 and large copies, 21.9 x 28.5 cm. numbered 1-80. Tipped into copies 1-50 of the latter are 8 specimen leaves from various prior publications; copies 51-80 may include 2 0r 4 such specimen leaves. There may be an unnumbered photo-offset reprinted version issued later."

We'll start this blog with Squires' last publication (#39), because it's the primary reference for all the others.

In August, 1987 Squires issued a one-page announcement for the bibliography, soliciting orders. He died just over a year later, of cancer. I've never been able to find out why he stopped publishing in 1979; I wonder when his cancer was diagnosed, and if was the spark behind picking up a composing stick again to issue a comprehensive listing of his publications.

He called is a descriptive listing "because, lacking some details which I thought insignificant, it is less than true bibliography." In typical Squires fashion, it was issued in several variations: a large paper edition of 80 copies, of which some have 8 sample pages inserted, and others have fewer; a smaller format limited edition, without samples; and an even (slightly) smaller facsimile edition printed offset and stapled in two wraps. The same text setting was used for the large and small issues; the large ones simply have more generous margins.

The binding of the large copies is an interesting affair. He stuck with his preferred single-signature pamphlet format. The samples pages are mounted in sheets of a textured color cover stock (heavier than the text sheets, to hold the weight of the tipped-on samples). All of these sheets folded together, plus the samples, make for an overly thick & heavy signature. It was sewn into a printed wrap of cover stock similar to that used for the mounting the samples, but the text block was too heavy: its own weight would eventually tear it out of the wrap. His solution was to insert a tab of the same cover stock between the cover and signature, to provide extra strength to the spine. Ultimately, given the size and number of pages, the book would have been better printed in sections, but that may have put the binding beyond his skills.

Contrary to the colophon's statement about copies numbered 51-80, the one I have has six specimen leaves. The large paper copies were offered at $50 upon publication, the small ones at $20, and the facsimile at $4. 

In terms of providing any insight to Squires' printing - what and why - the book doesn't help much. It's interesting that in only one of his publications did he mention the kind of press used (a Chandler & Price) - a piece of informtation printers you usually don't have to ask printers about - and the question of why he stopped publishing lingers.

About Roy A. Squires & This Blog

Roy A. Squires (1920-87) was by vocation a bookseller, and by avocation printer. A biography of his life and work can be found at the site of Argent Leaf Press). He entered the book trade as an apprentice of Jake Zeitlin (also a bookseller and private pressman) in the 1960s, and began issuing catalogues of his own in the latter half of that decade. His particular interest was science fiction and "weird" fiction, and both his bookselling and his private publishing benefited from associations he had with several key authors. Perhaps the most famous, and the one whose trove of manuscript materials provided Squires with the best material, was the poet Clark Ashton Smith.

This blog is intended to focus primarily on Squires' activities as a private pressman. Although California has a long tradition of private press publishing and fine printing, Squires never seemed to be part of the crowd, undoubtedly in part due to his down-market literary tastes. Nonetheless, it seems strange his work is almost completely unknown today among people who claim to be interested in the history of printing in California.

For the past decade I have toyed with the idea of writing some kind of article about Squires' printing. Unfortunately many of the people who collaborated with him were dead by then, and he didn't leave any kind of an archive. The few people I could contact who had known him either didn't have much specific information about his printing, or (in one case) didn't want to answer any questions at all. My "research" ended up consisting primarily of amassing a more-or-less complete collection of his publications (more if you count simply having a copy of each title; less if you insist on the more scarce and obscure variants). I also managed to gather a number of his letters to subscribers, which are full of wit and interesting details.

One particular reason I've been interested in Squires' work is because I am also a letterpress printer. The fact that Squires set his publications by hand with metal type, and printed letterpress, is one of the things that sets his work above other small press publsihers. Letterpress was how text printing was achieved from Gutenberg until the middle of the last century, when offset lithography took over. Offset is still how most commercial printing is done. Put simply, the difference between the two technologies is this: letterpress is printing, offset is a picture of printing. (I don't know if Robert Bringhurst actually coined that or I just heard him say it.) At some point I'll attempt to add a post about Squires' printing, and his influences, to this blog.  

Having given up on the idea of writing an actual article, I'll use the collection as the basis for this blog, to post bibliographic details, images, and whatever technical comments I can offer about materials, types, etc. for each of his publications. Hopefully it will help provide some of the profile his work deserves, and provide a meeting place for admirers of his work. Squires was involved in amateur printing, specifically of science-fiction fanzines in the 1950s. This isn't going to be part of the blog's focus, but perhaps others will offer up relevant details about that work.

A post will be made for each of Squires' 39 publications, plus a few more for ephemeral or unusual items. The primary source of information, besides the colophons of each publication, will be Squires' own Descriptive Listing of Publications 1962-1979 (1987).

It will be possible to offer comments to posts, but please keep in mind the blog's primary focus (his printing). In an attempt to prevent toxic contamination, comments will have to be approved before appearing. Anyone who doesn't understand why that's necessary probably is part of the reason.