by Robert Holman
“NO MAN but a blockhead ever wrote,” said the famed Dr. Samuel Johnson, “except for money.” So, immediately, introductions are in order (starting with the perpendicular pronoun) for a couple hundred (see the NAPA membership list) blockheads. To frame the epithet in camouﬂaged trimmings, this aggregation of blockheads would have you recognize them as amateur journalists.
This misguided group with the wooden nomenclature, all imperturbable to Johnson’s dicta, have qualities that bafﬂe explanation and suitable description. The moving ﬁnger becomes rigid pointing to the added confusion, perplexity and incongruity. Aligning themselves into associational conclaves, the interest of some center, almost exclusively, on writing, while others incorporate printing for themselves and, sometimes, other kin spirits, the ﬁnished products appearing in brochures, magazines and books, generally, without deﬁnite publication dates. Furthering their erratic behavior, they conduct conventions, their attendance duly recorded in the ofﬁcial magazine of the organization. Collectively, and to reiterate, they advertise themselves not in the conﬁnes of Johnson’s classiﬁcation, rather as amateur journalists, an identiﬁcation tag, I believe, that could stand redeﬁning.
As a chip (well, settle for a splinter?) in this timberous dell, one of many attractions for continued occupancy, is the opportunity to exercise a personal preference favored both in reading and writing. No argument is posted that this preference. is unacceptable by all members of this assemblage. Probably, if a dozen accept my method and manner of writing, I should be convinced tolerance is still viable. The fact, however, remains that being tolerated emphasizes the attraction, magnetism and individuality found in this vestibule adjoining a house erected ﬁve score less ﬁve years ago.
My neologism, my critics, sedulously belaboring my endeavors (Fruit of the Loons), insist my work is shrouded in a winding sheet of obscurity. And continue their insistence dispensing with any necessary effort to untangle, assay or prescribe. My critics, bless them, can always return to reading telegrams, love story magazines and Burma Shave signs – if they can still be found.
I delight writing what I want to write, using words when I so desire, of more than a couple of syllables, and in what manner or fashion I prefer, without clocks or calendars attending gestation and ultimate development. Need I add, without money the net end result of the indulgence. To have absolute control over this personal segment of life creates a distinct entity of satisfaction, enjoyment and accomplishment.
I admit, unequivocally, using unfamiliar words in equally unfamiliar arrangements, knowing full well the writer is assured a restricted audience. The chance of becoming in this vestibule of letters a much sought after contributor – if it was in the professional ﬁeld, chances of becoming a best-seller – are non-existent. Thus is the enlargement and density of a blockhead enhanced.
Words, after all, are tools used in the transfer of one man‘s thoughts to another, another who is receptive to the extent of familiarity with the words being used. The words can be appropriate and skillfully manipulated yet remain inexplicable. Because this happens does it imply the writer is at fault? If a reader is not familiar with a lot of words encountered in print is it axiomatic this fool writer perpetrates dull reading? Cannot dull be applied, also, to the reader?
So admonition is heard throughout the land to use simple words if satisfactory communication is expected. Under no circumstances must it be necessary for a reader to open a dictionary for deﬁnition of a strange word. God forbid. After all, a tabloid does not render ideas and information in inﬁnite complexity and multiple coloration. And for added example, consider the words, complex, circuitous and of veiled intent, juggled these days in government, science and industry.
Failing to make use of simple words, using (I am told) obsolete, archaic, dialectal words, the user preening himself in extravagant surroundings, wins the reward of a symmetrical zero for wasted effort. To continue such nonsense – what can be expected from a blockhead?
Encountering unfamiliar words in complex delineation is, to me, more attractive, more appealing than a continuous grind of simple clarity. To meet with a skilled manipulator of words, in fact a lover of words, a collector who showers his readers with mesmeric fascination, and adds a bonus with the release of evocative magic, supplies all the propulsion needed duplicating the preference.
Remember? Personal preferences are tolerated, and not necessarily accepted, in this strange and wonderful world inhabited by – now is it, blockheads or amateur journalists?
What meandering hath Samuel Johnson wrought?
No Ifs, Ands or Butt’s Solution
by Elizabeth Butt
Will Rogers is often quoted as having said, “I never met a man I didn’t like.” Were it not for a red headed, freckle-faced lad in the third grade who was little less than a cad, I might be able to say the same. I can say that I have never met a member of the NAPA whom I didn’t like, nor whom I have not found interesting. But because I like a person does not necessarily mean that I agree with him at all times; nor do I necessarily approve of his actions.
It has sometimes seemed to me that the population of the world can be divided into two categories.
One part, and by far the larger part, reasons in this fashion; John Doe did thus-and-so. I like John Doe. Therefore I approve of doing thus-and-so.
The other part, and this is a very small part, reasons differently. John Doe did thus-and-so. I like John Doe. Thus-and-so is contrary to the constitution and I cannot approve of the action even though I still like John Doe.
In the National Amateur Press Association recently, perhaps always, these two points of view have been confused, But disapproval of a particular action need not mean dislike or disapproval of the person performing the action.
Arguments about the content of the bundles have continued intermittently ever since the bundles began to be distributed. It was because of the various disagreements that the proper bundle content was spelled out rather explicitly in the NAPA constitution when it was revised some few years ago. And still the discussion continues.
Perhaps it would help if the members are reminded of some of the reasons for the limitation placed on the manager of the mailing bureau.
His duty, as described in Article VIII, Section 9, is to “mail to the members such amateur papers published by members as may be furnished him for that purpose.”
This seems simple. The only question is, “What is an amateur paper?”
Again, this seems quite simple. But if you have never attempted to deﬁne an amateur paper, please stop here and invent your own deﬁnition. Such a deﬁnition is not at all simple. Before the one that appears in Article IV was adopted it was fought over word by word by most of the attendees at one of the larger conventions. Each limitation included is for a speciﬁc purpose.
A paper must be titled. The reader should be able to identify a paper by a title; if the paper is saved (as so many are), a title makes ﬁling convenient. But more important, a title on a series of papers gives continuity. A series of papers of the same title is one example of the total being more than the sum of its parts. The title is an identiﬁcation and a reference.
A paper must be dated and/or numbered. If a paper existed for a day only, perhaps a date and/or number would be unimportant. But many papers live for years; it is interesting for a reader and/or collector to know when a paper was published and to be able to relate it in time to other papers by the same publisher, or to other papers printed during the same period.
The requirement that the paper be edited or published by one or more identiﬁed members of this association is quite reasonable. The word identiﬁed is inserted to prevent circulation of anonymous papers (often with malicious content) and to prevent circulation of publications by non-members.
At the time I ﬁrst joined NAPA, the constitution was out of print; new members could not be given a copy, nor were there any to be bought. During this period I was asked to run for the ofﬁce of recorder, did so and was elected, and served the term – this without seeing a copy of the constitution. It was a real handicap. Some of the duties were not explained to me at all (the obligation of ofﬁcers to publish, for example); some were explained months late, almost too late (pertaining to the laureate contents); and some were explained so casually that much was left to my own judgment. Under those circumstances, when I was criticized (as all NAPA ofﬁcers are) I seldom knew if the criticism was proper or not.
The next time that I held an ofﬁce, the constitution was my mainstay. If an ofﬁcer reads the section listing his duties and follows it, he is able to shrug off most criticism. He is secure in the knowledge of faithful performance of required duties. The other side of the coin is that I am always reluctant to criticize those who willingly give of their time and strength (and usually, money) to serve as ofﬁcers of the NAPA. I am so reluctant, in fact, that I very seldom do it.
The NAPA lost a very good member some years ago after he had served a term as mailer; and in my opinion, he was an outstanding mailer. His ﬁnancial reports were excellent, too. Few mailers in recent years have submitted ﬁnancial reports, an omission that saddens me, but one that few convention goers seem to consider of any importance.
As to bundle content, the receiver of the bundle has a problem. It is not too different, perhaps, from the problem that arises with all of his mail. Since I do not want any bundle content except those amateur papers that meet the requirements in the NAPA constitution, I glance at each item, if it is not titled and dated and/or numbered, if it is not identiﬁed by the name of the publisher or printer, into the waste basket it goes. I resent the waste of postage. I would prefer not to receive it at all. But rather than complain to the mailer (whose general efforts I very much appreciate), I simply discard.
Some members might ﬁnd relief by a complaint to the executive judges. However, since the practice of electing ineligible judges was begun some years ago, one hardly knows for sure if we have judges. A complaint to them, I suspect, would fall upon deaf or disinterested ears.
So, the waste basket is the better solution. I only hope that I shall not have to buy a larger one.
Almost an Ex-Armchair Amateur
by Gale Sheldon
By and large the amateur press has been pretty rough on the deadhead who sits in his television chair, receives his monthly bundle (whether he opens it or not is never known), and is heard from once a year when he pays his dues.
A great deal has been written about the deadwood who clutter up the roster, taking advantage of the efforts of the publishers and writers, but never contributing a single line of their own. Such arguments are indisputable. They are true. The non-participant never really has the joy of the person who gets his feet wet often in amateur journalism.
Nevertheless, there may be some mitigating reasons for the continued existence of the armchair amateur. It could be that he provides a useful and sometimes overlooked service. He is a reader of the various materials produced in the hobby. Well, he probably reads some of them, anyway. This may not be much of a commendation, but without someone to read their production, the printers and writers would have very little excuse for doing their thing.
Even if rigor mortis of the press and typewriter have set in, the $5 dues must make some small contribution to the perpetuation of the organization. The deadhead’s name, perennially printed on the membership list, supports the outward appearance of a large and important group to the naive newcomer. He will learn the truth soon enough.
And who among you is so sure that this armchair amateur is forever lost among the deadwood? Who can tell when time, or circumstance, or fancy, or letter, or invitation will stir the printer’s ink within his veins to sluggish activity once more? It almost happened. . . .
“Printing press, Challenge 8×12, elec., 2 racks, 36 cases of type & access, $250. 443-6633.”
It was the ﬁrst ad for a printing press in the local weekly that I’d seen in months. I read it again.
“There’s an 8 by 12 printing press with electric motor and a whole slew of type for sale,” I remarked.
“Why don’t you phone about it?” It was the wife’s usual reply.
“Maybe I will.” I picked up the phone and dialed. A voice answered. My query brought a brief description of the equipment for sale. The voice had an accent of some kind. Maybe British, I thought.
“Where abouts do you live?” This brought a lengthy word picture of the location, which turned out to be about ﬁfteen minutes away.
Minutes later I rang the doorbell. A white-haired gentleman of ruddy complexion appeared. Knobby knees protruded beneath blue walking shorts. The accent was unmistakably British. The press and equipment were across the street in the corner room of a small church building. He was the pastor and pressman. The accent had been acquired during a boyhood on the south coast of England.
In a corner of the room stood the aging ironworks. It was a Challenge Gordon, complete with unused ink fountain, improvised wooden brake, and a bit of heavy wire strategically placed to activate the counter at each impression.
The pastor-printer slapped on a dab of ink and ﬂipped the switch. The chunk of iron came alive and in a few seconds swallowed a small envelope and immediately spit it out, complete with printed information. I grinned. What a toy!
Next, the white-haired one was poking around showing me all the accumulated paraphernalia that becomes part of a 10-year printshop operation: odd lots of paper, leads, slugs, furniture, lead cutter, extra spaces, composing sticks, chases, cans of ink, galleys, quoins, ink fountain roller. After moving mountains of Sunday School material, he uncovered single and double type racks ﬁlled with type cases and sundry fonts of type. One rack was wondrously home made. The other was just old.
It was quite an assortment. A whole printshop. For $250. But it seemed like a tremendous step to take for one who was looking for a hand press a little bigger than his Kelsey 3×5.
I smiled and said something complimentary. I would think about it. Hadn’t really considered something this large. I would let him know if I were interested. That night I dreamed about printing. Big amateur stuff. Even a book, maybe. The next morning I looked around the city and studied the printing press market a little. Found two similar presses, but each was $400-$450. Hand presses were non-existent. One supplier said that hobby printers grabbed them up fast.
I thought about that big step to a motorized 8×12. Could put the press in the workshop. The type racks and cases could go in son Alan’s bedroom. Talked to Alan, He said O.K. if I cleaned the part of his room taken up by the stuff.
Thought some more. It was a bigger press than I had ﬁgured on. But it was a complete shop, everything I would need. And I could even print a book with it. I picked up the phone.
“Do you still have the printing press?”
The familiar accent answered, “No, I sold it this morning. Man wanted it for his thirteen-year-old son. Hauled away the type and racks. Will be back this evening for the press.”
I hung up, crestfallen and saddened. I felt cheated. I was going to print a new journal, and that book and . . . What do you do when you are too old to cry?
A voice somewhere said now I could go back to work on the eight-foot sailboat in the carport instead of spending all that time moving a printshop.
I walked outside to the carport and stared at the unﬁnished boat.
. . .Don’t wake our dreaming armchair amateur, whose visions of what he’s going to do far outrun his comfortable armchair accomplishments, Don’t get too excited about any changed habits. I’ll still send in my dues every year.
CAMPANE is published in the interest of organized amateur journalism and the National Amateur Press Association by eo-editors Hazel and Harold Segal, Margo Gardens, Bristol, Pa. 19007. Hand set in Baskerville types and 475 copies printed on 60-lb. offset stock on an 1890 7×11 Pearl treadle press.
Articles discussing associational problems, critiques or recollections and research in the history of the hobby are constantly sought and welcomed by the editors.
Rebuttals to articles in CAMPANE will be given prompt attention. We do not necessarily endorse remarks made in these pages by others than the editors, but we are not adverse to airing both sides of controversial issues.