Esther K. Smith and Dikko Faust, proprietors of Purgatory Pie Press, have been making letterpress date books since 1980 (for 1981). This is their 31st year and still printing. I asked Smith about the old and new. Also if you are in NYC visit the holiday sales at Purgatory Pie Press, 19 Hudson st #403, between Duane and Reade. 2-5 pm sunday Dec 11, Friday Dec 16 (elevator open Friday) and Saturday Dec 17.
Are there any special typefaces you repeatedly use?
Since we use movable wood and metal type we need to decide what can work– what we have with enough J’s and 1’s and 2’s. Sometimes we have just gotten a new-used typeface (gently used!)– and printing that in the datebook is fun. This year Dikko hand set the dates in Craw Clarendon. The months are Wood Gothic–and the weekdays are a type we’d dubbed Afatic–but last year Tracy Honn of Silver Buckle Press, UW Madison, identified it as Republic Gothic (c.1930).
What determines your annual design?
Before I got involved with Purgatory Pie Press, I was a costume designer for theatre. As a freelancer, I depended on my datebook to keep track of my crazy work schedule. I wanted it to be beautiful and interesting, but I most needed it to be functional. Week-at-a-glance worked best for me. I also needed weeks to start on Mondays, instead of Sundays, so that the WeekEND was at the end of the week.
As I used the datebooks, I found that case binding (cloth-over board hard covers) did not survive banging around my bag every day for a year. When Hedi Kyle, a bookbinder, bought an unbound datebook and said she was going to make a soft leather cover for it, I was intrigued. I began working with leather scraps and looked at examples of older, pre-printing bindings, stationer’s bindings–another bookbinder/historian, Gary Frost had researched early book-structures. I began to understand books in a very different way.
Sometimes a student or an intern will do something interesting that inspires a datebook. One of the nuttiest ones combined simple pop-ups and one-signature pamphlet stitch on a spiral accordion–BOOK-TOY-CUBE– I made it based on what I teach my Cooper Union students in the first four weeks of class.
What new shall we expect for 2012?
We still love our map paper and have been doing various projects up-cycling it–but we want our yearly collectors to have something very different– I also love inner-office envelopes– a few years ago I ordered a bunch of small ones–so I decided to stitch those into the signatures so that we will have pockets for receipts, stamps, postcards (my daughter will be in Paris). We are using leather again this year–up-cycled fashion leather.
Some people do their own binding, right?
Some people order the unbound books and stitch them based on HOW TO MAKE BOOKS–or take them to a bookbinder for whatever binding they’d like–and binders often order copies and make their own covers for client gifts and the like.
We are limiting this year’s edition to 36 copies- 3 x 12 for 2012. They cost $112. People who read this can use the code HELL (goes with Heller and Purgatory, no?) for our still-on-the-press special: 3 books for $201.2 on day of blog publication (while supplies last). Best way to get one is to email me: Esther@PurgatoryPiePress.com.
[Photos by Amy Sly]