A glimpse of CODEX 2013

CODEX 2013 was my third trip to the show and it grows more amazing each time I go. Set in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area, this time in beautiful Craneway Pavilion in Richmond. I spent a day and a half there and still feel like I did not get to every table. I had some great conversations with many people who are obviously very passionate about books and saw too many unique and wonderful books to remember.

As a reader, I am primarily attracted to fine press books that present a great novel, poems, or other significant literary text in a physical form that appeals to my senses on top of the pleasure I get from the text itself. But as you can see below, many beautiful books that I can’t “read” end up on my wishlist.

Some books that I found of particular interest and/or were just plain striking:

  • Don Quixote by Ante Wichtrey: I really liked Ante’s imagery for the windmill episode of Don Quixote. A German living in Spain, she said that as a book artist you have to do Don Quixote. I can only imagine what the complete book might look like with her illustrations.
  • Alphabets by Lucie Lambert Editions: It was delightful to have Lucie show me this one-0f-a-kind book that she has put so much of her life and art into. I forget exactly how many years she said she spent on it. I found it quite interesting that while you could call this a “bi-lingual” book, the poems in French and English accompanying each letter are actually unique poems specially written for the book by Robert Melançon and E.D. Blodgett, respectively. Her edition of Rainer Marie Rilke’s collection Les Roses is also amazing.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Taller Martin Pescador & Juan Pascoe: Not sure I need another copy of this essential part of the Middle English canon, but need never really figures into my book decisions. And the two I own are trade editions, so…The green cover and interesting binding were what stopped me in my tracks as I passed the table of Ediciones Catherine Docter, who was displaying the book for Juan. I love the description of the paper in the prospectus, which says that it is “just the right shade of green, neither too dark for legibility nor too coy for seriousness.”
  • Paris by Del Milion Editions and Peter Koch Printers: As I explained in my comments above, my main interest is in books with substantial textual content like novels and collections of poetry, but that doesn’t mean that I am immune to other examples of the book arts. This is one such example. I really liked the gay 20’s Art Deco feel of the illustrations in this book. They seemed to confirm illustrator Christopher Carroll’s love for the city of Paris. Each letter in this alphabet books is related to a person or place that has become part of the Paris mystique.
  • Dust Bowl Blues by Peter and Donna Thomas: Another book outside my usual interests but compelling none-the-less because (a) I’m a Woody Guthrie freak and the text for this accordian book is the lyrics from the song of the same name, and (b) Peter and Donna have used family photographs from the Dust Bowl era along with watercolor illustrations, making this an intriguing personal glimpse into the Dust Bowl.
  • Norfolk Isle & The Cholla Widow by Nawakum Press: I’ve been on the look out for some fine press editions of Melville. Mostly that means looking for fine copies of the Limited Editions Club books, so I was happy to find this edition and press a while back. The book instantly went on my wishlist to acquire one day. Seeing it in person definitely made me even more certain that I’d love to have this book, as the website just doesn’t do it justice. First of all, the patterned paper used for the covers really gives one the impression of waves in the sea. Secondly, I just really love the illustrations by Rik Olson, especially the bird’s eye view of the ship and the women standing in the sea breeze.
  • Ovid’s Metamorphosis by Shanty Bay Press: A fine press edition of this classic has long been on my wishlist. This edition contains a selection from Ovid’s masterpiece, so it might not be for you if you want the complete poem. However, the illustrations are killer and the book overall is beautiful.
  • Einhand Press: Having a conversation with fellow Joyce-lover Reinhold Nasshan is always wonderful. His one of a kind books that interpret different episodes and scenes from Joyce’s works definitely appeal to this Joycean. He’s not limited to Joyce, however, as he also has works inspired by Poe, Stein, Homer, Schiller, and Chopin, as well as publishing his own poetry.
  • Innocents Abroad by the Sherwin Beach Press: I saw this edition at the last CODEX in 2011 and I like it more each time I see it. The coptic binding is beautiful and the red covers combined with the creamy white of the paper is striking. Now this is the kind of book that is right down my alley. Making it even cooler is the bold use of the graphic illustrations of Heather McAdams. There is great graphic art work being done with recent publications like the The Graphic Canon, and Seymour Chwast’s adaptations of The Divine Comedy, The Canterbury Tales, and the Odyssey, so it is nice to see it also making its way into fine press like this edition.

I highly recommend making the pilgrimage to CODEX someday. The next one is 2015 and will probably be even bigger. I’m in business start-up mode so my wallet had to stay in my pocket but the wishlist grew and I hope to be ordering from some of these presses soon. In which case, you will see a detailed review!

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