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Response by RES

Response by RES on receiving the 2014 Laureate Award of APHA1 from President Robert E. McCamant on January 25, 20 14 in the Trustees Room of the New York Public Library.

I’ve brot you a memento for the archive. It’s a business card printed between 1945 and 1950 in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Printing Merit Badge. It is perfect in every way, except perhaps for the inking, which we might call “exuberant.” It reads: “DEALER IN STAMPS I ROGER ELIOT STODDARD 1 244 HARRIS AVENUE I NEEDHAM 92, MASS.” This is a copy on white paper. I have another on the seldom-seen blue, which I plan to present to Terry Belanger—printer to printer—in a private ceremony after the meeting.



Marcus has warned me about this, “No Money,” he says. Well, money would tarnish the purity of the award. Can you imagine handing a check to my pal Rollo Silver in 1977? Back home Alice would put her foot down: “Quit gazing at that check, Rollo. Get to the bank and cash it while they’ve still got the money!” Certainly not! This is the Wild Card of awards, unpredictable from year to year. I was incredulous when Helen announced it to me. But, when Michael Russem, president of the Society of Printers, announced it at the December meeting so buddies began to congratulate me, then I believed. (Actually, what I’ve been hoping for is a loving cup, big like the ones you get for winning a sweaty game of tennis, something I can get my arms around when no one is looking. Is that what I get?) Well, no sweat, no cup I guess.

So, I stand with Maya Angelou: “It’s a wonderful treat. It’s a blessing. It’s important to stay in an attitude of gratitude.” {She’s a poet!}—<< National Book Awards, 20 Nov. 2013.>>

About this response, my personal trainer advises: make a selfie-or words to that effect, and I always take his advice, so:

We go back a ways, A-P-H-A and R-E-S, back thirty years to 1984 at Columbia when you invited me to speak. In those days I was creating exhibitions with titles “Materials for the Study of Publishing History”2 and “Marks in Books, Illustrated and Explained.”3 On April 23 in my keynote address to the RBMS I declared that “You can see that there is a morphology of the book,” so on September 29 at Columbia you endured my ruminations on that very theme of “Morphology and the Book?”4 How many of you were there? You printed it in your journal in 1987, thank you, and it was selected by my savvy editor Carol Rothkopf for my Library-Keeper’s Business5 in 2002.

I began in typical Rare Book School fashion: “Now the various species of whales need some sort of popular comprehensive classification.” {Then a great whoop went up from the audience. Afterward I would congratulate Terry Belanger on penetrating my humor.} Just so you can see where I was going, I continue: “I divide the whales into three primary books . . . The Folio whale . . .the Octavo Whale . . . The Duodecimo Whale.”

After expanding on my Melville moment, then you became the first to hear a string of my tough-minded Kleinigkeiten:6

“Whatever they may do, authors do not write books. Books are not written at all. They are man-u-fac-tured by scribes and other artisans, by mechanics and other engineers, and by printing presses and other machines.” (p. 33). That’s even funnier when rendered into French by the other Roger, Merci bien M. Chartier.7

“Books are manufactured to be bought and sold, given and displayed. Sometimes they are read.”

“The newspaper is the invention of the printing press. It is the serial, modular process of the press itself, but set on automatic: two empty chases to be filled with type each week no matter what.

And there is contemporaneity, the ability of the book to camouflage itself to blend in with its surroundings. I want to return to that point later.

Then, in 1995 you invited me to Charlottesville for more at a time when I was drafting entries out of worksheets for my bibliography of early American poetry, so I was learning to my dismay how little is known about early American printing. I thanked Kathy Morgan (that wise woman who enticed RBS to re-locate in Charlottesville, establishing Virginia as the locus for collecting and disseminating the skills needed to safeguard our special collections) and her staff for making it possible for me to collate another 121 early American poems during my visit. So, you received (quite courteously) on 21 October 1995 at Charlottesville: “Oh, Mr. Jefferson-after all these years, why do we know so little about the books of your time?” And I answered my own question: because we haven’t done the work; so I challenged the audience to attribute printers of unsigned books, find the lost copyright entries, work on trade bindings, and the like. That one went the Printing History8—Carol Rothkopf—Library-Keeper9way also, but I’m still waiting for responses.

Finally, on 26 January 2002 here in the public library you invited me to eulogize my beloved colleague Hugh Amory when you presented your Individual Award to him posthumously. You printed that in the journal, but it remains uncollected, and I remain in mourning.

Now about that contemporaneity, assimilation, and camouflage. After all the years of poking and prying, slamming them down on the table, and keeping lists I am still trying to learn something about books. For instance, I have established two special departments in my librarian’s library at home. First is Picture Frames. There are half a dozen publications from European museums because they have bigger and more telling collections than ours. But, Robert Lehman collected frames, and the late genius Christopher Newbery made a handsome 465-page illustrated catalogue (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007)10 identifying genres, national styles, and provenance. If you do not believe that frames are the book bindings of art, just take a look at Newbery’s fine work.

Second, there is Camouflage. Oh, I have Thayer’s pioneering Concealing-Coloration in the Animal Kingdom (1909)11 and DPM Disruptive Pattern Material (2004)12, 2 vols. in their camouflage paper dust jackets and khaki slipcase. It is not easy to find additions, my most recent being Leo Fabrizio’s color photographs of Bunkers (2004)13 showing how the Swiss camouflaged their defenses from the 1880s through 1995. Their battle cries [sic] are “Masking,” “Deception,” and “Fraud” to which one might respond: “One thousand years of peace and freedom, and what do you get?” But their work is arresting and beautiful; sometimes it even fools the eye!

A visit to Paris could concentrate your thoughts on books. Whenever I would pass by the Louvre with its relief decorations in imitation of sea coral, I would think of c. 19 book bindings gilt-stamped with coral rolls. Once when I was strolling out at night I came upon a dress shop with lighted windows displaying the very same fabric I had found Jean de Gonet using in his atelier just a day before. Gonet is the perfect example of a book artisan who reflects contemporary culture for his startling effects. Please spend some time with Antoine Coron’s grand tribute to the great master, Jean de Gonet Relieur (Bibliotheque nationale de France, 2013). Benoit Forgeot will explain it all to you in the current issue (No. 2, 2013) of Bulletin du Bibliophile, and offer a well-deserved tribute to Coron.

I admire Ralph Lauren for his invention and good taste, but I don’t necessarily want to see books inspired by his designs. What I want to see is the influence of Alexander McQueen! How many of you can visualize one of his designs? The librarian who charged out his Savage Beauty (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011) to me from the Fine Arts library told me that she had attended the exhibition, but that it was so crowded that she could hardly see a thing. How many of you were there?

Remember his super-sized hounds tooth fabric or the exploding bird print after Escher? All the interlocking fabric prints and the shocking silhouettes in your face and the slabby lipstick?

We have Nick Waplington’s Working Progress (Damiani, 2013) to document the extreme concentration, joy, and fun he expressed at work and the Met catalogue posing his designs like Greek statues, so books are doing their job of perpetuating life, but what about a double apotheosis of the divine McQueen with bookmaking?

Do my attempts to link books with their contemporary culture get it wrong way round? Or, did man create books in his own image? Are books the most humane of his inventions? So much for Selfie! But you are not through with me yet.

In conclusion, I’m going to tell you a story—meine Grosse Fuge—but, no it’s a short story, and I hope that you will like it. It’s about a totally forgotten volume of printing history and its creator, one of the great American originals. His name is Rush Christopher Hawkins, and he was born in Pomfret, Vermont, on September 14, 183 1, and he died on October 25, 1920 here in New York City.

He was a self-made man, that is, he created himself. With nothing more than a common school education, he prowled around—almost like computer hacking, until he found himself in the law, for which he had a natural aptitude for learning and representation. In one office in 1853 he was able to collect debts that had been considered bad, and that was the start of his fortune. In polite society here in New York he would meet, woo, and marry in June, 1860 Annmary Brown, granddaughter of the ancestor for whom Brown University was named, niece of John Carter Brown the Americanist, and cousin of John Nicholas Brown, who would become a good friend of her husband.

In July, the Ninth New York Volunteers formed up around their young Colonel, and they would become known as ‘Hawkins’s Zouaves’ for their colorful Algerian-style dress uniforms. They fought well and honorably, but their Colonel retired without a promotion, perhaps on account of his attempts to unseat the do-nothing general George B. McClellan. President Lincoln would never forget his meetings with the impetuous young colonel who was to receive only by brevet in 1866 the rank of brigadier general.

Even before he left home and starting at the age of seven Hawkins had collected one sort of book or another, but here in New York at the bookshop of George P. Philes in 1855 he bot a dumb book that would bring on his epiphany: Regulae of Innocent VIII, a slight quarto of a dozen leaves, obviously early-printed but without imprint or date. Researches led him to Panzer and Hain and pointed to Stephan Plannck as printer, but he began “consideration of a larger theme.” “A new and greater motive for collecting had been discovered.”

For him, printing “was in the forefront of all civilizing forces.” “Before the year 1501 printing presses had been set up in about 238 places, all in Europe but one”‘ and “My plan was to obtain if possible a copy of the first book issued from each of the first presses, and failing in that to obtain specimens from them though not of the first issue.” For him the spread of printing meant the dissemination of learning, not just a story of strolling printers and runaway apprentices, but the founding of Western civilization itself.

Hawkins knew that he needed advice as well as supply, so he courted many of the greatest librarians of his day. When he asked our Justin Winsor for the name of the greatest living librarian, without hesitation Henry Bradshaw of the other Cambridge was the response. Later, when he asked the same question of Bradshaw, then Winsor was the response.

Bradshaw and Hawkins were more of a couple than you might think: Bradshaw seeking information from books, Hawkins seeking information about them, so that he would know which ones to buy. Of all his many librarian friends “Bradshaw was the most genial and companionable of them all,” Hawkins would report, and hls library friends were legion, a roster of the most learned. There were Leopold Delisle, genius of the Bibliothèque Nationale and Alfred Pollard, fifth ‘generation’ of his British Museum library friends, genius of all that happened there and leader of the New Bibliography. His friend of longest standing was Father Antonio Ceriani of the Ambrosian Library in Milan.

His book dealer friends were tops: Albert Cohn of Berlin, Anatole Claudin of Paris14, Bernard Quaritch of London, but there was hardly a European city where he did not have a fruitful scout.

So, what did the general accomplish with these recruits for his new army?

In 1884 he issued a report—and here’s your book, printed in 300 copies by Theo Lowe De Vinne: Titles of the First Books from the Earliest Presses established in different Cities, Towns, and Monasteries in Europe, before the end of the Fifteenth Century, with Brief Notes upon their Printers. Illustrated with Reproductions of Early Types and First Engravings of the Printing Press. By Rush C. Hawkins, New-York: J. W. Bouton, 706 Broadway. London: B. Quaritch, 15, Piccadilly. MDCCCLXXXIV. [1884, the foundation year of the Grolier Club]

It is a small folio in beveled cloth boards, 16 leaves of prelims, then [146] pages of text, it has one of those fancy, slightly rubricated title pages typical of De Vinne, who would become virtually printer to the Grolier Club in those days; Hawkins was elected to membership in 1885.

The “First Engravings of the Printing Press” are two variants (1507 and 1520) from the imprints of Josse Bade, and there are 25 illustrations by photo-lithography of full pages or openings from the books, mostly from Hawkins’s own copies.

By then Hawkins had scoured the literature to find 236 books “for which we have reasons for regarding as the earliest of the first printers in the places specified.” He takes you from Mentz [for Mainz] 1454 for B42 to Cetinge, Montenegro 1494 for a Slavonic service book. “Many of the works described have been personally examined; the names of the printers, dates, places of printing, number of leaves, and sometimes of lines, have been verified, and here are correctly stated.”

It is a cut-and-paste job, as you will learn from the “Corrections”—but remember that Hawkins had to say what to cut and where to paste it.

There are plenty of references to standard works, but Hawkins is a presence throughout. He is a visitor to Althorp with access to Lord Spencer’s books. He uses the Bibliotheque Nationale in person, and cites their “Notice des objets exposes,” a source unknown to me, until I found that Leopold Delisle sent a copy to Harvard (rec’d. 4 Dec. 1889). It turns out to be one of those exhibition guides typical of European museums for exhibits that are merely numbered or lettered in the vitrines and galleries.

Perhaps it is the greatest incunable exhibition of all time, starts with 54 block books, moves on to the two Gutenberg Bibles, etc.

Pp. 69-70: “I compared, at the Bibliotheque Nationale, the first books of Besançon, Dole, and Dijon, and ascertained to my own satisfaction that Peter Metlinger must have been the first to set up a press in each of these towns. I found that the books of Besançon and Dijon were printed with the same fonts of types, and the one of Dole with those of the second size used in printing the other two,” he says.

And the lawyer speaks: p. 35: “The many seemingly naked assertions to the effect that this book was the first printed at St. Orso, have crystalized themselves into an accepted fact; and since so many learned writers have accepted this set conclusion, I must confess that I am not bold enough, in this instance at least, to disagree with them.”

And, P, 56: “I have an edition of “St. Augustini Sumrna Soliloquiorum animae ad Deum,” issued by this printer at Winterberg the same year as the above, with the same types. It may have been the first production of his Winterberg press. See plate No. 20 (page of my book).

I leave Hawkins now by quoting Henry Bradshaw’s parting words to him after their final meeting in Cambridge “My dear General I can never forget that you are an American and take an interest in early printing.”

There were lasting effects from the General’s pursuit of the First Books. He continued to acquire them, and in 1909 he persuaded Alfred Pollard to spend about six weeks in Providence in order to make an historiated, British-Museum style catalogue of his collection by then named the Annmary Brown Memorial to honor his late wife. Oxford University Press printed the book for him in 191015. He chose Miss Stillwell for his librarian, and among her works she compiled the Second Census of Incunabula in America, and her former student assistant Frederick R. Goff would edit the Third, and that laid the foundation of the ISTC file. Hawkins’s books are at Brown, if you ever want to see them.

So, I dedicate this moment to Rush Christopher Hawkins, the first American incunabulist and his 1884 book on The Titles of the First Books from the Earliest Presses, and I thank you for the great honor you have given me today.