I am excited to announce the establishment of my own private press. I will be the publisher and the principal illustrator, designer and typographer. I will hire pressmen, papermakers and bookbinders as needed for its various projects.
My first projects will be broadsides, but my ambition is to produce printed books, inspired by the incunabula and blockbooks of the 15th century that retained the large illustrations, ornamental borders and elaborate versals that characterized illuminated manuscripts.
Millefleur Press takes its name from an art historical term for a decorative fill composed of tiny plants and animals, common in late medieval tapestries and in my own artwork.
INAUGURAL PROJECT: MYSTERIES of the ROSARY PRINTS
My first offerings from Millefleur Press are broadsides depicting the mysteries of the Rosary. These are based on three original ink drawings that I drew on calfskin this past year. They were letterpress printed on 100% cotton acid-free natural white paper with vegetable-based black ink. Gary Mordhorst of Chicago was the pressman. Each print measures 9"x12" and is signed in pencil with a DM monogram.
The price is $50 per print.
The pictures above are of the files used to prepare the printing plates; scanned details of the prints themselves are below.
The scenes representing the 15 mysteries are contained within Gothic quatrefoils. I drew inspiration from various Northern European panel painters and manuscript illuminators of the 14th and 15th centuries, including the Limbourg Brothers, Absolon Stumme, Johann Koerbecke, Jacquelin de Montluçon, Dieric Bouts, Hans Holbein the Elder, Jan Polack, Hieronymus Bosch, Gerard David, Martin Schongauer, Rogier van der Weyden, Nikolaus Obilman and Hans Multscher.
The ornamental framework for the Joyful Mysteries print is a Hortus Conclusus representing the Blessed Virgin. Among the millefleur is a scene of the Capture of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Incarnation. The ornament in the Sorrowful Mysteries print is composed of plants that are associated with or that symbolize Christ's Passion: olives, hyssop, commiphora (myrrh), grapevine, passionflower and jujube (Crown of Thorns). The Glorious Mysteries are framed by intertwining vine leaves, flowers and tendrils, with a butterfly to symbolize the Resurrection. The twelve small roundels summarize the Ave Maria prayer.
ORIGINS of the IDEA
When I was in college, I had ambitions to become an oil painter, but after studying various printmaking techniques, I became convinced that the book arts were more suitable for my talents. Etching became my specialty, and I also experimented with lithography, woodcuts, typesetting and bookbinding.
After college, I no longer had access to the same equipment, so I concentrated on drawing. But I retained from those years a predilection for working in black and white. Even now that the majority of my artwork is in color, I still create many black and white line drawings that resemble prints made according to traditional relief or intaglio methods.
In the course of researching printers to print my custom bookplate designs, I rediscovered letterpress printing. This method was dominant from the time of Gutenberg until the 20th century. Because it involves pressing a sheet of paper into a hard plate or block of type, the resulting page has a textured quality. In recent years, letterpress printing has experienced a small revival, with both professional and hobbyist pressmen across the world purchasing and repairing old presses and mastering the skills needed to operate them.
I learned that a process exists to transfer a photograph or scan of a detailed black and white drawing to a printing plate made of plastic or copper; thus I am able to print my existing drawings with letterpress methods, without needing to work the plates themselves.
About this same time, I began to design stationery. I drew sets of decorative blocks, scanned them at high resolution, and arranged them in various combinations to form attractive borders. It was like arranging movable printing blocks, except that I was using bitmap files rather than pieces of wood or metal, and my assembly space was a Photoshop document. I soon realized that this method could be used for far more ambitious projects, and that I was not limited to the decorative blocks that I created specifically for the stationery. I already had a substantial body of black and white drawings that could be mined for pictures, borders, versals and ornaments. Over the past two years, I spent many hours scanning existing drawings and making new ones, retouching files and organizing a library of these elements. Now, at last, it is ready to be put to use.
PLANS for the FUTURE
I am hoping to sell enough of the Rosary broadsides to fund additional projects. The next that I have planned is a large Crucifixion print. In 2013, I hope to publish broadsides of the Pater Noster and the Credo; a set of altar cards; and my first book, a rosary devotional incorporating the Laudes Beate Marie Virginis attributed to Stephen Langton.
Should these prove successful, I want to create my own versions of several late medieval devotional works that were popular subjects for xylographic books, such as the Ars Moriendi and the Biblia Pauperum. Eventually, I want to publish a Book of Hours inspired by those produced by the partnership of Simon Vostre and Philippe Pigouchet.
I hope to print many of my future projects on either calfskin vellum or a handmade paper with a custom watermark. The books issued by Millefleur press will have traditional hand-sewn bindings with tooled leather covers.
AUCTION of the ORIGINAL COLOPHON
I am also offering the original ink drawing that I made for the Millefleur Press colophon for auction. This drawing in black and red ink on Bristol board includes a design that will appear on the final pages of books produced by Millefleur Press, and also an ornamental border of roses. I will sell this to whomever makes the best offer by January 6th.