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2016 Conference: The Black Art & Printers' Devils articles:

Pasadena Ghost Signs Tour

Barbara Hauser

Paul Shaw. (All photos by Barbara Hauser)

Paul Shaw discusses the versal letters with uncial features behind him at the First Congregational Church in Old Pasadena. (Barbara Hauser)


9:00 am-1:00 pm  sunday, october 9

Legacy of Letters Lettering Walk in Pasadena with Paul Shaw 
and a Visit to Archetype Press 


Paul Shaw led fifteen conference attendees on a three-hour, two-mile walking tour of Pasadena, just northwest of San Marino where the Huntington is located. The tour focused on Old Pasadena, the city’s original commercial center. Much of its rich architectural heritage has been preserved thanks to strict city guidelines for renovation in this historic district.  [Read more]

Ghosts & the Machine

Ruby Carlson


A microscopic organism and a camera obscura, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, No. 42, Monday, December 14, 1668. (Leslie Smith)


11:15 am-12:15 pm  saturday, october 8

Rachael Scarborough King: Samuel Johnson and Spectral Evidence ♠ 
Leslie Smith: Reports of Private Wonder and Public Astonishment


[King was unable to attend the conference; her presentation was not delivered]

Leslie Smith’s research of seventeenth-century oddities in print embarked from a desire to map thought and to understand both the process of seeing in private versus public, and how that seeing is represented from a historical perspective. To do this, she studied diagrams, drawings and plates from texts that described accounts of curious observation, like in Nathaniel Crouch’s (Richard or Robert Burton, pseud.) The Surprising Miracles of Nature and Wonder (1683). In one such plate, spectators are publicly observing an array of cosmic spectacles in the sky—blazing stars, light rays, and clouds. The method used to depict these spectacles informs contemporary viewers of the visual experience itself, as does the way in which the onlookers are shown huddled in groups, with their fingers pointed towards the sky, informs us of the historical experience of observation.  [Read more]

Spirit Communications

Mike Garabedian

Early Ouija Advertisement, Lippincott Monthly Magazine, 1891 (Jesse R. Erickson)

Early Ouija Advertisement, Lippincott Monthly Magazine, 1891 (Jesse R. Erickson)

9:30-11:00 am saturday, october 8

Jesse R. Erickson: The Magical and Mysterious Faces of Ouija: The Aesthetic History of the Ouija Board  ♣  Art Seto: A Tale of Chinese Oracle Bones, Emperors, Superstitions, the Invention of Paper, and Printing: Their Relation to Playing Cards ♣  Sally Hildreth: Electric Mysticism: Astrology and the Gutenberg Galaxy

Jessse Erickson offered an ethnobibliographical approach to the aesthetic history of the Ouija Board, arguing that the materiality and material production of texts like the Ouija Board influence how we perceive things like race and culture. Following a brief consideration of the nineteenth-century ideological and artifactual antecedents of the device (i.e., spiritualism, theosophy, and the occult; planchettes and “The Witch Board”), he surveyed instantiations of Ouija Boards from the late nineteenth-century to the twenty-first century, paying particular attention to different modes of printing and production and the ways in which ever-shifting typography and designs conveyed specific meanings about certain ethnic and racial categories in particular social-historical moments.  [Read more]

Sorcerer’s Apprentice

Josef Beery


W.J. Ibbett’s handwritten bookplate on his personal copy of his first book, Poems by Antaeus, 1889. Photo of Ibbett adhered to the frontispiece position of the same copy. (Norman Colbeck Collection, Special Collections, University of British Columbia)


3:15-4:15 pm  saturday, october 8

Casey Smith: Ibbett Did It: Piquerism, Poetry, and Letterpress Printing
E. Haven Hawley: William Berry: Publisher, Scoundrel, and Spiritualist 


This fascinating session presented by Casey Smith and Haven Hawley (with Heather Smedberg as her surrogate) could have as well been named, “unsolved mysteries.”  [Read more]

Huntington Library Imaging Center Tour: Lights! Camera! Magic!

Vicke Selk

Dr. L. Bendikson with camera for microphotography. Undated. photCL 107 vol13 pg26 (140). (The Huntington Library)

Dr. L. Bendikson with camera for microphotography. Undated. photCL 107 vol13 pg26 (140). (The Huntington Library)


10:00 am-noon  friday, october 7

The Spectral Arts of Dr. Lodewyk Bendikson at the Huntington: 
A Presentation by Laura Stalker, Avery Deputy Director of the Huntington
Library and John Sullivan, Head of Imaging

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

                                                                                                              —Arthur C. Clark

Dr. Lodewyk Bendikson was a pioneer and leader in the development of forensic photography and the head of the photography department of the Huntington Library from 1928 until his retirement in 1943. By way of introduction to the work of Bendikson, Laura Stalker began her presentation with a brief history of the development of the Huntington Library. George Watson Cole, a leader in the library profession, was appointed by Henry Huntington in 1915 as the first librarian and cataloger of the rapidly growing Huntington book collection housed at that time in New York City. The collection was relocated to San Marino, California, upon completion in 1920 of the newly constructed Huntington Library building located on the grounds of the Huntington estate. It was noted that Huntington Library will be celebrating its one hundredth anniversary in 2019.  [Read more]

Getty Center Tour: The Art of Alchemy Exhibit

Nina Schneider


Alchemists revealing secrets from the Book of Seven Seals. Detail from The Ripley Scroll, ca. 1700. (Manly Palmer Hall collection of alchemical manuscripts, circa 1500-1825. Getty Research Institute)


9:00 am-1:00 pm  sunday, october 9

David Brafman, Rhiannon Knol, and Marcia Reed welcomed our group to the Getty Research Institute. We split into two groups, one following David into the GRI’s gallery, the other into the GRI’s conference room to view about a dozen artists’ books to which Marcia referred in her plenary talk relating to the conference theme. The exhibition wasn’t yet open to the public, so this was a sneak peek of the Art of Alchemy. [Read more]

Logo Meaning Revealed!

Nina Schneider



Thanks to everyone who attended this year’s APHA conference at the Huntington. In the months and days leading up to it, we represented the theme, The Black Art & Printers’ Devils: The Magic, Mysticism, and Wonders of Printing History, with a logotype that individuals always asked about. Did it have something to do with Prince? Aleister Crowley? International currency?  [Read more]

Conference Registration is Open

Sara T. Sauers

Depicting Alchemical Process Claudio de Domenico Celentano (Neapolitan, fl. early 17th cen) Gouache on paper  [Book of alchemical formulas] (Naples, 1606), pp. 6-7 950053.123

APHA’s 41st Annual Conference, The Black Art and Printers’ Devils: The Magic, Mysticism, and Wonders of Printing History is now open for registration. The Huntington Library’s new Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center in San Marino, California, will be the main venue. Our Southern California wizards have put together what promises to be a spellbinding program: a keynote featuring the book-collecting sleight-of-hand artist Ricky Jay, enchanting tours, a wonder-full book fair, and captivating presentations that explore printing history through the lens of magic, mysticism, secrecy, spiritualism, animism and alchemy Please join us!

2016 Conference Call for Papers

Nina Schneider


The American Printing History Association is pleased to announce a call for papers (pdf) for our 2016 conference at the Huntington Library, October 7-8. We are very excited about this year’s theme: “The Black Art & Printers’ Devils: The Magic, Mysticism, and Wonders of Printing History.” We hope that you will consider submitting a proposal for a presentation or demonstration.  Proposals are due March 15.  [Read more]

ISO: APHA Conference Logo

2016-apha-logoI attended the International Antiquarian Book Faire in Pasadena CA today, and I saw your postcard advertisement for The Black Art and Printers’ Devils event. I am fascinated by the symbol on the card, would you be so kind as to tell me what it is and what you know of it? 

[Read more]