Van Nuys, California: Richard J. Hoffman, 1979-1989. Limited Edition. Hardcover. Five volumes in custom slipcase, each volume a limited edition (see details below), octavo size, 624 pp. total, from the collection of Bela Blau. Fine. Item #20110301
Richard John Hoffman (1912-1989) has been described as both "a bookman's bookman" as well as "a printer's printer". He began his printing career at the young age of 12 when he helped to install a printing press in the bell tower of a church in order that the church's bulletins could be printed. He worked in the printing world his entire life, both as a teacher and a designer/printer. His early career was devoted to the Press of Los Angeles Junior College/Los Angeles City College, and later at Cal State LA, at all of which he both worked and taught.
It would be later in life, upon his retirement in 1978, when he would produce some of the most creative of his works, including the five volumes represented here. Hoffman would, among other books which extolled ornaments, produce a series of six printing type specimen books. The sixth and final book ("ABCD") was completed just prior to his death. "No other private press printer in the recorded annals of printing history has ever produced a series of type specimen books such as these..." (n.b., from Petko, p. 116).
We delighted in the whimsical statements which Hoffman included in some of the colophons: found in "A Gathering of Types" is "The printer knowingly expects the book to be out-of-date the moment the binder gets the covers on"; and, in "A Decorative Divertissement" can be seen "There is no end to it all!"
These five volumes, in the custom slipcase, came from the collection of bookbinders Bela and Mariana Blau, who over the years bound many books for Hoffman. Per the person from whom we acquired the set, "These are without a doubt the bookbinder's copies, although without attribution, as were most of the books bound by them." We presume the slipcase was made by the Blaus, although there are no marks stating such. We also note that this set contains only five of the six books in the "series", with "Don't Nobody Care Abut [sic] Zeds" not included. Since the slipcase was specifically manufactured for five volumes, we can only speculate on why "Zeds" was not included.
___DESCRIPTION: Four of the five volumes bound in quarter cloth over papered boards printed with decorations and lettering, the other volume ("With Line and Flower") bound in full cloth over boards with stamped decorations and lettering, all volumes with gilt lettering and decorations on the spine, all volumes with (different) decorated endpapers, all volumes with some coloured lettering on the title pages (the most restrained being the first volume, with a single red ornament), all volumes with coloured inks throughout; all volumes octavo size (8 1/2" by 5 5/8"), pagination (note that page counts include blanks): "Gathering of Types" [1-8] 9-96, and was published in 1979 in an edition of 100 copies; "Decorative Divertissement" [1-15] 16-108, published in 1980 in an edition of 150 copies; "Florilegium Typographia" [i-iv] [1-7] 8-156, with 250 copies published in 1985; "With Line and Flower" [1-10] 11-64, 200 copies, ; and "ABCD: Initials and Display Alphabets" [i-iv] [1-10] 11-192, with 200 copies published in 1989. All five volumes in a custom slipcase (presumably made by the Blaus) of sturdy cardboard covered with grey cloth.
___ CONDITION: All volumes in fine condition, with clean bindings, strong, square text blocks with solid hinges, the interiors are clean and bright, and the set is entirely free of prior owner markings; a bare hint of rubbing (really just a lightening of the cloth) at the head and tail of the spines, else fine and almost as new. The slipcase is near fine, strong and sturdy with a few scattered spots of light soil, mostly on the bottom edge.
___CITATIONS: Petko, nos. 277, 290, 372, 409, and 419; information from the blog entry dated March 21, 2016 on the web site of the ABAA, written by ABAA member John Howell.
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