Thursday, May 24, 2007

the Perishable Press Limited

I have previously mentioned that one of my favorite small presses is Toothpaste Press which was most active from during the 1970s and 1980s. I wish to add to this small list the Perishable Press Limited. Brainchild of Walter Hamady and located in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, this small press has made an incredible contribution to the advance of “book art” in the 20th century. Begun in 1964, the press has defied categorization. Known for their fine hand-made paper, distinguished typography, and unique colophons, the Perishable Press challenges traditional notions of the book. Perishable Press Limited is best known for their work with Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Paul Blackburn, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. However, the books I have to discuss are by lesser known poets; George Oppen, J V Cunningham, Carl Thayler (and a rare gem by William Stafford).

The number and size of chapbooks by Perishable Press, a name taken from the notion that books – like people – are perishable and limited, make them rare to find since few were printed for each project. In the case of Oppen, Cunningham, and Thayler, poets whose work I never read or had only heard of, it’s a precious moment indeed to hold a finely made book of some of their rarely published work.

Some Salt J. V. Cunningham (1967) 8” X 5”. Olive green cover. 14 pages. Single sided. On hand-made paper. 250 copies printed, letter press.

Eleven Untitled Poems William Stafford (1968) 8” X 5 3/4”. Dark Blue with image on front cover. Uncut pages. #123 of 250 numbered copies. On hand-made paper. Letter pressed.

The Drivers Carl Thayler (1969) 8 3/4” X 5 1/2”. Grey cover with impression of title on front cover. Etching inside front by Jack Damer. One of only 130 for sale. 11 poems. Dedicated to Toby Olson.

Alpine George Oppen (1969) 9 1/2” X 6 1/2”. Tan cover with title imprinted onto front cover. 4 poems. 250 copies printed, letter press.

The dedication of Oppen’s chapbook speaks to all of us who are interested in the work of the letter press printers and “book artists” across the nation. ‘To those who as poets and publishers have rescued a nation’s literature”. Indeed so.

1 comment:

Beth Kanell said...

Enjoyed your piece on Perishable Press. I'd add that the press was the creation of both Walter Hamady and his wife Mary Laird Hamady. Might be of interest for you to note that Hamady was responsible in large part for inviting Claire Van Vliet of Janus Press to Wisconsin... you can still see some similarities in Van Vliet's use of handmade paper, although she has created her own directions of fine press work.

We'll be writing more about Janus Press at -- would be honored to have you link to us, and will be mentioning your blog(s) also.

Beth Kanell, Kingdom Books