Sandy Tilcock’s new book, ALL OF HIM is a remarkable fine press work, not only for the standout design and conceptual details that define it as a masterpiece, but also for the story behind the production. Here’s a peek into the pressroom for this stunning collaborative edition.
Sandy worked on the production of this project off and on for almost five years. Except for the employment of a student assistant in the printing of the photogravures she worked alone, setting type, printing the letterpress (48 press runs), binding and box making.
To fund the project, she sold six pre-publication copies at a significant discount. In addition, earnings from her regular commission work and nearly $20,000 in credit card debt funded supplies and materials. For example, each intaglio plate cost $800 and some pages required two plates in order to get things right. The Rives BFK paper cost $4.50 per sheet and the project required almost 1,500 sheets. Sandy over-ran the images to assure good work and redid the first plate—Coffee—after printing a couple of others and realizing they could do better.
The press runs include one intaglio photogravure run on an etching press for each image plus up to three Vandercook letterpress runs (dependent on the number of panels of type) for the poem on each page. Also two more Vandercook runs for the title and author text on each page.
The photogravure plates were an inch larger than the final page size all around so there is no plate mark. The plates were full size and wiped so that there is no discernible plate tone. Each sheet was then trimmed down such that the plate mark was gone but still .5 inches larger than final size.
After printing again, the sheets were individually trimmed down to final size. Due to the large size each sheet was in danger of errant ink or oil slurs from the press if the sheet was not lifted off the cylinder correctly. Having the sheet a bit larger provided a safety net.
Sandy says of this long endeavor, “three years ago a bike accident took me out of the game for a while. There were several times when I thought about chucking the whole thing but I just kept working at it. I get the perseverance award if nothing else. I am proud of the work. It isn’t flashy but it honors the spirit of the poems and the trace monotypes. I kept wondering why I didn’t print them digitally but it wasn’t the same. It truly is a work of passion.”
I had the great luck to visit Sandy in Eugene three times during the production of ALL OF HIM—each time witnessing slow and steady progress. My most vivid memory is one visit where Sandy had all of the printed images, but no text, hung in a grid on her living room wall. It felt like she truly lived and breathed this all-consuming work for years and the results are remarkable.
Bravo, Sandy! Your passion shines through on this remarkable project.