A skeleton and a midget walk into a gallery…

July 16, 2010

knees and toes

Greetings from my knees and David’s nose and some really cool wood type!

Well, we may have disappeared from the Internet, but we’ve been busy here at Flat Cap. Last week I spent several days at Inter-Ocean assisting David with the final printing of Moby Dick Made Me Do It. In case there was any doubt, let me remind you how much work David has been doing–I spent a couple of afternoons and one full day in the shop and it’s exhausting!


(at least for David…)

We printed the two wood engravings for the body of the book, and then finally, we printed the cover. All of this happened on the studio’s Washington-style hand press, born around 1895. The Washington is pretty similar to Gutenberg’s press, except made out of iron (not wood). Here’s the press, with David mixing up some ink to the left.


This press is different from the press used to print the body of the book in that it’s totally hand-operated and closes straight down instead of like the shell of a clam, which gives you better control over inking and pressure and the rest of the printing process for detailed, delicate, finicky things (like wood engravings), but it’s also slower because it is totally hand-operated.

Traditionally, these presses were operated by a team of two people on opposite sides of the press, kind of like in this image from a “Dance of Death” cycle (whatever that means) that apparently dates to 1499, making it “the oldest known image of a Gutenberg-style press,” according to this website.

Dance of Death

So in that picture, David would be the skeleton in the center of the image, and I’m the strange midget holding the skeleton’s hand. Then it goes like this:

1. The midget loads the paper,

2. The skeleton inks the type or image:


3. The midget folds the paper onto the type,

4. The skeleton closes the press with a crank and pulls the lever to squish the paper and type together (see the picture of David earlier in the post), and

5. The midget opens the place where the paper goes and unloads the printed sheet.

Repeat 200+ times.

The engravings are beautiful, and enhance the text wonderfully. And the cover–ah, the cover!–what can I say? I’ll just show you:

all locked up
c'mon midget!

all stacked up
See? Delightful.

Now I know each and every one of you is sitting there thinking, how can I get my hands on this beautiful object? The book is not officially on sale yet (don’t worry, we’ll let you know when it is), but if you are in the Denver area, you have a unique opportunity to see the book and purchase your copy. MDMMDI is on display in a gallery called Abecedarian in a show called “Works from Wood.” Alicia Bailey’s gallery is worth a visit any time, for any show, but may I highly recommend that you try to catch “Works from Wood” sometime before it closes on August 7th?

If you can make it out for the Third Friday Art Walk (a chance to stroll through the Santa Fe Arts District and visit galleries without the insanity of First Fridays), you can come to the Artists’ Reception TOMORROW, FRIDAY  JULY 16th from 5-8pm. Abecedarian is at 910 Santa Fe #101. We’ll be there! and so will Moby Dick

flat out gorgeous

2 Responses to “A skeleton and a midget walk into a gallery…”

  1. Susan Says:

    Great post! Looking forward to seeing the skeleton, the midget, and Moby this evening.

  2. slin Says:

    That looks beautiful!

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