The role of publisher/designer/bookmaker naturally puts one in a strange and strained relationship with the role of the author. One spends a great deal of time and energy making and distributing work that is not necessarily one’s own. That is not completely one’s own. That can be very much one’s own.

Traditionally the designer and printer of books is supposed to hide their work, and let the author’s text be communicated as clearly, quickly, and cleanly as possible. Multiple voices of authorship are noise in the channel. Noise complicates things. Noise makes for an impure experience. Noise is the murmuring of the crowd, or the grinding of the machine, or both. Noise is confusion. Noise is public. Noise is the penetration of the world into the hermetic realm of art.

Noise is figure/ground ambiguity. Noise is far worse than figure/ground ambiguity, it is work/frame ambiguity. One never leaves, the ringing in the ears persists. The experience of the work does not stay within the reader’s interaction with the work, does not remain separate from, or other. Noise cuts right through to the receiving subject in body, space, and time. Noise speaks to the individual as one individual among many.

Silence is a myth.

The body is a noisy machine, always present.



The 10th year! Amazing! You can get all the info about exhibiting at this year's bigger & better show here.



The new issue (#29) of JAB, the Journal of Artists' Books is out. I got my copy in the mail the other day, and it is, as usual, an impressive production. I was looking through it thinking, I can't believe that they print this. Offset printing is amazing, and there are some choice "offset moments" in the magazine. For the contents and colophon pages they used proof sheets overprinted in many transparent layers of black, with silver text and image printed over that. The silver text is amazingly crisp and clear despite the heaviness of the background. And extra artists' books in the back! Get it here.



The NewLights Press is very excited to announce the release of J. A. Tyler’s ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [an island]. As detailed in earlier posts, this is a collaborative project done in conjunction with other small presses and one online journal, all who are releasing their part of the project today.

Below is the author’s description of the project, with links to the other pieces:

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ is wreckage. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ takes place as five distinct works, all built around the same core story. Each narrative is that of a girl who holds the last water in the world, a herd of chaos that takes it from her, and the boy who comes to resuscitate it all. But each story takes this kernel and shreds it in a new direction, incorporates other elements, reshapes the narrative in its own image. And each press that came aboard this project, releasing this wreckage into readers’ hands, worked on the same principle of core unity with distinct press-specific alterations. All that is left is the beautiful static hum: zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Thanks to the following presses and their editors and journals, where you can gather

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [a well]: Greying Ghost (Carl Annarummo)
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [the stars]: Warm Milk Printing Press (Ben Spivey)
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [this town]: The Collagist (Matt Bell)
ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ [an island]: NewLights Press (Aaron Cohick)
And I would also like to take this opportunity to thank J.A. Tyler, Matt Bell, Carl Annarummo and Ben Spivey. This whole project that has been a lot of fun, and I feel like some corner has been turned for NewLights, as we find our footing in our new home.

Story by J. A. Tyler
36 pages, soft cover, pamphlet stitch, 5” x 8”
Letterpress printed from photopolymer plates
Edition of 200
$15 (plus shipping): as of June 28, 2012, all money from sales of this and other NewLights books will be donated to the Red Cross to assist people displaced by Colorado wildfires.



Figure 05.11.01
Prospectus for Color for the Letterpress, a book by Jim Trissel/The Press at Colorado College, made in 1987. An elegant book demonstrating the possibilities for color in letterpress and relief printing. Similar in many to the screenprinted plates of Josef Albers's Interaction of Color.

Last night as I was printing I was thinking about color and I was thinking about physical, viscous ink. I was thinking about the concept of making letterpress printing the books necessary and integral to them, and the black text that I was printing seemed to disappear, to retreat into processes that we all know and do not see.

The process is not completely removed from the text—when comparing it next to a digitally printed piece, the letterpress obviously has more heft to it.

Figure 05.11.02
Text from the book printed digitally (from one of the mock-ups). The typeface is 10 pt. Palatino Linotype.

Figure 05.11.03
Text from the book letterpress printed from photopolymer plates (from one of the many proofs).

Figure 05.11.04
A close-up image of the letterpress printed text. Overinked.

There is the impression, and there is also the irregularity of the print—the ink squishes over the sides of the letterforms, the solidity of the strokes varies with the amount of ink and the arrangement of the fibers of the paper. The edition breathes.

Figure 05.11.05
A close-up image of the digitally printed text. Nothing is perfect. The key is to decide which imperfections one wants and can use.

Upon close inspection it can be seen that digital printing is also highly irregular (it’s also often more subject to environmental degradation than other printing methods). But digital printing is a generally more “transparent” medium than letterpress (“transparent” in the sense of being unobtrusive and not being noticed on most occasions) precisely because it has no impression—the interaction of digital printing with the paper’s surface is far more subtle.

(The planographic, chemical process of offset hangs somewhere between the two. Offset, on most occasions is also very “transparent.” But it doesn’t have to be.)

Figure 05.11.06
Bruce Nauman, Please Pay Attention Please


The chaotic forces of the process of printing threaten to burst through every printed word. The irregularity of the printed letter is language’s link to the physical world.

The trick is to get the reader to experience the book on multiple levels—to make a book that employs multiple legibilities that are all accessible to the reader. Accessible, not necessarily concise and clear—there will hopefully be something to dwell in.

So maybe black text on white paper doesn’t make sense anymore, or at least doesn’t make sense for the future. “Make sense” in terms of being apparent to the senses.

(Those of you who know my work and the extremely limited palette that I use will understand the statement above as being a big deal, at least for me.)

The next book will be in “full color.” The next book will be in techno-color. Pure color and four color. Not black but not quite. Is there such a thing as neutrality?



Less than a week until the release (5/15/2011) and production is drawing to an end, though there’s still a great deal to be done. This past weekend was spent printing, with Saturday being a smooth, easy day (800+ impressions/4 runs) and Sunday being exactly the opposite (200+ impressions/1 run). Both days helped to remind me why I enjoy letterpress printing, and why I’m using it for these books.

The following disjointed musings on letterpress printing, and on the analog processes of the book vs. the digital processes of the book, will be interspersed with various photos of the production process. As seen above, as seen below.

This book seems significant to NewLights from a production standpoint: it’s the largest edition done of a substantial chapbookish project (200, 36 pages), it’s the first book in more than a year, and the first to be done entirely in Colorado, it’s all letterpress printed, it’s all printed on Vandercooks (as opposed to the Heidelberg that I was printing on in SF), and it’s a new (but simple) structure/binding for NewLights. And it’s all being made relatively quickly—a little bit more than a month of focused design/production time.

This weekend brought the earlier comment “letterpress seemed to me to be a natural way of deliberately (and often painfully) connecting one's entire body to the words on a page” to mind.

Printing these digitally (or having them printed offset) would have been easier, but the thought of sitting at my desk, waiting for my laser printer, choking on its fumes, just collecting sheets, makes me existentially nauseous. I want to be an active participant, on all levels.

That being said, there are issues of clarity, of legibility. I am not as consistent and accurate as the laser printer. Usually I try to be. I almost always fail.

The printing of this book is becoming more about lack of control, or about a kind of chaotic control, than I had initially planned. Its physicality will be readily apparent, will be an integral part of the book.

The network of small impressions on the cover feels like woven cloth.

There are parts of the design that require more accuracy in registration than a laser printer can provide. I at least have a fighting chance of pulling those off.

Loud music helps.

These books don’t make themselves. Somehow, that’s important. I am struggling to articulate why.

Second wind, third wind, fourth wind, fifth wind. & so on. To be continued.




Isn’t that above image amazing? It’s a poem by Robert Creeley, with accompanying German translation, published in 1962 in issue #7 of the mimeo magazine Rhinozeros. Jed Birmingham recently posted it to the Mimeo Mimeo blog. There is some wonderful freedom in that approach. Seeing it today makes me realize how much more great stuff there is to do.

Today is the eleventh birthday of the NewLights Press. I was just reading my post from a year ago, and as part of that I had a list of what I hoped to publish in that coming year, Year 10 as it has been “officially” known. I managed to do a handful of things on that list. Not too bad, considering I had no idea that I would be moving to a new state and starting a new job when I wrote that. Not too bad. Could’ve been better. Could’ve been worse. The important thing is, I think, that things are getting made, and that the pace & engagement has been able to increase since the move.

It feels really good to be in the thick of production on the current project. Sure, there have been some late nights, some sore muscles, and some confused, slightly late mornings. But in less than 2 weeks there will be 200 more books. The first NewLights book in more than a year and a half. Year 10 was the first of 10 years that NewLights did not release a book. But that year is over, and now things are going to get going & going.

And summer and some focused time to work around the corner.

Things are good. Books are being made. The eternal questioning and wrestling continue.

Thank you for reading, thank you for the future.



This song is what inspired me to get into the small press game.

The line "talk me into losing, just as long as I can win" really resonated with me.