Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bookplates from Bud

On the Journey to Chandara Road Tour, I’ve been spotlighting some of the bookstores that Jeanette and I have visited along the way. But I don’t want to overlook the mail order companies, who work quietly in the background and bring their own artistry to bookselling.

Bud Plant Comic Art in Grass Valley, California is the premier catalog retailer for fantasy and illustrated books. They have a staff of people that really know and love comics and visually told stories. They wanted to do something special for the new Dinotopia, so they asked me to design a custom bookplate to match the endpaper design.

The endpaper art (above) shows multi-lobed ginkgo, horsetail ferns, mayflies and other things from the fossil record.

I drew up the bookplate in pen and ink, trying to stay in the spirit of book design a hundred years ago, and showing maple seeds, which also turn up in fossils.

John Reed at Bud Plant took the drawing and had it printed (above) on a 1918 letterpress. The printers cast the image into a metal die and inked each impression by hand. Here’s a shot of the press being inked on the Dinotopia job.

And here’s the stage called “rolling.”

Thank goodness there are still people in the world who know how to run these glorious old letterpresses. I love the smell of the ink. It makes me want to put on green eyeshades and suspenders.

Letterpress printing is an art form that is almost lost, like harnessing an eight-horse team, or making a mechanical wristwatch. Check out the fascinating video about the art of letterpress printing, where the narrator muses about the potential disappearance of such skill and knowledge.


Jeffrey Alan Love said...


I just wanted to leave a note saying how much I am enjoying your blog. I hope you continue to post after your book tour is over - I am a student at VCU Arts and love all the behind-the-scenes stuff.



Michael Damboldt said...

Awesome! I'm actually using a letterpress now to create prints! It's messy but awesome when you see a print you've rolled yourself!

I also had a really really random question about Dinotopia.

Does Dinotopia experience seasons or are the different biomes self-contained without seasons?

Anonymous said...

Thanks James!

It was really a pleasure to work with you on this project. And kudos to Nancy Shahan from Nevada County Printing for inviting me into her shop and sharing her expertise and passion for the letterpress!

All things good,