Up the Executive Suite
by L. V. Heljeson
TO BECOME president of the National Amateur Press Association is to hover on the edge of circumstance. Even the most ordinary person acquires a monarchical virus upon ascending to this august office. One president issued proclamations. Another referred to the other officers as his “cabinet.” Another, after prolonged discussion with a visiting amateur journalist as to a place to dine, made the selection saying: “I make the decisions in this apartment and in the National Amateur Press Association.” Finally, an editor stronger in perception than in spelling, captioned the gavel transfer ceremony on The National Amateur’s cover, as the new president taking over the “reigns” of office.
The National needs and wants a strong executive, and even survives such autocratic presidents as V. Moitoret and Castleman. It is doubtful, however, that it was intended that the president should assume the responsibilities of the other officers or engage in administrative meddling. Nevertheless, this occurs either because of the personalities of presidents or the weaknesses of other offices, or both. An example is the tendency of some mailers to run to the president for advice when a journal arrives for bundle distribution, which he questions should be mailed. The constitution says he shall mail such amateur journals as are furnished him for the purpose, which might be a mandate. However, as an association officer, the mailer should make the decision and, if adverse, the publisher can appeal to the executive judges (if any).
Another area in which the president occasionally intrudes is that of the Bureau of Critics. One president “suggested” to the chairman that a portion of an article critical of a certain journal be omitted because a sensitive, contemporary area was involved. Particularly puzzling is why or how the president saw the manuscript to begin with, but the real danger is that some officers and many of the members look upon the president as a guru whose suggestions are commands.
Safeguarding the official editor’s independence is equally important. Some presidents have held editors within fiscal straight jackets so as to end their executive year with more money in the association’s cash box than when it began. One wonders, too, how many sub rosa “suggestions” from presidents to editors became the same benign censorship as in the critics’ case cited above.
Past history illustrates how the editor’s independence can be threatened. When I was official editor (1953-54) critics’ chairman Payne designated her brother-in-law, an active amateur journalist, as an assistant. A certain phrase in his critique drew atomic reaction from a member then resident in Tokyo. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events now, but I believe the initial protest went to the president (who was described later as mentally wringing his hands) and then to the executive judges. Throughout the year I was under subtle pressure to publish an apology in the official organ. I decided that the official organ should not be edited by the president, the judges or dissident members. I kept my own counsel as to what I was going to do, which was exactly nothing. When the June National Amateur appeared without the expected apology in it, President Robert Kunde expressed only mild surprise. I have always been grateful to him for letting me make my own decision. The only convention aftermath was an evening discussion, after a pleasant afternoon on Maine’s water and rocks, of what by then was known as the Wesson incident.
While some presidents meddle in the affairs of other officers, they are notably lax in meeting their more routine administrative responsibilities. For example, for several years conventions have found that no recorder’s report was available. The substitute, a patched-up report based on informal records and recollections of some members that they saw something published by someone, is the delight of politicos who want to validate as many votes as they can.
While there have been accretions of arrogance by presidents, there has been a corresponding decline – if not the fall – in the powers and prestige of the executive judges. The National’s board of executive judges is a unique institution. The word “executive” is misleading, since the judges have no line authority and cannot supplant a president. Rather, they are a Supreme Court or, more simply, a court of last resort. Generally, their powers are limited to interpretation of the constitution and settling protests filed by members. They cannot legislate, although occasionally their decisions will result in constitutional reforms – or at least changes.
For many years election to the board was an honor awarded to immediate past presidents, elder statesmen or to some member traveling farthest (by plane or mixed freight) to the convention. Once elected, the judges were expected to remain immobile, staring silently into space like the faces on Mount Rushmore.
This graven image continued until the late 1950’s when Campane’s publishers filed a protest against inclusion on the then proxy ballot of a proposed amendment. They felt it conflicted with another proposed amendment raising the dues. After careful study of the constitution and of the manner in which the amendment was proposed and printed in the official organ, the judges ordered the questioned amendment off the ballot.
This action focused immediate attention upon the unusual powers of the judges and upon their historic role as interpreters of the constitution. Willametta Keffer, then active in the National, issued a mimeographed brief of outrage, asking members to vote for the questioned amendment anyway. Her comment that the judges’ action was without any “decent precedent” was amusing because it implied the existence of some indecent precedents. Meeting in an atmosphere of excitement, the ensuing Grand Rapids convention upheld the judges’ ruling.
Conscious now that they had a forum, members brought several other matters before the executive judges in succeeding years. Finally, in 1963, Roy Lindberg asked them to rule on the eligibility for National laureates of material published in The Fossil. This had been an underground issue for years since, in the words of one member, all Fossils were rich, professional writers, and the expansive pages of The Fossil were unfair competition for the limited space in National journals. Again, strictly interpreting the constitution, the judges ruled that Fossil material was not eligible since The Fossil itself was not an amateur journal as then defined.
A furious president immediately removed two of the judges for “inactivity.” More accurately, as Louise Lincoln remarked in a recent Kitchen Stove, they were fired. This controversial decision, and the president’s action, were on the Cleveland convention’s agenda. After a lot of Ed Colatory, the convention sustained the president’s action, although members of The Establishment so voting knew the activity requirement for officers had been winked at for years. They also knew that judges who were also life members might not be subject to the activity rule.
It is significant that in a subsequent overhaul of the constitution, life members were exempted from activity requirements, and entry of Fossil material in National laureates was specifically legalized. It is significant, also, that since then The Establishment has permitted only judges of Carswellian mediocrity or assured somnolence to be elected to the board.
This is interesting but ancient history. Currently we need to look carefully at the demand we make upon presidents, so that they can have more opportunity for creative leadership. The administrative impoverishment under which new members are rushed, as soon as they qualify, through the important posts of editor, president and judge, should be ended. The offices are wearing ones and the incumbent needs a sabbatical between each one, just as tribal bearers require safari halts so that their spirits can catch up with their bodies. The president needs freedom from some of the barnacles of tradition, such as obligatory letters to new members, bundle contributors, etc., so he can be an example for the members. If a writer, he should have time to write; if a printer, time for typography. Only J. Ed Newman found this kind of time.
What then can be done for the executive judges? Through constitutional amendment we can give them assured tenure – three or five years or until death or resignation, to insure the continuity we get now by electing the same individuals as judge, year after year. In the meantime, only individuals who are also life members should be elected, as a precaution against predatory presidents.
More Notes on the Century Type
by John S. Carroll
CARROLL previously said Century Expanded was not a good book face. He feels he was misunderstood. – Ed.
In certain quarters I am being made out as a villain who would snatch candy from the hands of babes, because I have stated in some few words that I do not think Century Expanded is a good book type. Now, that is all I said of that type – I did not demolish it, sneer at it, or trample the grave of its eminent designer. I just said it is not a good book type, and that is the consensus of every book designer I know.
However, as I said before, the way to learn to judge a type is to study a great many types, and then after a while a pattern begins to emerge which you can call “taste” or merely some knowledge of what has gone before. Now, if we examine Century Expanded in this light, here is what we find.
The ancestor of the face was some ancient Scotch roman of the mid-1800’s, probably from the Miller and Richard foundry of Edinburgh. About 1895, Theodore Low DeVinne asked the American Type Founders to design a new type for the Century magazine, and Linn Boyd Benton made the new design and cut the matrices therefor. The new Century face was somewhat compressed, to get more material into the narrow columns of the magazine; it was successful for its stated purpose, but of limited utility.
Therefore, about 1900, DeVinne again asked ATF to design a new face, this to be a widened or expanded form of the Century face, for use in books of normal page proportions. L. B. Benton designed this new version, which was later cataloged by ATF as Century Expanded, though originally called Century Broad-face.
DeVinne had one continual complaint at the time; that the coming of hard surfaced papers and cylinder presses had resulted in a weak, grayish typography when the older types were used; he insisted on a greater weight of line in Century Broad-face, and this was duly supplied. The face attained some considerable popularity as a book face at the time, and in 1906, another member of the family, Century Oldstyle, was drawn and cut, also by L. B. Benton. This is not really an oldstyle face at all; it is merely Century Expanded provided with oldstyle serifs.
Now, then, what is the matter with Century Expanded that it did not maintain its popularity as a book face? Well, for one thing, we ought to be familiar with the original Scotch-face from which it derives. Scotch is a compact, bald, almost crabbed letter; it has a good deal of character which came from the vagaries of the punch-cutting process, and no doubt, from the personality of its designer.
Benton, enamored of his pantograph punch-cutting machine, made enlarged drawings of each letter, a foot high. On these drawings, he added a fixed percentage of weight to produce the darker color that DeVinne wanted. Then he trued up every curve with a compass, straightened every line with a ruler, adjusted the thickness of all the hairlines to a common dimension, and did the same with the thick strokes. The resulting letter is a masterpiece of precision, but it is over-refined; every trace of character has been squeezed out of it. It bears the same relation to its Scotch ancestor that today’s bakery white-bread bears to grandma’s home-baked loaf.
So what is the matter with Century Expanded is that it is stiff, mechanical, over-refined. Its extra color is fine for offset printing or cylinder press work on coated paper; but for handpress printing, with a modicum of squeeze into the paper, and ample inking, it is too bold.
What do we have to do about it? Must we continue to use Century Expanded just because it is there? Or, more important, what about the fellow who likes that kind of type but realizes that something is wrong with Century?
Well, there are a number of choices. If you like a newspaperish style, there is Monotype Modern No. 8. This is an excellent late 19th century roman, light in weight and thoroughly suited to printing on soft paper with ample impressions and plenty of ink. It used to be possible to buy this type in huge fonts very cheaply from the late lamented Empire Type Foundry. It is still available from many other sources. I personally think it is superior to Century Expanded in every way, and did at one time design a periodical for Columbia University using this type with its italic and small caps.
For more bookish purposes, there is Scotch No. 36, another Monotype face, but one much closer to the Miller and Richard original. This type is heavier even than Century Expanded, but has considerable contrast between the thick and thin strokes. Like Modern No. 8, it is easily available from many foundries, and is an excellent book face in every way.
There were several good foundry versions of the Scotch face; the Riverside face, cut by Phelps Dalton & Company of Boston for the Houghton Company’s “Riverside Press,” was one of the best. Unfortunately, the matrices of this face appear to be lost; American Type Founders, who inherited them, have no record of their disposition.
Another good foundry Scotch is the Wayside series of American Type Founders. Regretfully, it is only available on special order, in 6-inch line sorts orders, at exorbitant prices.
Wayside is another of those faces better in one size than another, and one can easily fall into a trap if he has not a thorough knowledge of the history of the face. This occurred with the late Steve Watts, who decided to revive the face in a “kittypot casting” and chose the 11-point size as being what he thought was the best, because it had the “desirable” long descenders.
Now, long descenders serve only one purpose, and that is to compel more space between lines, by putting a face of a given size on a larger-than-normal body. But the Scotch face is a naturally tight-fitting, cramped face, not only horizontally but vertically; long descenders in a Scotch face are utterly out of place.
Steve compounded the error by deciding against the casting of 11-point spaces and quads; instead he had the 11-point Wayside cast on 12-point body. Thus we have a widely spaced type to begin with, then we add a built-in 1-point leading even if we set the stuff solid. Set with normal leads it is equivalent to another face leaded a full three points between lines. This made the page appear to be a bunch of horizontal stripes, rather than the desirable even gray tone.
Actually, the most authentic size of Wayside is not the 11-point but the 10, which is nearly as large but has short descenders. It is too bad this has not been made available again – the matrices are still preserved at American Type Founders. But unless a large enough group of amateurs can be gotten together to make up an order big enough to persuade ATF to cast and font it at normal prices, there is little hope we will ever see it.
The best available substitute is Monotype Scotch No. 36 from any source except MacKenzie and Harris, who, for some reason, have added long descenders to it and cast it on the next larger body. But it can be had in its normal size and style from Baltotype. Yes, it is cast of Monotype metal, and as I have previously pointed out at great length, if you can wear that out on a hand press, you are maltreating it brutally.
A Friend Has Gone
by Harold Segal
“ONE OF THE immortals of amateur journalism has laid aside his burden of pain.”
“On September 19, 1970, Helm Spink passed away, and with him another era of the amateur press disappears. John Gillick’s opening words of the sad announcement: “an immortal of amateur journalism” is beautifully put. As a youth, literate beyond his years, his participation was unobtrusive, yet his quiet influence dominates the hobby today. As an authority on the NAPA constitution he was a keen interpreter of its nuances and deficiencies, yet I do not recall his ever sponsoring an amendment. The sincerity of his logic is apparent in the very fact that a healthy NAPA exists today.
As official editor he was the first – of the few – to handset the 7×10 size, in a period when the association was penniless. Every 5×7 journal of stature bears the heritage of his typographical counsel and his fondness for the classic principles of layout.
The National Amateur Press Association has lost its champion and most devoted enthusiast.
We have lost a friend.
CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by co-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 475 copies printed on 60-lb. offset on an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.