I Was Wrong. Ish.

In early December, I wrote a post that generated the most comment activity on this blog…so far.

I created a set of rules; guidelines for what a binder should bind if left to his or her own devices. I’ll reproduce the list below for easy reference, embarrassing though it is.

The Rules

  • Bind books in English if you live in an Anglophone country
  • Follow the flag: an axiom in the book trade with few exceptions. Ex. US author, book must be published in the US.
  • Is the author still in print? You’re on the right track.
  • Were you forced to read the book in school? This is a good sign.
  • Is the author or illustrator alive? Don’t risk it.
  • Do not bind books on books, collecting, reference books, or anything of the sort.
  • Avoid Franklin Library and Easton Press.
  • Is the book signed or inscribed by the author? Do not bind.
  • Does the book have the original dust jacket? Do not bind.
  • Is the book collectible in original condition?

I was wrong.

At the time, I had the collecting market in 20th and 21st century first editions on my brain. That’s been part of my day job for 14 years so far, so you’ll have to forgive me. It’s a kind of brainwashing. Forget first editions (not ALWAYS, but for the moment). I know design binders love fine press books. I am aware that binders love to sink a needle into fresh signatures of quality paper. Certainly, that is one reason to love fine press books. But what about the content? I’m fussy.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about the upcoming InsideOUT exhibit (thank you for changing the name!). In order to do that, I have spent quite a bit of time looking at fine press books, including a painfully brief visit to the Fine Press Book Fair. I have concluded that I should toss out most of the above. I still think Franklin Library and Easton Press should be shunned. I still believe you should not bind books on books, binding, printers, typographers, and the like, unless for your personal collection. I still think you should bind books in the language of the country where you practice. I’ll add that if any of you bind yet another copy of Fleurs de Mal, I’m going to puke. Binding that title isn’t a requirement for becoming a binder, is it? It sure seems like it. Please stop.

Anyway, contemporary fine press books; I think I’m starting to “get” them. I’m still pretty opinionated (stay tuned for the inevitable I Was Wrong, part 2 post). There still has to be a magical marriage of typography, layout, art, and text to make me care. If the binding is just right in design and craftsmanship, I’ll melt. One book in the InsideOUT catalog hit me just right. I’ve entered the lottery for purchase of the bindings, which occurs on May 14th.

I’m pretty excited about the lottery. I’ve commissioned bindings (which aren’t ready yet), but I’ve never purchased one. A lottery may seem like a weird way to make my first purchase, if I am so lucky as to have my request for that binding drawn before anyone else’s. I feel like I’m going about my entry into collecting backwards. Don’t most collectors start with buying bindings from a dealer? Maybe I’ll do that one day, too.



Contemporary Bindings of Private Press Books, Part 2

Here are the books that have been bound, and the number of copies of each book submitted. The binders were giving so many great choices. These are all beautiful publications.

Printed in the United Kingdom


E. R. Weiss – the Typography of an Artist (2)

E R Weiss: the Typography of an Artist by Gerald Cinamon

Steel Horizon – poems of the North Sea (5)

Linocuts by Nick Wonham

Danger and Destiny – folktales of the Brothers Grimm (2)

danger grimm
Hand-colored woodcut by Fritz Kredel.


Palladio’s Homes (2)

Illustrations by Carlo Rapp
Illustrations by Carlo Rapp

Tonge’s Travel (2)

Watercolors by John Watt
Watercolors by John Watt

Antigone (2)

Images by Inger Lawrance.
Images by Inger Lawrance


See images at web site above

Lens of Crystal (2)

Richard Barnfield’s Sonnets (1)

Land, Poems selected by Eric Williams, illustrated by Garrick Palmer (1)

Taliesin and the Mockers (1)

The Journey of Thomas the Rhymer (1)



Lost and Found (3)

Wood engravings by Rachel Reckitt

Midwinter (6)

Wood engravings by Miriam Macgregor
Wood engravings by Miriam Macgregor

Printed in North America


The Moonstone (1)
Illustrations by Stan Washburn
Illustrations by Stan Washburn
Memoirs of Benjamin Franklin (1)
Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks (3)
Photographs by Michael Kenna
Photographs by Michael Kenna
Journey Round My Room by Xavier de Maistre (3)
Photographs by Ross Anderson
Photographs by Ross Anderson

The Wasteland (1)

Images taken from R. B. Kitaj If Not, Not, 1975 - 1976 Oil and black chalk on canvas 60 x 60 inches (152.40 x 152.40 cm) Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Images taken from
R. B. Kitaj
If Not, Not, 1975 – 1976
Oil and black chalk on canvas
60 x 60 inches (152.40 x 152.40 cm)
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
The Silverado Squatters (1)
Photographs by Michael Kenna
Photographs by Michael Kenna


Simon Brett: An Engraver’s Progress (3)



Mayflies of the Drifters Region (4)
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec
The Bicycle Diaries (5)
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanliec
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec
New York Revisited (1)
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanliec
Color wood engravings by Gaylord Schanilec


CIRCUS:The Artist as Saltimbanque (3)

Illustrations by Walter Bachinski
Illustrations by Walter Bachinski


King of the Alps (1)

Illustrations by Abigail Rorer
Illustrations by Abigail Rorer

Of Woodland Pools, Spring-Holes, and Ditches (3)

Illustrations by Abigail Rorer
Illustrations by Abigail Rorer

Which edition of Ulysses?

A binder I know once told me that he has always wanted to bind James Joyce’s Ulysses, but didn’t know which edition or editions were suitable or affordable. I think I said I’d send him a list of editions. I’m almost positive I didn’t.

To make up for failing to fulfill a promise, I present this handy guide to editions of Ulysses:

  • Paris: Shakespeare and Co, 1922. First edition. 1000 copies in three limitations (all bound in Aegean blue wraps):
    • 100 were printed on Dutch handmade paper, numbered, and signed by Joyce
    • 150 large paper copies numbered 101- 250, printed on Vergé d’Arches, not signed
    • 750 were numbered 251-1000 and printed on a lesser grade of handmade paper, not signed
  • London: Egoist Press, 1922. Purportedly first edition printed in England (except that it was actually printed in Dijon for UK distribution). Pirated edition. 2000 copies.
  • New York: Roth, 1929. Except that it says no such thing on the title page. Pirated edition, unauthorized by Joyce. 2-3000 copies.
  • Hamburg/Paris/Bologna: The Odyssey Press, 1932. First hardcover edition. Printed on India paper.
  • New York: Random House, 1934
  • New York: Limited Editions Club, 1935. Illustrated by Henri Matisse. 1500 copies:
    • 250 signed by both Matisse and Joyce
    • remaining 1250 signed only by Matisse
  • London: John Lane, The Bodley Head, 1936. First authorized edition printed in England, designed by Eric Gill. 1000 copies in two limitations:
    • 100 copies on mould-made paper and bound in vellum, signed by Joyce
    • 900 copies on japon vellum and bound in green buckram, not signed

So here’s the problem: all of these editions are rare and expensive. I’d go with Random House without dust jacket. That one is probably the easiest to find and least expensive.

Forget what I said about follow-the-flag. Joyce is an exception. He was Irish, but spent most of his time in Paris and Trieste.

Happy hunting!