Permanent Markers: Aspects of the History of Printing
Friday, May 17, 2013 to Saturday, September 14, 2013

Permanent Markers: Forms & Forces

The items on view on the mezzanine level of the Library explore how print is evident in our lives in variant forms and forces. Among the ways print varies in form are: color, printing medium (paper, textile, metal, ceramic), and methods of making marks (xerography, mimeography, rubber stamps). The forces displayed focus on how print is used to various ends: to transmit clandestine information, to hold value as money, to advertise, to pass the time, to proselytize, to protest . . .


Color Printing

The addition of color to printed books was a laborious process for centuries, necessitating the use of multiple passes through a press or the employment of crews of semi-skilled workers to hand-paint colors on images. Not until the nineteenth century were there mechanical process, such as chromo-lithography and the four-color separation process, that allowed for commercially viable large-scale production of books in color. Before these advances, printers around the world experimented with various methods. Essais d'Impressions en Couleurs (1780) is a book of samples made by P.G. Simon, an official printer to the French government. His two examples, on silk, show how his system (likely a multi-pass method using several different plates) produced a harmonious result.


Haptic Potential: Fabric

While paper and similar plant fiber, such as hemp and papyrus, are the most often used medium for printing, technological advances have made it possible for many other surfaces to be marked by printers. Three examples show how woven fabric, arguably the closest analog to paper in shape and composition, has been used for special purposes. To commemorate a doctoral thesis defense by one Guillelmus Chaze Chazariensis in a French Jesuit College in the late seventeenth century, an official document was printed on silk. A much more modest fabric, muslin, was used for two items for children produced in the United States: "The Love of Truth Mark the Boy, a Poem about the Young George Washington" (ca. 1806) and "A Swarm of Bees Worth Hiving", arebus printed in black on white cloth, in which the word "be" is represented by the image of a honeybee (“[bee] patient, [bee] prayerful, [bee] modest.”) This charming item was printed in the United States sometime between 1870 and 1915.


Haptic Potential: Metal and Ceramic

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Parole in liberta futuriste olfattive tattili termiche. Rome: Edizioni futuriste di poesia, 1932


Putting letters and images on surfaces less flexible than paper and textiles was a challenge that some adventurous printers took up over the past couple of centuries. Advances in technology with ink and lithography allowed the application of text to metal and ceramics. Perhaps the most famous metal book is the Futurist monument Parole in libertà, Tullio d’Albisola’s illustrated setting of a collection of F. T. Marinetti’s poems, completed in 1932 using a technique borrowed from commercial metal packaging. Less well known is the sequel, L’Anguria lirica, with poems by Albisola, designed by Bruno Munari. Displayed as a counterpart is a recent acquisition by the Beinecke Library, a can of Madam C. J. Walker’s “Wonderful Hair & Scalp Preparation” from the 1920s – an example of a commercial object that has been preserved as evidence of the culture of the Harlem Renaissance.

The ceramic items are part of the wide history of printing, thought they are products of a very different process, transferware, in which an image and text were printed using a traditional copper-plate method, but tissue paper was used to transfer the ink to a ceramic surface. The tea service set bears the text of the poem “The Absent-Minded Beggar,” written by Rudyard Kipling to raise money for soldiers fighting in the Boer War. It was manufactured in Burslem, England, by James Macintyre & Company between 1904 and 1913.


Paperwork: Forms and Money.

In addition to books, the history of printing can be traced through utilitarian objects. Perhaps the most ubiquituous printed paper objects created for daily use are forms and paper money. A collection of notarial forms printed in sixteenth-century Mexico contains various documents concerning quotidian concerns such as debts owed by one party to another and sales of property. On display are a blank form for a “carta de poder” or power of attorney along with another copy completed in manuscript.

A form from a later period was designed and printed by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1734. This generic receipt records the sale by Robert Edgill, "a Barbadus marchent," of "negro boy Bay" to Aaron Leaming for 25 pounds, ten shillings, dated June 6, 1734.

Paper money often presents curious variations of printing technology, as unusual fonts and embellishments were used to guard against counterfeiters. As seen on examples of eighteenth-century American continental currency, fleurons and decorations added difficult-to-reproduce marks to simple paper bills.

German bank note designed by Herbert Bayer. Weimar: Landesregierung, 1923


More colorful and in wildly exaggerated denominations are German bank notes (“Notgeld”) designed by Herbert Bayer for use in Weimar during a period of hyperinflation in August 1923. An interesting counterpart is a Tibetan banknote of 100 Sraṅ.


Printing and Embossing for the Blind

It is important to remember that, while the products of printing are most often used for visual engagement, the process produces objects that can be experienced by touch. The most useful application of this aspect of printing has been as boos for the visually impaired. Before the standardization of Braille, a number of printers created books for the blind that simply embossed standard letter forms on a thick paper surface. On view is an issue of the Students' Magazine edited by pupils of the Pennsylvania Institution for the Instruction of the Blind in 1838.

Embossing has uses as an art technique as well, as seen in the haunting pages of Claire Illouz’s setting of a passage from Moby Dick, The Whiteness ([2008]). The image, which can be read only in raking light, plays with the motives of form and void, sight and blindness.


Amateur Newspapers

A fascinating chapter in the story of printing and the impulse to control the means of production occurred in the United States in latter half of the nineteenth-century. In 1867, Benjamin O. Woods marketed the first inexpensive hand-inking treadle press invented by William Tuttle, a Boston druggist. “The Novelty,” effectively made printing available to the middle classes, leading to a boom of newspaper titles in the 1870s and 1880s as amateur editors, mainly boys in their teens, produced their own publications. While many of these were simple, four-page productions, filled with local news, jokes and puzzles, others were more elaborate, preserving news about Western territories. The Midnight Sun from 1889 published by George H. Hotchkiss of Evanston, Illinois, a passenger onboard the Steamship George W. Elder, on a return trip to Tacoma, Washington, from a voyage to Alaska. Other examples on view are The Fire Fly (1877) and The Lilliputian (J. H. White, 1877). The Amateur Newspaper Reporter and Printers' Journal, published in East Randolph, N.Y., by O.M. Jefferds in 1878, provides evidence of the genre’s growth into a national mania.


Clandestine Publications

In 2011, four similar little books entered the library’s collection – a group of unassuming titles that share a secret. These tarnschriften or camouflaged books, all in French, bear the publication date of 1942 and have titles that identify them as Almanach 1943; Dictionnaire Poucet: Français-Allemand; Petite Anthologie des Poètes Français; and Legislation sur les Dommages de Guerre by R.S. de Saint-Prix. But they all have the same interior pages – filled with instructions for sabotaging German factories, equipment, and automobiles.

Another source of evidence about the French resistance during World War II is a collection of five scrapbooks containing clippings of articles that appeared in a local newspaper in Neuilly-sur-Seine while under German occupation. The printed articles contain language that is (coercively) sympathetic to the German cause. Annotations that “correct” the printed accountsshows the true nature of these scrapbooks.


An Example of Collection Building: Maurice Darantière, Printer to the Modernists

Book collections gain strength when they contain examples sufficient to allow for many angles of research. A fine example can be found in a bookshelf of titles printed in the 1920s and 1930s. While these copies of Ulysses, Spring and All, The Lunar Baedecker, and The Making of Americans entered the collections at Yale in various ways, they all bear a shared genealogy: they were all printed in the shop of Maurice Darantière in Dijon, France.

Among Darantière's imprints: Ulysses by James Joyce, Spring and all by William Carlos Williams, Lunar Baedecker by Mina Loy, Village: As it Happened Through a Fifteen Year Period by Robert McAlmon, The Making of Americans, Being a History of a Family's Progress by Gertrude Stein, Does Capital Punishment Exist? by Hanns Sachs, and Kora and Ka by H.D.

Two curiosities, also issued by Darantière, add further evidence about his workshop: Le Carnet de rêves by André Beucler from 1927 and Marie, ou, le premier amour de Murger by Johannès Gros from 1934. These novels are, in fact, catalogues of typefaces available from Darantière. Each page is set in a different font.


Playing Cards

No survey of the history of printing is complete without a look into the world of playing cards. The Cary Collection of Playing Cards brought to Yale a magnificent group of decks of cards, related ephemera and printing blocks documenting the evolution of card games, the cultures built around them, and printing.

Among the earliest evidence of printed cards in the Cary collection are uncut sheets recovered from bookbindings. A fine example is a set from Vienna from the 1590s, attributed to Christof Foster, showing the standard German suit signs: Hearts, Bells, Acorns, and Leaves. A pack of miniature American cards from the mid-nineteenth century was acquired with the original printing blocks, evidence that woodblocks were still one of the most widely used printing techniques for cards in that period of swift technological change. The last example is a pack printed on aluminum, from the Aluminum Manufacturing Company in Two Rivers, Wisconsin.



The landscapes of the printed word and image underwent radical changes in the 1970s and 1980s. Despite the so-called “Iron Curtain,” a single impulse drove this remarkable transformation in both East and West: self-publishing. Seeking to express opinions not heard in the mainstream media, groups of all kinds flooded the streets with a deluge of self-published newspapers, broadsides, posters, and ephemera that flowed together in an immense worldwide network for the dissemination of alternative views.

New technologies played an important part in making this possible. Self-publishing in the East — known as “samizdat” — had less to do with access to copy machines, which was strictly limited in the Soviet Bloc, at least initially, and relied instead on an antiquated technology, the typewriter, to disseminate voices that were not only unwelcome, but often officially banned.

In East Germany, samizdat publishers also reached for other, more artistic techniques of printing. Silkscreens, dry-point etchings, woodcuts, and other kinds of prints could be produced with relatively simple equipment, small enough to fit in an apartment or an out-of-the-way workshop or gallery. On display are examples from two major centers of East German samizdat publishing, Anschlag from Leipzig, and Schaden from Berlin.


Playing with Technology

Experimenting with printing techniques, whether common or obscure, has gone hand in hand with artistic innovation for centuries. Some of the more playful of these projects took place through the intentional misuse of mass production technologies that were usually used for far more mundane purposes.

Take for example the samizdat review Caligo, published by two punk rockers from the East Berlin underground scene in the early 1980s, Henryk Gericke and Ronald Lippok, printed on a Ruminor offset machine, a bizarre and antiquated technology that relied on “a kind of open microwave oven”. The limited runs of Caligo thus had “nothing to do with bibliophilic conceits,” Gericke remembers, but was instead the result of a means of production as surrealistic as the contents of the magazine itself.

Offset printing was behind Fin de Copenhague, issued in Copenhagen by Le Bauhaus imaginiste in 1957. Thisexperiment in the artistic practice of détournement resulted from a spontaneous early collaboration between the French film-maker, poet, and cultural critic Guy Debord and the Danish painter Asger Jorn in 1957. “Détournement” refers to an act of scavenging, of subversive appropriation, in which everyday objects are turned to against the system that produced them. Fin de Copenhague has covers made from discarded printing forms, or “blanks,” detritus from the rotary presses used to publish Danish newspapers.



Do-It-Yourself: The urge to snatch print culture away from the establishment suffused the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s. One of the first major movements of the postwar era, Lettrism embraced the DIY ethos early on, calling for the liberation of the creative power of youth. Signed by Maurice Lemaître, a copper printing plate from an issue of Ur comes with instructions for readers to use any technique to produce any text or image they like and to print it. “You will then have your very own original Lemaître.” Used in the printing of Ur, the handsomely carved woodblocks on display may have been out of reach for most of us, but they still speak the same language to artists and scholars who can find them now in the Bismuth-Lemaître Papers at Beinecke Library.


DIY: Rubber Stamps

Do-it-yourself printing could be as simple as making rubber stamps that can be used to reproduce texts, create graphic patterns, or be collaged with other media. As early as the 1910s, avant garde writers were using rubber stamp kits to add unique looks to their publications, as seen in Andrei Kruchenykh's collection of poetry, Vzorvalʹ, issued in Saint Petersburg by Izd-vo Kuzʹmina i Dolinskago, probably around 1913. A boom in the use of rubber stamps occurred in the 1960s and 1970s, when they were marketed to hobbyists. An issue of the San Francisco periodical Dadazine from the 1970s was composed entirely of stamps.

Erica Van Horn, Gumigas Zimogs: A World Guide to Rubber Stamps. London: Coracle, [1996]


Erica Van Horn’s Gumigas Zimogs: A World Guide to Rubber Stamps (Coracle, [1996]) includes the words for “rubber stamp” individually printed in numerous languages, representing countries around the world. Actual stamps, such as those made by the artist Jenny Holzer and the “internazionale situazionista laboratorio sperimentale” add to Beinecke’s collection of the technology of mark-making.


Reproduction: Mimeography and Xerography

The term “Mimeograph Revolution” refers broadly to the mid- to late twentieth-century flourishing of very small independent presses publishing poetry and poets’ collaborations with artists. In the 1940s, William Everson used the mimeograph machine at Camp Angel, the World War II conscientious objectors’ camp in Waldport, Oregon, to publish several small books of his own poetry and that of his fellow objectors, including Kenneth Patchen. The first edition of his X War Elegies (Untide Press, 1943) complements other productions of mimeo technology found in the collections of the Beinecke: a socialist party songbook (Sing! Labor and Socialist Songs, Los Angeles: Workers Party, 1945 Sept) and a volume of notes from a seminar conducted by Carl Jung, printed in Zurich in 1925.

The availability of inexpensive photocopying in the 1970s (often referred to simply by the name of the primary commercial vendor, Xerox) led to a wave of experimentation, such as this fine example by a noted practitioner of the format, Louise Neaderland: Vanishing Act (New York: I.S.C.A., 1982).


The Latest Technology - Two Counterpoints

Emilio Mario Dolfi, La decla[ma]zione musicale. [Trieste], Bottega di Epeo, 1923


Two groups of books show different, yet sympathetic approaches to artistic experimentation. Though products of different places and times, they share the intent to adapt new technology. The first set of books was created by Giorgio Carmelich, a precocious young Italian who promoted his own movement, "Epeo," and became a painter of some renown before dying in 1929 at the age of 22. On view are two fine examples of his books, both created using a simple form of mimeography or stencil printing: La declamazione musicale (Bottega di Epeo, 1923) and Parco delle attrazioni (Bottega di Epeo, 1923) with text by Emilio Mario Dolfi, for which Carmelich created a woodcut.

A House of Dust by Alison Knowles, from 1967, engaged a cutting-edge format. It has the claim of being the first book generated using a computer program. Created in conjunction with James Tenney, a composer, the resulting text was printed on continuous feed paper, a format well-known to computers users from the 1970s through the 1980s.


Type, Sew, Tear: Alternative Methods for Making Marks

The book form is not just a container for content—it contributes, along with imagery and text, to the meaning of the whole work. Artists experiment with the book to find new ways to make marks on surfaces. In doing so, the notion that “form is content” becomes evident as poets and bookmakers create book works and textual objects in which the text is inextricable from its medium.

The work of Buzz Spector calls attention to the complexities of our relationships to books and to the worlds of language and knowledge they represent. On view is a recent work, White Insistance, based on a poem by Michael Burkard, one of an edition of six (Sarabande Books, 2009). After all 128 pages had been printed and bound, Spector tore each page by hand, leaving a textural, almost archaeological object that can still be read as a book.

Jen Bervin’s textually engaged textile work, The Dickinson Composites (Granary Books, 2010) is evidence of her large-scale hand-sewn representations of the extra-textual marks in the work of Emily Dickinson. The editioned set seen here explores the ways in which artist and writer transform and re-imagine mundane objects and daily actions to create aesthetically, spiritually, or emotionally charged images, forms, and texts. Laura Davidson’s charming rendering of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons (Laura Davidson, 2007), one of the writer's most approachable texts, reifies Stein’s famous contemplation of objects object.


Ephemera: Trade Cards and Rent Cards

Rent party cards, ca. 1920s-50s. From: Langston Hughes Papers


Inexpensive paper, ink and labor has made it possible to print millions of printed items that were intended to have very short lives. Among these are advertisements and all sorts of calling cards. One role of a research library is to collect examples of printed ephemera that can often give us a vivid glimpse into historical periods. Among the collections in the Beinecke Library are two groups with ongoing resonance. The first is a batch of card from the 1880s depicting scenes form Uncle Tom’s Cabin intended to attract theater-goers to stage production of this enormously popular story. The second group comes from the twentieth century: rent party cards. Collected by Langston Hughes to document social life in Harlem in the 1920s, these cards were invitations to evenings of music and refreshments – with an admission fee that went to help tenants pay their rent. Hughes gathered other examples in the 1940s and 1950s as the tradition carried on in spirit.


Bagism - or - The Most Ephemeral of All.

In its quest to document the myriad surfaces on which the creative human impulse can act, the Beinecke Library has acquired some materials that may, at first glance, seem outside the remit of its mission. At the other end of the spectrum, in both intent and form, from the eighth-century Buddhist prayers that opened this exhibition is a collection of shopping bags from large department stores. These 212 printed paper bags, dating from 1975 through around 2005, were added to the library to document the culture of fashion and shopping, a relatively new direction in the research agenda. But a close look quickly reveals that the technology is very much the same – the application of ink to paper – over and over again – printing in everyday life.



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