for the next week. Hitting the road this morning and heading back to the PA. We'll be back to it (at least for a bit) on the first.



Recently I received an email from a friend, in reference to these “Limit Test” blog posts, where he asked me what I thought about the idea of editions and POD (print-on-demand) and ebooks. Are they the unlimited edition? Or does the idea of the edition no longer apply?

Those are interesting questions. The main thread of these posts has been about physical book-objects and their production, but this is an interesting idea that is worth pausing and considering. Does new technology provide an avenue for rethinking the edition?

POD books are set up so that once designed, they sit on a server somewhere, always available, and when someone orders one, a copy is printed, bound, and sent to the buyer. The advantages of this are obvious. But is that an unlimited edition? Is it really any different from a book mass-produced in an “unlimited edition” that goes through multiple printings, theoretically as many as it can until no one ever wants to buy a copy again? Is POD different because you can produce a single copy at a time, instead of thousands? Or is that just a question of scale? POD could also be used to produce unique books….

And then ebooks. Does the fact that they are not physical objects, but digital objects, exactly and endlessly repeatable, mean that the concept of the edition does not apply? One could, in theory, produce a limited edition ebook. There could be one master file from which x number of copies would be made, and all of those copies could have code inserted that would prevent them from being copied again. Or something to that effect. Someone will try this at some point, if they haven’t already. (And then there’s William Gibson’s Agrippa (a book of the dead).)

But what about an ebook in its (now) normal, infinitely downloadable state? Edition or not? One answer: it’s not a real thing, so the idea of the edition does not apply. That answer doesn’t quite work, because if an ebook could be made in a limited edition, then the idea does apply, whether it’s used or not.

Another answer: it’s the same as POD, the same as a mass-produced book that undergoes multiple printings. It is an edition, the closest thing that we’ve developed to the “unlimited edition.”

Maybe “unlimited edition” isn’t the right term. What about “not-limited edition” or “open edition?” As discussed in earlier post “unlimited” and “not-limited” editions are paradoxical terms. So maybe we need to throw them out all together—maybe there is no limit, no edition. An ebook that is not editioned is not limited. Producing multiple copies is not synonymous with “editioning”—which inherently implies a limit.

We can produce an object in multiple without “editioning” it?! What a relief! Thank you, ebooks!



This post is speculative in nature, a loosely connected brainstorming going off of the question at the end of the last post: What if the edition is not conceived in terms of a constraint at all, but as the generative prompt for the piece? (Side note: Are a “constraint” and “generative prompt” two different things?)

One example put forth in a much earlier post was the idea of a time-based edition: an edition consists of how ever many copies can be produced within a certain amount of time. And then the question: do just finished, “good” copies count, or does everything made within that time count? Do the traditional rules of editioning still apply?

[Thinking about more ideas, a bunch of possible ways to determine the number of edition come to mind: essentially random or found number systems. But that approach just limits the number. What I like about the time-based idea is that is has would influence how the object is produced and how the edition is selected at the end.]

The edition as a concept is interesting in the sense that it defines a “single” object as existing in multiple, both one and many. And not the theoretical multiple of the infinitely reproducible, but a multiplicity that can be defined, that actually exists simultaneously.

What if one counted number of images made instead of objects produced? And the entire edition was collapsed onto a single sheet of paper? (Like a Warhol “painting?”) What if the edition immediately displayed its variance?

What if the edition comprised every print that could be made until the matrix is destroyed through use? Or what about every print made after the matrix breaks down?

What if the edition contained every print that didn’t match the master of B.A.T.?

What if the print initially occurs as a single matrix printed on a giant piece of paper, that is then divided up later? What would determine those divisions?

What if atmospheric or situational variables were combined to produce the parameters of a variant edition? Ex: the amount of people in a given space, what the temperature is in that space, versus the temperature outside, might determine what colors or pieces are used on a particular copy of a single print. The “print” is an open-ended act that incorporates its own time and situation into its making.

This is from the colophons of the NewLights Press DIY series: “This is book number n in an edition whose limits will be determined by practical use and interest.”



The NewLights Press makes limited edition books. Those limits are determined by two things: 1) the amount of books that we can afford to make—financially, temporally, spatially, emotionally, spiritually; and 2) the number of books that we think will find a home eventually—the number that we can expect to sell/trade/give away. The size of the edition is the maximum number of copies that those two constraints allow. Preciousness or scarcity is something to be avoided. The NewLights Press does not make limited edition books. The NewLights Press makes books in small editions.

(Small, tiny even, when compared to mass production. But on the larger side when compared with other people & presses making books by hand.)

The NewLights Press makes books in small editions, and does not do reprints. No matter how fast that first run sells out. Again, this is not about preciousness or scarcity. It is mostly about the fact there just isn’t enough time to reprint the books—let’s do a new one instead. Let’s do a better one, let’s make the next book.

Limits on an edition are a practical necessity. Let’s not pretend otherwise.

Are there ways in which the edition can be re-thought, re-deployed, re-made, re-produced? If the edition is considered abstractly, as a constraint or framework, how can we play with it? What if the edition is not a pre-determined constraint on the number of copies, but a pre-determined constraint that interacts with the process of production to make a certain number of copies? What if the edition is limited by time? Space? The weather? The text? Another text? The financial markets? The unemployment rate? What if the edition is not conceived in terms of a constraint at all, but as the generative prompt for the piece?



In some ways the unlimited edition is a paradox. There can never be an infinite number of copies of a particular book at any one time. The edition is only theoretically unlimited, through the potential of more & more reprints. But those will only last as long as the market for the book does. The demand, ultimately, will determine the supply.

So every edition, in one way or another, is limited.

The difference between the limited and unlimited edition is: 1) how they are conceived of at the outset, and 2) how they are expected or made to function in the world. In a limited edition, the book/object is made in an edition of x number of copies, and then that’s it—no more, no less. No matter how fast or slow they sell. The status of the limited edition is fixed, generally present and filled at the time of production. The limited edition avoids excess. The limited edition is also based on truth/trust. Its value is dependent on its scarcity. If it’s found that there are more copies on the market than are claimed by the object itself, the price and credit of the maker or publisher will shrivel together. The artificial destruction of the book/object, while it may increase the price, will also destroy the credit of the maker/destroyer. The limited edition is a cold, merciless act accepted in good faith in a cold, merciless world.

In an unlimited edition, the book/object is made in an edition of x number of copies, and will be printed again & again & again & again if there is thought to be a market. But the unlimited edition could also only exist in 5 or 100 copies as well. The status of the (unlimited) edition is contingent, tied to the world & its whims. The unlimited edition is only unlimited while the book is in print. If a book is in print, it is simultaneously stalled in, and caught up in, the process of production. The book in print is the book eternal, waiting forever to be finished.

The unlimited edition is eternally threatened. The edition could actually shrink, if the books remain unsold and are pulped. Most mass-market, unlimited edition books face this fate. When the book goes out of print, its edition can become severely limited, but often its value does not increase. The book out of print is the book untouchable, both scarce and forgotten.

Is it better then, to limit the edition at the start, and avoid the slaughter? Or is the possibility of infinity worth the gamble?



Looking through the Internet the other day, I came upon this (via Printeresting):

It’s the first post on the new “artists’ books” column on the Art:21 Blog. The intent here is not to critique the book or the post, but to use a brief part of it to talk about something else—the idea of the limited edition.

The Art:21 post mentions that the book "was printed as a limited edition of 1000” My first thought, when reading that, was well, that’s not really a limited edition. 1000 copies seems like mass production, compared to the scale that NewLights and many other book artists and small presses are working at. But 1000 is a limit (assuming they don’t reprint), however high it may seem. So one could, theoretically, have a limited edition of 10,000 or even 1,000,000. Is there a cut-off point on the number that takes a book from a “limited edition” to a “mass-produced object that only happened to go through one printing?” Are mass-market books that only go through one or two printings, by default, a “limited edition?” What is the purpose of a limited edition anyway?

To begin, we’ll start with this excerpt from an interview contained in Hanging Quotes: Talking Book Arts, Typography & Poetry, by Alastair Johnston. The interview is listed in the book as being with Sandra Kirshenbaum, but is, actually, her interviewing the author of the book, Alastair Johnston. Anyway, here are Alastair’s thoughts, circa 1991:
Alastair Johnston: […] I hate the term “fine limited edition” book.
Sandra Kirshenbaum: Oh, you hate it. Then why did you produce one? [laughs]
AMJ: Uh…
SK: It’s a joke, it isn’t really fine?
AMJ: No, it is a fine, limited edition book. I produced it because, in order to use the best possible materials in the book and because of the nature of the binding, which takes forty minutes a copy, I could only produce, realistically, a hundred to a hundred twenty-five copies. If I manage to sell out the edition, I will reprint it. But to me, the notion of a limited edition is anathema. I believe in unlimited editions because that’s what publishing is—getting a text out into the world. Having something so expensive or so exclusive that only a few people have it appeals to the worst kind of snobbery and the commodification of the book. It takes it out of the realm of information, which is what a book is, and puts it into the realm of collectability, which renders it as useless as a 1937 Edsel.
SK: So what you’re saying is that limitation per se is not a desirable trait in a book, only the natural limitation by a factor such as the amount of handwork or even the restriction of available funds.
AMJ: Right.
SK: But if you carry that idea to the logical extension, then isn’t it sort of antithetical for you to deliberately choose methods and materials that will result in limitation and exclusivity, snobbery and all the rest?
AMJ: Well, I’ve actually had a change of heart in recent years. Initially, when I started publishing, I would use cheap materials, of which the main single cost is paper and binding. And I would do books on the cheapest decent paper and do big editions, and try to get them out in the marketplace for under ten dollars. And people would ignore them. Generally, at that level, you’re trying to compete with the trade publishers. You also have distribution problems. And I began to realize that there was no point in putting up all that money and doing a thousand copies of the book if I only sold two hundred. So, therefore, why not spend the same amount of money and do fewer copies and charge a more realistic price for it. I’m still trying to make it affordable […] [1]

So that’s somewhere to start. To be continued.

1. Alastair Johnston, Hanging Quotes: Talking Book Arts, Typography & Poetry, (Austin: Cuneiform Press, 2011), 143-4.



The book continues to take shape. Yesterday I found out that I have more time than I had initially thought. So now it can be really shaped, shaped well. I want to really write this one, construct the text of this one. But these things, of course, take time, take it away, away. The base layer of the text is there, so now it’s a matter of starting to insert it into its contexts, it spaces, its form, and seeing what happens. And more shaping as a physical thing. And more shaping as a textual thing. And at some point the light will hit it just right—


& this is where we can begin, thankfully. The pages of the book turn, and in them we recognize our own days, each one folding over the one before. The space between them is essentially a non-space—the fold of the gutter, the impossibly thin fore-edge—these are the dreaming spaces of the book, the times when text and pages sleep and pass into the next day. If only we could always breathe so calmly. The book is our ideal self, our ideal time, perfect and uneventful, artfully arranged and bursting with light and meaning. Our lives, unfortunately, are chaos, overwhelming fragility, no meaning beyond the raw and gorgeous fact of what is &

—light again, again; in the creaking, stirring; movement begins; again; another morning; like the last; but better, always better; the raw and gorgeous fact of what is; the light, the window, the bed, the warmth, the cold, the creaking and stirring of bodies to movement; suspended in the air; stripped to the bones; exposed to the elements of the morning; suspended; hanging; above; on top; and pushing; pushing through; this terrifying machine begins again; again; this ascent; and hovering; above; and exposed; the cold; the warmth; this light against these objects; raw and gorgeous; this paleness in the air; it moves, barely; bare; the windows covered; still dreaming; still suffused with sleep; with paleness in the morning; against these piles of days; now slight, now slightly stirring; the past is there, but gone; gone; bare and now moving away; bare and now huddling close; to the warmth; the warmth exposed to the cold; this light; fantastic and soft; clutching and pushing; suspended; bare and scraping; this clerestory; constant in its explosions; this clerestory, suffused with light and meaning—

& this is where we can begin, thankfully. The pages of the book turn, and in them we feel a ghost image of our own days—an image flattened, thin, tattered, and marred with frantic scribblings. The book, always empty, always pointing away, like a window or a dream, reminds us of the fullness of our days. They both repeat, but these things in which we live, chaotic as they may be, are thick and heavy, a volume to each sagging page. The book is our phantom self, a fragile extension of our time-soaked consciousness back into our object-laden world. We use it as a lens, a filter, to view our own duration. But it will never supplant the breath, the heartbeat, the raging silence of our mornings. The book is lovely, but it is not love. For it we feel nothing but sadness—shabby, sagging thing that it is &

—the window, the mirror, the door; closed and secure; bashful; the blushing of the light; uneven; pushed to one side; pushing; suspended; that paleness exposed in the pushing of the morning; gorgeous; white and brown and blue and gray and white and cold; the light; this shabby entreaty; this breath; again; again; everyday; this heartbeat; quickens; this is terror; love; exposed to the raw light; a string of windows; a string of days; a thread of text intertwined with pale legs in the morning; text bare and scraping; worship; worship bare and scraping; this clerestory, this scriptorium; another day’s dream is written in pale ink and paper, this light on these objects; immaculate; the constant scriptorium; the writing of trembling pages; white and warm; the constant scriptorium; these are days, already turning; always turning; there is no stopping, no going back; just pushing further into the light; shabby thing that it is; the ceiling; the floor; illuminated; illuminated again; and shaking; and shaking; and shaking; the cold; the cold exposed; the cold bare and scraping; against warm sides; ribs and spines; folding—




We will be back to our regular erratic blogramming soon, but first I just wanted to thank everyone for the support, compliments, and kindnesses last week. It was our strongest release-week yet in terms of sales (just about half the edition). But even better than that was all of the communication, with friends both old and new, that surrounded the release. It’s always so enjoyable to be a part of the swirling world once again. Distribution, and the creation of a community through that, is definitely one of the most fun and most important parts of this endeavor.

Here is a nice, thoughtful review of What You Will by Michael Cross, on his blog, The Disinhibitor. Michael is a poet, editor, printer, and publisher from Oakland, CA. & he’s a really smart guy.

& I think we’ll end with a pre-viewing of the next book. The offset pages came in the mail last week:



What You Will, a new book of poems by Kyle Schlesinger! It’s done! It’s out! & it wants to live in your home!

Poems by Kyle Schlesinger
44 pages, double signature pamphlet stitch with folded jacket
4.375” x 8.75” (closed)
Letterpress printed in three colors from photopolymer plates
Edition of 100
All copies are signed by the author
$20 (plus shipping)
Out of Print



Still no title. I think it will probably have to wait until the end. The writing began in earnest in over the weekend, finally, and as this long weekend approaches, maybe there will be significant progress. What follows is the middle of the in-progress draft, two braided threads of text:


& it can cut deeply & it will be impossible to put it back together again; you can never read the same book twice, you can never go home; time passes; every piece of light is brand new in the unstoppable wave of time; & your hands are hopelessly wounded, scrawled with characters, words, gestures, trembling; terrifying machines in the terrifying light; try and try, your hands will never arrest the book in time; all you can do is bleed &

—a morning with folds, fast heartbeats, folds, and joy; joyful light shining through this glass, this stain; it is the morning, a blemish, a blush; the already scarred face of a new day; gorgeous in the light and twisted like that; red like that; read like that; brown, white, blue, yellow, white; and sheets turning folding; waking in the wake of this light; this day; this light; this day; this light; this day; this light; always new in every repetitive push; this terrifying machine; this time; this day; this light; turning and the light pushes through, awkward, groaning, fumbling, the light passes bashfully; this morning; stripped down to thick & bright, this white gorgeous in the way that it is read; never a sight as such in darkness; never a site as such in darkness; this is joy; this morning; this sight; this is sight; and waking; this morning; made; this light; unmade; folds; the mechanics of these things are incredible; movement, the way movement happens; always new; this day; this light; as such; thick & hanging, everywhere; like that; just like that—

& this is the ultimate measure of time &

—this is where we can begin, thankfully;

I spent some time playing around with different structural conventions, on how to break the phrases in way different from the “natural” sentence. I don’t know if this solution will be the one actually used, but we’ll see—I do like the rhythm. I’ve also been thinking about the punctuation conventions of early manuscripts, before the rules of punctuation had solidified at all.

And the “normal” text is written only using “you” and “it” as pronouns, while the italicized text is only written using “it.” Very simple structural choices or exclusions like those can help to build very strange texts.



The following excerpt is from the article “The State of the Book: A Conversation,” by Johanna Drucker and Buzz Spector, which is in the printed Printeresting edition of The California Printmaker (the journal of The California Society of Printmakers), p. 20. [Ed. Note: Totally worth buying and reading and owning.] This particular part is Johanna Drucker:
But as we shift towards the multi-platform possibilities that the current media environment offers, what changes will it make to our work? I find it very useful to use all media for their distinct capacities—aesthetic, production, distribution, affordability, etc.—but know […] that media only offer opportunity, they don’t determine anything. As I’ve said many times, the technical ability to produce avant-garde typography (i.e. Futurist and Dada compositions) was present in Gutenberg’s shop. The cultural disposition towards such innovation did not exist. Such work could not be conceived. Sure, shaped poetry has a long history, into antiquity, and all written language makes use of graphic affordances, but mixed font, diagonal, radically cut-up typographic work has as much to do with the bombardment of the senses in urban spaces by polyglot and multi-modal communications in verbal forms (radio, posters, newspapers, journals, advertising, film) as with technical innovation. [emphasis added]
I think that the point that Drucker is trying to make here is an important one: that any media in and of itself has no “natural” state, no “natural” progression that the work in that media inevitably follows. “Media only offer opportunity” to human and institutional agents. This is also the whole point of The Nature of the Book, by Adrian Johns, which talks about how everything we take for granted about books & print was not always so, and were constructed over time, differently in different places, through an extraordinarily complex set of conversations, arguments, laws, and practices. To cite a modern example, the Internet is not inherently and naturally “democratic,” and could/can/is be used for insidious and/or overt social control—all in the name of justice, of course.

What does this mean for us, now, in the opening stages of a possible shift from print to electronic text? It means that we shouldn’t let corporate/media/money interests tell us what the future is—it means that we must share in the active shaping of it. Which is why this is such an exciting time to be doing all of this writing, publishing, making, designing, shaping, becoming, occupying, sharing, talking…



It’s always a strange thing to finish a large project. Suddenly an absence, and not-knowing creeps back in, nestles under the covers. But there is rest. Hopefully today What You Will will arrive in Austin, and I can hear what the author thinks. We’ll see.

Ordinarily we would release the book as soon as it’s finished. With this one we’re waiting a bit, mostly because of Thanksgiving. (The release will be Monday, Nov. 28.) Which is good, because it will give us more time to coordinate the release and promotion. And promotion is something that NewLights need to work on, as noted in some earlier posts. And also distribution logistics—I’m still not happy with how shipping options are set up with our PayPal buttons. But there is time to work all of that out, and it’s not necessarily interesting to anyone but me.

This morning I was thinking about a “book trailer,” which is something that I’ve seen other small presses doing, for at least a couple of years (maybe more?) now. Usually they’re videos. We’re not really set up for video production, so maybe if we do a trailer it will be in digital book form, images and text from the finished piece, plus images and text from the process of making it.

But perhaps the most important question at this point is, “Now what?” Not in the sense of what book is coming next, because the publishing schedule is set for at least the next year, but in terms of what NewLights can be/do. Where do we take things from here? That question, of course, is always there, but sometimes it is repressed by a series of tasks-at-hand, only to come rushing back in every quiet moment, hanging, a filter through which all of our breath gathers, a window through which all of this sunlight passes. A new day shivers. It is winter, the air around us is cold. And so warmth blooms in action.



Finally, after nearly 2 years. Now they will be sent to the author, Kyle Schlesinger, so that he can sign them. They will officially be released and available for purchase in exactly two weeks, on Monday, November 28.



Each book begins with a series of notes: the specs of the project, lists of related ideas, attempts at written sections, etc. Often all of these things swirl around in my brain for days or weeks before I actually sit down to write them. But actually writing them down is important, for a variety of reasons: 1) it records ideas so that they are not forgotten, 2) it takes ideas out the nebulousness of the mind and helps to build specific connections between them, 3) it begins to give the idea a (loose) shape, and 4) when the ideas are outside of my mind/voice, I can evaluate them more objectively and effectively.

The conceptual composition grows. It is not always a temporal-linear growth—sometimes it’s necessary to return to the beginning, either to harvest a particular idea, or to reboot a project that is getting out of hand. Things change.

What follows is the current state of the notes for a new project, the next book, a small insert to be included with the next issue of JAB. Other pieces can be found in posts below, and the image above is a second visual mock-up.

Letterpress & offset. Initial idea: use each medium for its strengths. New idea: use each medium for its weaknesses, or for qualities outside of transparent reproduction.

What is offset not good at?

Cover each page in multiple layers of opaque white, building back up to the silence of the page/white morning light. Print text with hard impression still visible under the offset layers. Different colors/shapes under the white? Different colors of paper? (The Heads)

What about solid black? Or black & white? Or other solid colors?

A book about light? Newton’s Opticks. Photographs. What about actual reproduction driven to abstraction? A photograph of the Rothko blinds in the morning. Close-ups of her skin in the morning light—filling the frame and covering the debossed text.

New plan. Offset, CMYK photo images of color fields in the morning light. Letterpress text, in negative, on top of those, in transparent colors and/or opaque white. Two or more “braided” lines of text. Use of perimeter text idea.

Writing without pronouns? Or indeterminate pronouns?
How do we move in the morning? Where does the world lie? As blinking, breathing, rising. It turns. It is suspended.

How do we move in the morning? Where does the world lie? As blinking, breathing, rising. Turning. Suspended. As light as such. Something in the spine stirs, folds, folds over. As blue light, now white light, stretches. The window sagging in the light. The light dizzy in the window. Morning. Reading. Stretching. Stretching over and across. Lines across an open body. Folding.
Perimeter text could be a “list”: turning, moving, breathing, etc. Maybe not. Definitely not.

Font for interior text? Low contrast roman. Palatino? Centaur? Poliphilus? Investigate cost. Italic paired, instead of sans serif? Needs to print well in negative. Placard for perimeter text, possibly Arial/Helvetica.

How do the lines connect? What is each line? Above example could be perimeter. Could also be italic. Does use of italic make the “poetic” voice subordinate to the “theoretical” voice?

Structure: the page as unit (how many words?). Two sections of main text, each readable independently, forwards or backwards, and also able to be read in linear order. “Blank” sections? How to use? The swerve. Too much? Too “written?”
Reetum vel init adio esequat. Ut vel delisis nummy non ut doloboreet dunt vulluptat, sequat.
Tat. Duisit la facilit lumsan vel ercillaortio con velisci llandrem nullan et velisissim am, vullaorem alit, quis ametum quismod dit nim nonse magna feu facipsu scilit wis augue dolorer incin henim doluptat. Atin ullamet lumsan volesse feuis dolor in utpat. Ut lum acinit alit volore ming ea auguer susci tem vel utpat, cons ex et incipit augiam, core dolum dolore cor si bla alit adigna facillandre dolor se ver si blan vel erat, conulpu tpatue feu facidunt wis aliquat, quat dit nulla cons ea con henim dolor at incil et, quam, cons enit dunt autpat praesenit autatumsan utat. Duismod olobore dolore vel dolessenibh et velenismodo eu facin enibh el iurem dolenim zzrit in henim ipit, conullan ulluptat. Ut lan estrud min esse minci bla feugait estrud te feum zzriure dolortin eugait delit prat. Ut at. Ut il deleniam in vullutat Um nisi. Rud tis niamet nulput ad modolore te ea
165 words per section. Rough estimate.



& designing is writing. The image above is the first go at a layout/structure for the spreads of the next book. Just roughing it in.



Entangled. Now that binding has begun, it’s hard to think about anything else besides getting these books done. They will be finished by the end of the week, even if I move at a moderate pace. After they’re finished, they will all be mailed to Kyle to sign, and then when they come back to me, they will be released and available. Probably in about 2 weeks. At last, at last.

Compiling, collating, stacking, binding. This is one of the strangest parts of the whole activity—when all of those fragments are drawn together into a moving whole. Ostranenie. The book never looks how you dreamt, never looks how you remember. It takes its shape gradually, through folding and sewing, and then through pressing and trimming. It expands, it contracts, is hewn from space and time, plane, line, and point, bending, sagging, twisting, moving. An object in the world, subject to. As light as such. Always almost there, almost done, almost there, almost done, almost there, almost done. And so on. It bends.



This is the first part of a new project, the base layers/sequence for our first offset/letterpress combo book. 

It's amazing how weird and plastic-looking the "pages" look in this viewer. The final book will not only look like (and actually be) a real book, but there will be many other layers and text and other fun things as well.



Printing is complete. Final count: 202 press runs. & binding has begun.



And now you can buy it on Etsy. Which you should. And look at more at http://www.coriecole.com Small press people: buying this work does (indirectly) support small press publishing. Everything, as always, is connected, and these things are human things.



Poems and images by Justin Sirois
56 pages, softcover, with printed and stapled dustjacket that adheres to book through a series of magnetic strips, double signature pamphlet stitched, 8 1/8” x 5 1/8”

Letterpress dustjacket & cover, digitally printed pages, staples, magnets
Edition of 100


The middle of this book has two fold-out pages. We did our best in translating them to this digital version. The image below shows what they look like and how they work in the real thing:

According to the website of Apollinaire's Bookshoppe, they still have some copies of silver standard available for purchase!

& the original post about this book can be found here.



An independent press that’s been operating for 20 years? Trying to raise money so that they can expand their production? Sold! I’m in!

Find out more and donate here.
And visit the Future Tense website.



I have not so much been absent in these past two weeks, as present somewhere else, in the workings of that other press. But I have managed a few things during that time, specifically more press runs on the jackets for What You Will:

Only 10 runs remain.



Been away for a few days while not really being away—some busy mornings with no time to write. So we’ll ease back in with a few announcements of things:

The venerable poet, printer, and thinker-of-all-things-book, Alan Loney, has recently started a new blog for his imprint, Electio Editions. There are some good posts with lovely images (like the one above) of lovely things up there already.

A new press has started in our former home of The Bay Area: Zumbar Press, which is focused on producing letterpress chapbooks and broadsides, as well as documenting that process of construction (something we here at NewLights can certainly support). Only 9 copies of the first broadside remain.

And this new press in the Bay reminds me of Lyn Hejinian’s Tuumba press, which undertook a similar project, beginning in the 70s and continuing and discontinuing until now & into the future. There is a great interview with Lyn in the new issue of Mimeo Mimeo, which just came out. Get your copy here. Then subscribe.

And also in that issue is an essay about poetry and typography by the aforementioned Alan Loney.

Mimeo Mimeo gets thicker and better with each issue. Which is good for all of us, good for the world. 



OCCUPY the places and channels of power. The spaces in which power is exercised. The means by which we are subjected to their objects. OCCUPY the role of producer. TAKE IT BACK and show the world that we have been producing all along. OCCUPY the channels of meaning and knowledge. DISTRIBUTE everything you have ever loved and could love. TAKE CONTROL of what you consume, BREAK IT APART and show the shattered surface to the rest of the world. KEEP LOOKING for more cracks in everything and OCCUPY them. TAKE CONTROL of every possible media, show us what it is, what it can carry. DO NOT STOP until we can see that we DO NOT UNDERSTAND IT ANYMORE. There will probably never be any rest. GIVE IT ALL AWAY. The sunlight is the only model. OCCUPY your life in such a way that it is continually BURSTING, overfull. TEAR OFF THE TOP OF YOUR SKULL and LET YOUR MIND TOUCH SPACE & HISTORY. There is no such thing as GENIUS. There is no such thing as BOREDOM. IT IS ALL IN YOUR MIND. OCCUPY your language and the way that it MOVES IN THE WORLD. BURN AWAY the hardened, dried, blackened EXOSKELETON OF YOUR SOUL. It does not belong to you.




The image above shows a random, beautiful moment that I found in an old book that I borrowed from Tutt Library here at Colorado College. The book itself is Milton’s Areopagitica and Other Prose Works, (London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1927). This page spread is the opening of Milton’s “Of Education,” which was written in 1644. This marked up and cut down spread is a fantastic chance composition, but it also demonstrates the multi-authorial nature of this particular (and by inference, any) book. The large print is Milton’s original text. The smaller type before that is the editor’s introduction to this particular piece. But beyond that there are the authorial voices of the typeface, design, typesetting, and printing, by themselves and as a visual unit. There were also multiple binders/bindings, evidenced by the cropping off of the marginalia, the highly visible sewing, and the bright orange “library” bookcloth. & of course there’s also the marks of the former readers/owners. Did the same person make the notes in black, do the underlining in red, and fill in the “O” in “Of Education?” These two pages show the construction, destruction, and reconstruction of the text/book through time. The wonderful marks of a life lived living.



Looking at the ILSSA hand-mind essay that I’m working on this morning, and I see that although progress has been made, it remains a bunch of tenuously connected ideas. Here are a few of them, far from perfect, coherent, or done:

The example above [below on this blog], of an observational painting exercise, is quite literal as a representation of both “mind” and “hand.” But “hand,” or the use of it, does not necessarily have to be tied to the body part. “Hand” does not strictly mean the manipulation of something physical—although any interaction with a linguistic or conceptual object is mediated somehow, often through technology, like the typing and typesetting of this essay. “Hand” essentially means active or engaged. When someone writes or critiques the discourse of any given field, they are participating in it, manipulating the field and its (linguistic/symbolic) objects. Any act of participatory creation involves “the hand,” in its broad sense, at some level—and thus the hand becomes the mind, and the mind becomes the hand.

The hand and mind are connected, and that connection is attention.

The work of the hand allows for a “making strange” in the mind. The act of construction forces the mind into an observation of reality, of the here and now of an object being built. The observations of the mind refine the work of the hand against and to the mind’s original projected ideal. Every creative act is a continuous mediation and remediation between the ideal of the original idea (generated in the mind) and the reality of the thing-in-the-world (generated by the hand). The constantly attentive attention of the hand-mind feedback loop generates new knowledge, or reinforces/refines things already known. That knowledge extends the attention paid into the future, to new activities, new objects, new meanings-in-waiting.

The hand-mind feedback loop is analogous to the artist-audience feedback loop. The artist, engaging their own individual hand-mind, acts as the experimental, knowledge gathering hand of the culture. The audience members (at once individual and collective) engage their hand-minds to construct new knowledge/meaning from the objects made and presented to them. This new knowledge/meaning travels back to the artist, and is refined and manipulated further. The social space of art is a constant cycle of production. The social space of art is the feedback loop between artist and audience.



The past few mornings and nights I have been writing an essay for a forthcoming ILSSA publication. The essay is about “hand/mind.” (This is a part of a small series of essays by multiple people—the other subjects are “old/new,” “work/play,” and “time/money.”) Below is the opening paragraph (as it stands, here, now, this morning):

Look hard was the dictum of the class. We were attempting to make accurate, representational, still-life paintings of white on white tableaus—eggs and white ceramic ware against white backgrounds. One thing that became almost immediately clear was that the idea of white—pure, bright, disembodied, unmodulated—did not map well against white-in-the-world—never pure, wrapped around objects and/or embodied in pigments, and always appearing in shades of gray mixed with reflected and projected color. This fact became apparent to this group of struggling students very soon, but it became apparent not in the abstract of language (as it does in this essay) but in the actual practice of painting that we were engaged in. The linked act(s) of looking and making were de-verbalized, connected in the building of moments, and existed as concrete moves and the testing of procedures. We were studying representational painting. We were studying the mechanics of representational painting, and the knowledge that we were developing existed in the circuits between hand and mind. Only later, during class discussions, did we attempt to represent that knowledge in language; but our understanding of each other’s comments was always filtered through the work of our own hands. Knowledge is always connected to practice.



This will be the last post documenting the layering and building of the covers of Kyle Schlesinger’s What You Will, because them covers are done gloriously done.

This is a good way to preview the book in its entirety, because the book is reprinted, in its entirety & exactly in position, on the cover. You are seeing the entire book collapsed. This is what time looks like.

I am intrigued by the surface of the printed areas, by how the ink and (non)color built up, and by how the edges and impression of the different plates left different marks. There is something in these covers that can be expanded into future books—an approach, an idea, an insistence on the physicality of the printed object. Books are for handling, after all. These covers are like oil paintings that you get to play with, finally.

Only the jackets remain to be printed. Only 24 more runs. It won’t be long now. This is how time stands as a wall against our bending backs.



And one thing that had made me very uncomfortable last week was the reactivation of my Facebook account and the creation of a page for NewLights. One concrete issue that the BlazeVOX discussion brought to my attention is that I could/should be doing more to get the word out about the books. The NewLights Facebook page is a start to that. “Like” NewLights and then you’ll get to watch me figure out how to use that page as an effective way to communicate, in painfully slow, discontinuous, and awkward “real” time. I know that sounds enticing. It will also be a good way to get news if you don’t like this blog. Or to get news easily separated from the rest of this mess. Or something. Anyway, here’s the link, one more time, who doesn’t want to like and be liked:


Any other small presses out there, I would love to be pointed to your pages as well.

And there will probably be a Twitter account in the future too. Yikes.



You can see the initial post about this book here.



For Rodchenko/For Travis:
Working Notes Toward The Heads

NewLights Press: A. Cohick, et al
3 digital books, 96 pages each, 9” x 12” (open)
Pure RGB colors
Edition determined as viewed



In the last post on this topic I wrote: “For a person to set up as a publisher and declare themselves an editor without any socioeconomic vetting by an acknowledged institution of authority (one with money & power) is a subversive act.” I’d like to explore that statement a little more, grounded in a particular experience.

Many years ago now, when I was living in Baltimore, I was acting as the “Project Coordinator” of the Dolphin Press, which was a fine press run out of the Printmaking Dept. at the Maryland Institute College of Art. NewLights had been started by then too. Running Dolphin was a volunteer position—a stopgap measure to keep the press producing during a time of little/no funding. The Dolphin Press, in any official sense, did not exist. But I figured it was good “professional” experience—and it was.

I put “professional” in quotes, because, back then, even more so than now, I really had no idea what I was doing or what I was supposed to do. But enough background—this post is supposed to be about the subverting of institutional authority.

At some point during my time at Dolphin, one of the other departments at MICA purchased a book from the press, and, naturally, asked for an invoice/receipt. Of course nothing like that existed, so I had to make one. I kept thinking something along the lines of: I’m just some normal jerk, I can’t make or issue an invoice. I don’t have the authority to do this. I did it anyway, of course. I made an invoice for a transaction between two academic departments—one of which was imaginary.

The small press world, though, as a whole, is imaginary. Imaginary despite the aching muscles, the bottomed-out bank accounts, and the stacks of wonderful books. Our imagination will tear us apart from the inside.

A year or two down the road, when it became time to design an invoice for NewLights (when actual businesses (bookstores) and other institutions (libraries) started buying things), I realized that the detritus of the institution (“the institution” in the general sense)—its forms, invoices, documents, correspondence, paperwork—is one of the major things that constitute its identity outside of its local time & place. Thus the strange looking invoices, correspondence forms, inspection slips, etc. that NewLights uses. Such things are the flimsy foundation on which this imaginary institution rests.

What makes a press “real” and what makes it “imaginary?” Is it a physical location? Is it money? The things that it publishes? Its paperwork? Its tax forms? Its ISBN numbers? Its authors? Its publishing practices? How all of those things congeal into an image of “the press” in the mind of the public?



The image above shows the covers of Kyle Schlesinger’s What You Will as they now stand, to change again tomorrow. The versos now have all of the poems, 12 of them, printed (the white rectangle on the left side). There will be five more plates printed on that side, from the title sequence. & one run of scoring and the covers are complete.

The images below show the jackets with the first two runs on them. Please excuse the colors on these images—the lighting in the studio is awful for photos. The last image is the most accurate, color-wise.



I remember reading a comment on an HTMLGiant post a few months ago (I have no idea which post) where the commenter was talking about how anyone can set up a small press or journal and declare themselves an editor, despite any actual qualifications and/or experience they may or may not have. And I think that’s an accurate observation—when I started NewLights I had no idea what it meant to be an editor, how to be an editor, what an editor actually did, etc. I still don’t, really, which is one of the reasons why I am interested in this conversation.

What is it that we actually do?

For a person to set up as a publisher and declare themselves an editor without any socioeconomic vetting by an acknowledged institution of authority (one with money & power) is a subversive act. It is a usurpation, a move against power bestowed, a move for power built up from the ground. Built up from the ground in the sense that the self-appointed small press editor openly acknowledges their lack of institutional approval, but declares, through their actions, that “I/we will learn this, figure this out, build this up.”

I started the NewLights Press in May of 2000. All I had was access to a print studio (I was in school), a copy of A Secret Location on the Lower East Side, and a need to make books. I certainly did not have a clue. I didn’t know of any other small presses operating in Baltimore at that time (there were some). Websites for such operations were becoming more and more common, but for a 20 year-old still seemed very exotic. This is not a “let me tell you how hard it was back in my day” passage—it’s an attempt to establish the fact that the social/cultural context in which small presses begin and operate now is radically different than what is was just 11 years ago. The closeness of the community and the long reach of small presses now is a consequence of electronic communication and the ever-accessible “storefronts” of our websites. And this context continues to change—we will see how digital books and e-readers play out. Almost every day we read about how big publishers are struggling. Almost every day we read about another small press that has started up.

Publishing/running a press is, like just about anything, a process. And it’s not a straight climb towards ‘better” work or more sales and more secure financial foundations. It fluctuates, sometimes with astonishing rapidity. If small presses gave up because they could not figure out a way to make a profit or at least break even, then almost all of them would close down after a year or two, or five or seven years down the road when things got rough. And no matter how promising a start, things will get rough.

The higher the profile of a press, the more “anonymous” its operations become—it begins to attract an audience and potential authors outside of an immediate, local community. And thus the press needs to become more “professional”—more like a large publisher. With that comes accountability and transparency.

NewLights, despite being the same age as BlazeVOX, has remained a much smaller operation, with a different (but overlapping) set of goals and interests. And because of that I really don’t think too many people would give a damn if I started asking authors for money. Some people wouldn’t like it, for sure, but there would be no big outcry. And any discussion/argument that might ensue about it would happen under very different terms, because NewLights operates under very different terms.

There is a fine line to walk between asking small presses to operate under certain community-approved standards and hollowing out their identities and practices. One of the things that make small presses great is the fact that their practices are person to person. When they begin to detach from that local, personal interaction without being able to predict and account for the consequences, nasty messes can ensue.