It Takes Two To Tango
by Alvin S. Fick
As it approaches its centennial the National Amateur Press Association is enjoying vigorous good health marked by new journals in the bundle, and the steady and reliable appearance of several veterans. Campane rolls along like Ol’ Man River; there is a spate of Scarlet Cockerels; Typemania Press #30 blossoms into 36 pages plus cover. The past decade has seen added to NAPA’s growing strength members whose talent, skill and record of service have made them old-timers in their own right.
Although there is little balm which will assuage the personal loss we feel when our ranks are thinned by death, we should find solace in the knowledge that departure of the likes of Heljeson, Spink, Grady, Thomas, Cole, Duerr and others, while painful, does not leave our hobby group moribund. Their legacy will enrich our future as newer members become more immersed in amateur journalism, becoming collectors who seek out the past.
Perhaps some of them will have the good fortune to find such gleaming jewels as the poem “Crystal” by Clifford J. Laube, which appeared in Laube’s small book of poems, Crags, and which was later printed in The Aonian. I quote it here as an example of the depth and quality of amateur journalism at its best, and as a bit of that elusive balm just mentioned which is so needed in the face of loss:
The bitterest frost cannot forget
The ferns its stinging sword has slain,
But by its very own breath must set
Their fronded prints on every pane.
So Death, the icy-fingered one,
May blight our dreams, but he will see
The windows of oblivion
Crystalled with immortality.
Some of the hobby’s finest journals have been co-edited and co-published: The Virginian, Willametta and Martin Keffer; The Wag, Edna Hyde McDonald and Helm Spink; Siamese Standpipe, Helen and Sheldon Wesson; The Cemetery Rabbit, Rowena and Victor Moitoret; The Aonian, Tim Thrift and Ernest Edkins; Campane, Hazel and Harold Segal.
Because it represents what has been called the pinnacle of the hobby, The Aonian, will be the subject of this review. Tim Thrift and Ernest Edkins gave the association in a literary journal the blending of two outstanding minds in a demonstration of the superb taste, craftsmanship and mastery of the pen. With the first quarterly issue for Spring 1943 and for every issue thereafter for the three volumes ending with Winter 1945, the masthead stated, “Devoted to literature, criticism and the preservation of amateur letters.”
Thrift listed himself as printer, publisher and managing editor; Edkins was associate publisher and literary editor. Both had prominent careers in the hobby’s early years. Tim Thrift brought to the project more than his ability as a fine printer. His writing and editing were part of his professional life, and both were amply displayed in The Lucky Dog, his personal journal. Ernest A. Edkins, whose erudite contributions to the amateur press had made him a leading figure in its literature, brought to literary criticism in The Aonian a level of achievement unmatched in amateur journalism.
Issue number one of the magazine declared the intention of the publishers “…to present the best amateur literary work of the past and present.” Although it ceased publication after three of the five years planned for its existence, The Aonian presented some of the best work of the writing giants of the hobby. The names sound like a hall of fame scroll of amateurdom. To name a few: H. P. Lovecraft, Edwin B. Hill, Edna Hyde McDonald, Edith Miniter, George H. Freitag, Edward H. Cole, W. Paul Cook, Fanny Kemble Johnson, Burton Crane, Allen Crandall, Rheinhart Kleiner, William R. Murphy, Joseph Dana Miller.
In addition to their lucid comments on the current amateur scene, the editors contributed substantial amounts of text to their publication. Edkins’ work was primarily in the field of literary criticism while Tim Thrift – prior to his assumption of the role of critic upon withdrawal of Edkins for health reasons near the end of the magazine’s three years – wrote sketches and articles.
If anyone doubts the effectiveness of dual editing and publishing in the field of amateur journalism, he needs only to examine a few copies of The Aonian to learn how successful it can be.
Except for the last issue which contained twenty pages, and volume one, number four with forty pages including a special insert, the magazine had 24 or 28 pages measuring 6”x9”. To Tim Thrift’s credit he was able to obtain a good grade of text paper and cover stock of substantial weight throughout the difficult war years when such things were scarce to unobtainable. It may be that he entered the undertaking with an ample supply on hand.
On page 23 of the first issue Thrift states, “…hand set and printed, a page at a time, on a 7×11 foot-power press.” If memory serves, research into the matter several years ago indicated that a transition was made to a larger press.
Tasteful, conservative use of the Janson* typeface set in two 13½-pica columns per page with an occasional inclusion of 28-pica sections for variety are the mark of the master printer who heeds the admonition to make it readable.
I can only imagine the vast amount of correspondence required to make The Aonian a success. Some of the fun surfaces in a page and a half of the third issue in the Musings and Miscellanea department under the subhead “Between Ourselves.” Here Thrift and Edkins record in a bantering dialogue their view of their efforts and a lighthearted evaluation of their success. This amusing interplay alone would make the pursuit of The Aonian worth the time and effort of any serious collector of amateur journals.
The Aonian should head the list of mandatory reading for anyone thinking of embarking on the publication of a cooperative journal where the partners are separated by geography. The under-one-roof category would perhaps benefit most by a study of The Cemetery Rabbit, Siamese Standpipe and Campane.
Proximity to our organization’s centennial is certain to generate a variety of activity beyond what may seem the plodding norm. Who, then, among our printers, editors and writers will come forward to form a Damon and Pythias bond and give us another Aonian? Is the “little magazine” concept of amateur journalism buried beyond resurrection? Do we care enough about the hobby’s past 28 years to preserve some of its best alongside contemporary effort?
Writing this article I found it great fun to dream up prospective editor/printer/publisher teams capable of launching and sustaining a publication which could “…become the repository of literary work that will be of superior quality and of historical interest to the amateur journalism of the future” (The Aonian, Spring 1943).
Is there a Thrift and Edkins duo in the crowd?
* For years I have sought a source of Janson for use in my own shop but have not been able to find it in anything smaller than 14 point. Mackenzie & Harris, of San Francisco, lists the face in their catalog from that size through 36 point in both roman and italic. – A.S.F.
by Harold Segal
In just about two years time the National Amateur Press Association will be entering its Centennial Year. Fireworks will light the night skies, military bands will play “The Stars and Stripes Forever” continuously, a thousand-page official organ will stream from over-worked presses, members will forsake their family obligations, their employment to devote full time to expand and embellish their journals, would-be poets will drip goo ad nauseam extolling the occasion, President Nixon will deliver his greetings in person in Philadelphia, the Postal Service will issue a commemorative stamp recognizing the historic date, and Henry Kissinger will persuade other amateur press and printing associations to participate.
Members of the NAPA, for a greater part, are terrific dreamers. Their dreams – and promises – made in the euphoria of a convention atmosphere, never quite reach maturity – or, more precisely, are stillborn.
Mindful of this experience, we’ve only been lukewarm supporters of President Bill Boys’ plans to get Centennial preparations into high gear. Most of the suggested ideas are not completely impractical, but unworkable because the physical effort needed is just not available. Financially impossible grandiose schemes must be put out of mind. Projects involving massive research must be shelved unless the originator undertakes the task himself – with plans for publication assured.
We were pretty well disgusted with the suggestions offered at Natural Bridge: from a far-out documentary film to traveling displays. No one volunteered to head these projects, but “surely there must be someone with the time to do it.”
All this in mind, it came as a surprise to myself when I agreed – with Bill Haywood as co-chairman – to accept half of the centennial coordinator job. Now I summarily dismiss all suggestions made at Natural Bridge, unless someone volunteers to see it through.
Yes, the Centennial Year is a milestone, but let’s do what we know best. Let’s try to find a little more time for writing and printing, upgrading our standards as we go.
As a co-coordinator, I would say that a Centennial Seal is our immediate project. We ask that it be drawn in black on white paper, preferably 8½”x11” and sent unfolded. Bear in mind that this design will be reduced to 36, 48 or 60-point size, so go easy on hairlines and delicate lettering. Final design selection should be made at the 1974 convention.
You may not agree, but I would prefer that each of us “do our own thing” for the Centennial. Presently the editors of this journal are working on what is now a “vague construction” which we hope will be similar to the Diamond Jubilee booklet of 1951. As our plans jell a bit more, we hope to announce the distribution to all 1976 convention attendees of a hard-cover souvenir book.
Bill Haywood also has something in mind. (This is probably why President Boys appointed us.) Bill is hoping to start a project similar to It’s a Small World, in which printers will contribute inserts (two or four pages? – check with Bill) giving details of their press, type and other equipment.
But what about you? If you have a plan, let’s hear about it – but make sure you include a method in which you will participate to see it to its completion.
Let’s Have an Official Showcase
by Gale Sheldon
It appears that the editor of the National Amateur could use some help. The divergent views of Tony Moitoret and Ralph Babcock, printed in the December 1972 NA, must have put him in a terrible quandary. Moitoret thinks the NA should be our “official organ,” while Babcock believes it should be a “showcase” for amateur journalism. It would seem impossible to reconcile these opinions within the restrictions of space and money provided.
Perhaps I could offer some assistance. Having had no experience whatsoever as a big-time editor, I feel perfectly qualified to offer advice. Twenty-five years of reading and not reading the official organ provide the basis for these suggestions.
We need both the official reports and statements of the officers, as well as some “frosting” – in-depth reviews of prominent amateurs, their printshops, and re-printing the laureate-winning items. In short, we need an “official showcase” for amateur journalism.
Being interested in the old-timers and their journals, I would hate to see the official records left out of the NA. They are a most useful tool for any research into the history of amateurdom. I also have a lively interest in the present activities of the association, and a personal acquaintance with a number of members. The background articles about writers and printers, the essays on current problems of the group, the varied opinions concerning many aspects of our endeavors are all eagerly awaited with the appearance of each issue.
I hope we won’t have to shortchange either of these important arenas of our hobby which are much enhanced by significant material printed in the National Amateur. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it too, if we will just use our heads and our resources.
Let’s do some cutting as Ralph Babcock suggests. I think once-a-year printing of the entire membership list would be perfectly adequate. It should be kept up-to-date with the necessary changes in each of the other three issues. About a half page seems to be sufficient for this. Don’t print it in a flyer, though, and stick it in the monthly bundle. It should be part of the National Amateur which many amateurs keep as the official record of amateurdom. Of course, this will take an amendment to the constitution, but if we’re convinced it is a worthwhile change, we’ll do it.
Let’s do a lot of condensing. Keep information in the NA about the new members, but shorten it. Abbreviate items something like they do in a Who’s Who entry. And set it in smaller type. Keep the historian’s report of all published journals, but in small type like the membership list. This is the only way we can keep a record of the yearly publishing activity where all have access to it. Reports from the secretary-treasurer, the manuscript bureau manager and other such officials should be kept in, but printed in smaller type sizes as appropriate. Even the column listing our current officers could be condensed to half that by using smaller type.
Tony Moitoret is right in wanting the official reports and data of the hobby to appear in the National Amateur. If they don’t, then much of our history will no longer be available, and an important part of our hobby will be gone.
Why not make some additions to this showpiece publication of the hobby? It is to the official journal that most amateurs automatically turn for the information that best describes and explains our avocation and the people who make it what it is. It should contain the best material our organization can offer and it should be presented with distinction.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we don’t have more expert printers in our midst than we have talented writers. We should follow Ralph Babcock’s advice and put some printers’ abilities to advantage in adding inserts to each issue of the National Amateur. It should not be difficult to find eight printers who would contribute four pages each to the NA during the year. That would mean an additional eight pages per issue. Four of these might be used to reprint laureate awards and the best of our writing, especially fiction. The other four could provide space for special articles on challenging facets of amateur journalism and the various hobbyists – the writers, editors, printers, with details on their printshops.
Obviously, coordinating such inserts with various printers, and fitting copy to their different requirements would necessitate both patience and skill on the part of the editor. It would probably be best to get two printers for each issue, and ask them to set and print four pages each. That would mean only two variations from the regular printing format, and each section would be consistent. Page numbering and continuation of articles would be more easily handled. A page with a single column in somewhat larger type, as J. Ed Newman used sometimes with his volume of the National Amateur, might be easier for printers to produce, and would certainly enhance the reprinting of the laureate awards.
I would be willing to contribute four pages to next year’s volume, one page at a time on the old Kelsey clam-shell. There are undoubtedly others, more proficient than I, who would be willing to participate in this cause. If these inserts could be organized well in advance of the deadline date, it would encourage printers to give it a try. I know some newer members are not entirely enthusiastic about writing, but they love to print. If approached, they may consent to assist with an insert if furnished the copy.
The National Amateur must be both a record of the history of the National Amateur Press Association and our showcase of the best that happens in the hobby. To be content with anything less would be a disservice to all of amateur journalism – the greats of the past, the superb practitioners of the present, and the unknown participants of the future.
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 425 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.