Where I began with Kingdom of Earth

Early in 2016 I read Tennessee Williams: a Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh, an extensive biography by John Lahr of one of America’s best playwrights. This telling of his life and work shows a singular, visionary artist, haunted by the strange dynamics of his family. He ran through drugs, alcohol, and romantic relationships in a kind of fever dream while producing some of the greatest plays of the twentieth century.

Thinking I may like to create a contemporary fine press edition of a Tennessee Williams’ work, I began reading through his one-act plays, from the collection by New Directions Publishing, THE MAGIC TOWER and Other One-Acts. As I read, I became despondent. The one-acts are wonderful and fantastically compact. As a visual artist, however, interested more in site and setting than character, I could not find a foothold around which to make a work, until I read the one-act Kingdom of Earth originally published in 1967.

The setting for Kingdom of Earth is a character in itself and carries throughout the play a tension full of apocalyptic foreboding. A storm is flooding a nearby river. A property owner upriver is expected to dynamite his levee if the river continues to rise, which will flood the Mississippi Delta farmhouse in which the action is taking place. The sound of the river pervades the play with a constant rising murmur while the three main characters enact a dark dance around one another that touches on issues of race, sexuality, and survival.

Over the summer I visited one of Tennessee Williams’ archives located at Harvard in their Theater Collection at the Houghton Library. While there, I saw several original manuscript versions of the play in addition to an unpublished critical essay on the work. Throughout my research I have also looked at historic images of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. These images have profoundly influenced the direction of my imagery for this work.

I could not be more excited to work on this project and I am so thrilled that New Directions Publishing is granting permission to reprint this work in a contemporary fine press edition. I will be posting more on this project including images from production. Printing starts this week! If you’d like to receive email updates about this work, subscribe here.

First ten copies have shipped!

Thank you so much for all of the interest in my latest book--a contemporary fine press edition of H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour out of Space, with an introduction by S.T. Joshi. The first ten copies have shipped and now we are at work finishing up the rest of the edition, which will ship by March 15th. You can see the book in person at the upcoming New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the Lux Mentis Books booth. Here are a few more pictures from the edition--enjoy! View a complete gallery and ordering information HERE.

The Colour out of Space - A Note on the Binding

In 2011, I wrote a blog post on a binding that I developed for "building the round" into a textblock without having to shape the textblock using a hammer. Why do this, you ask? At the time, I wanted to use the concertina (an accordion fold structure that can serve as a backbone to a sewn book) for its many benefits: adding spacing in an album of photographs, allowing pages to lie flat when opening, and serving as an archival structure from which pages can easily be removed if the book needs rebinding. However, having used concertinas previously, I felt they had a natural tendency toward concavity. Rounding with a hammer is not possible with a concertina as the folds cannot respond to a backing hammer after they are folded, in the way that signatures without a concertina can. I like to take each project from scratch, re-considering the form of the book every time according to the needs of the project. As a result, I came up with the most straightforward structural solution and decided to "build the round in" using the folds of the concertina itself. 

The only limitations to this structure are its need for extreme accuracy in folding of the concertina (if you want to get a nice shape). The round is engineered into the paper by changing the size of the folds. I showed a diagram of this method in my previous blog post from 2011. The measurements can and should be adjusted according to quantity and size of signatures. With my current book, I had to make accurate folds within 1/64 of an inch.

When considering a binding for my recent edition of The Colour out of Space, I was drawn to using this "shaped concertina" structure for several reasons. First, I wanted a fairly traditional binding profile (rounded spine). Second, I wanted the pages to lay as flat as possible, especially because the images spanned two-page spreads. I like the archival properties of the structure in which pages never touch an adhesive of any kind and so can be re-bound with ease if needed. Another benefit for this book came when I decided to use a printed sheet for the concertina. This allowed imagery to be carried through and integrated into the text in subtle ways, subverting the separation of text and image in many fine press books. Here are a few images of the binding in progress - enjoy! Click on images for a larger view. And for the completed book, please visit this page.