I feel like I am just waking up, bleary-eyed, and seeing this screen after a long, long sleep. It is 6 AM, figuratively and literally. I have been away. A new day/week/month/year of work beckons. I hope that I am up to the task.

(Too many “I”s on this blog lately. This is not about me. This is about the work. (What is “this?”))

There have been two main threads of discussion-dissection-re-presentation here lately: the series of posts on hand-mechanical processes (“Machined, or the Hand-Mechanical”) and the series on the democratic multiple (“The Return of the Democratic Multiple?”). Soon, there will be a third, untitled as of yet, about authorship and based in a close reading of at least two essays. Probably bits of more, as these things are always constellations, shimmering. And all three threads will be braided together, albeit unevenly. Albeit barely a braid. Perhaps a series of clumps. But they will be there, together. And isn’t being together what counts?

And of course all of those things will be here with these things, the documentation of and elaboration on the processes of making and distributing. And somehow all of it goes together, and we see, here, now, a system chaotically unfolding, perpetually cutting out its own heart. This is the only way for us to operate.



The pre-sale on the 2009 - 2011 NewLights Press broadsides will be ending on April 15th, 2011. On that date they will go up to full price: $80 for a single broadside and $350 for all five (Sirois, Evenson, Trommer, Iijima, and Yau. The Al-Mutanabbi broadsides are not for sale.). Obviously those are high prices for broadsides (why do broadsides sell for less than prints?), but there is an enormous amount of time sunk into and peeled away from every single copy. For a full documentation of the process, scroll down or click here.

The pre-sale has been going on for a long time, and now the editions are almost to a point where I will have enough complete to readily fill orders.


Text by KC Trommer
Letterpress with hand-mechanical printing and delamination

Variable edition of 25

12” x 18”



Text by Brenda Iijima
Letterpress with hand-mechanical printing and delamination

Variable edition of 25

12” x 18”



The following was brought to my attention via See Also, a library blog authored by my colleague Steve Lawson, as part of a response to Harper Collins placing a limit of 26 library checkouts on its ebooks. "The eBook User's Bill of Rights" comes from a blog called Librarian in Black. This is a big issue, and I hope that I will be able to post more about it soon. Anyways. here's the Bill:

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights is a statement of the basic freedoms that should be granted to all eBook users.

The eBook User’s Bill of Rights

Every eBook user should have the following rights:

  • the right to use eBooks under guidelines that favor access over proprietary limitations
  • the right to access eBooks on any technological platform, including the hardware and software the user chooses
  • the right to annotate, quote passages, print, and share eBook content within the spirit of fair use and copyright
  • the right of the first-sale doctrine extended to digital content, allowing the eBook owner the right to retain, archive, share, and re-sell purchased eBooks

I believe in the free market of information and ideas.

I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can flourish when their works are readily available on the widest range of media. I believe that authors, writers, and publishers can thrive when readers are given the maximum amount of freedom to access, annotate, and share with other readers, helping this content find new audiences and markets. I believe that eBook purchasers should enjoy the rights of the first-sale doctrine because eBooks are part of the greater cultural cornerstone of literacy, education, and information access.

Digital Rights Management (DRM), like a tariff, acts as a mechanism to inhibit this free exchange of ideas, literature, and information. Likewise, the current licensing arrangements mean that readers never possess ultimate control over their own personal reading material. These are not acceptable conditions for eBooks.

I am a reader. As a customer, I am entitled to be treated with respect and not as a potential criminal. As a consumer, I am entitled to make my own decisions about the eBooks that I buy or borrow.

I am concerned about the future of access to literature and information in eBooks. I ask readers, authors, publishers, retailers, librarians, software developers, and device manufacturers to support these eBook users’ rights.

These rights are yours. Now it is your turn to take a stand. To help spread the word, copy this entire post, add your own comments, remix it, and distribute it to others. Blog it, Tweet it (#ebookrights), Facebook it, email it, and post it on a telephone pole.

To the extent possible under law, the person who associated CC0 with this work has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work



The NewLights Press/The Press at Colorado College will be at the Southern Graphics Council Conference Publisher's Fair, which takes place on Saturday, March 19, from 8 AM to 3 PM. If you're going to be at the conference (in St. Louis this year) stop by and say hello. Both presses will have a bunch of new work to show and sell. It will be great to see you again.


A friend sent this to me the other day. It's fun, one of the smarter and more successful versions of this argument that I've seen:



I'm really excited that a writing/book class at the Corcoran College of Art & Design is using The New Manifesto of the NewLights Press and the recent "Democratic Multiple" posts on this blog. The professor, Casey Smith, asked me to write a question for a 15 minute free writing exercise for the students, on the theme of the "democratic multiple." And what's more democratic than a school assignment?

So here they are, answer one or more. You have 15 minutes. When complete, please post your writing to the comments section.

What are the qualities of the multiple that allow for its possibility of being "democratic?"

What is the relationship between fine art and functionality? How does the idea of the "democratic multiple" complicate, change, and/or enrich that relationship?

What are the particular qualities of books and a reader/viewer's interaction with them that allow for an exploration of the "democratic multiple?" Of functionality and art?



There is a good post on Printeresting about the use of screenprinted signs, made by Nicolas Lampert and Colin Matthes of Justseeds, during the recent protests in Wisconsin. The signs are great—graphically and textually effective. The post provides some links, some background info, and it specifically mentions that in this case we really see the “democratic multiple” in action, helping to make democracy happen. The “democratic” may not be just about accessibility (Is it cheap? Is it multiple? Is it easily understood?) but may also be about functionality (Can I use it and how and why?)


Thinking through those “Democratic Multiple” posts, and reading some essays over the weekend, I’m beginning to see the points of intersection between different discursive paths. Everything is, of course, related. The hand-mechanical emerges again, as a practice, as a practice of the inside as well as the outside. From the essay “Orality and Literacy: Writing Restructures Consciousness,” by Walter Ong:

Plato was thinking of writing as an external, alien technology, as many people today think of the computer. Because we have by today so deeply interiorized writing, made it so much a part of ourselves, as Plato’s age had not yet made it fully a part of itself, we find it difficult to consider writing to be a technology as we commonly assume printing and the computer to be. Yet writing (and especially alphabetic writing) is a technology, calling for the use of tools and other equipment: styli or brushes and pens, carefully prepared surfaces such as paper, animal skins, strips of wood, as well as inks or paints […]. Writing is the most drastic of the three technologies [writing, print, computer]. It initiated what print and computers only continue, the reduction of sound to quiescent space, the separation of the word from the living present, where alone spoken words can exist.

By contrast with natural, oral speech, writing is completely artificial. […] Writing or script differs as such from speech in that it does not inevitably well up out of the unconscious. The process of putting spoken language into writing is governed by consciously contrived, articulable rules: for example, a certain pictogram will stand for a certain specific word, or a will represent a certain phoneme, b another, and so on. […] To say writing is artificial is not to condemn it but to praise it. Like other artificial creations and indeed more than any other, it is utterly invaluable and indeed essential for the realization of fuller, interior, human potentials. Technologies are not mere exterior aids but also interior transformations of consciousness, and never more than when they affect the word. Such transformations can be uplifting. Writing heightens consciousness. Alienation from a natural milieu can be good for us and indeed is in many ways essential for full human life. To live and to understand fully, we need not only proximity but also distance. This writing provides for consciousness as nothing else does.

Technologies are artificial, but—paradox again—artificiality is natural to human beings. Technology, proper interiorized, does not degrade human life but on the contrary enhances it. The modern orchestra, for example, is the result of high technology. A violin is an instrument, which is to say a tool. […] Beethoven’s score for his Fifth Symphony consists of very careful directions to highly trained technicians, specifying exactly how to use their tools. Legato: do not take your finger off one key until you have hit the next. Staccato: hit the key and take your finger off immediately. […] The fact is that by using a mechanical contrivance [tool, technology], a violinist […] can express something poignantly human that cannot be expressed without the mechanical contrivance. To achieve such expression of course the violinist […] has to have interiorized the technology, made the tool or machine a second nature, a psychological part of himself or herself. This calls for years of ‘practice’, learning how to make the tool do what it can do. Such a shaping of a tool to oneself, learning a technological skill, is hardly dehumanizing. The use of a technology can enrich the human psyche, enlarge the human spirit, intensify its interior life. […] [1]

1. Walter Ong, “Orality and Literacy: Writing Restructures Consciousness,” The Book History Reader, ed. David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery (London: Routledge, 2002), 107-108.



The Blog of the Press that is The Press at Colorado College is really up and running now, with posts from my deputies (apprentices), as well as myself.


Let’s try to leave the sources to the side for a bit, outline some questions, see if we can open up something new. One question/problem that comes up when thinking about and working with the “democratic” multiple is the idea, accepted as common truth, that the “general public” is not interested in, or not capable of understanding, art that is “intelligent” or “sophisticated.” I really struggle with that idea, and I’m not sure it should be accepted as always 100% true—large generalizations about large groups of people often aren’t. Reality will always be more complicated than our methods of understanding it.

And that idea, that art for the public can’t be smart, is implicit in the discussions of the artists’ book as democratic multiple outlined earlier—the artists’ book fails as a democratic form not because of its affordability, but because the content is not geared towards a general audience.

[This is a difficult problem, one that runs through and influences our culture everyday. There is probably no solution, and I have no idea if we’ll even be able to get close to one in these posts. But maybe we can open some windows.]

In the last post we looked at the idea of “the failure” of the artists’ book as a democratic multiple. The question of failure remains an important one: what defines the “failure?” Are we equating the success of an art form with its success in the marketplace? Are there other ways to measure success? Who or what set the deadline that this “failure” is judged against? Can there ever be a complete “failure” in the world of discourse?

Does it make sense to separate artists’ books out from longer histories of independent publishing? From art and literature in general?

What demographics make up this “general audience?” How do we define this audience? People who are not book artists? People who are not artists? People who ordinarily aren’t a part of the art world at all? [What makes one part of the art world? How does one get in?] Is this general audience diverse, or are they implicitly homogenous, defined in terms of the dominant class/race?

What kinds of content are normally considered “appropriate” for a general audience? What kinds of formal structure are normally considered “appropriate” for a general audience? [What’s with the word “appropriate” here? It makes it sound like the general audience needs to be treated like a child.]

Who is responsible for the quality of cultural production—the culture industry or the culture market?

One thing we can agree on: the amount of people buying experimental literature/artists’ books is small, when compared to the amount of people buying movie tickets, watching certain television shows, or buying and reading copies of genre fiction. The actual audience is actually small. Is that bad? How big is the potential audience, and does that matter?