The Prototype Press

The Prototype Press

Sunday, Aug 18, 2019

Who Says Young People Don't Love Books?

by Liz McCall

Meet Mark Sarigianis, Oakland-based printer and publisher of fine press editions at The Prototype Press.  We first became aware of The Prototype Press through the acquisition of two lovely books, An Ocean Between Us and Me, Myself, and the Monkeyface Eel.  The Press produces beautiful editions of fiction and nonfiction, drawing from the deep and rich California tradition of fine presses, most notably found in the work of the Grabhorn Press and Arion Press.

The Prototype Press began in 2011 as Sharp Teeth Press and continues under Mark’s sole direction.  Mark apprenticed for three and a half years at Arion Press in San Francisco, where, in addition to letterpress printing, he developed a love for type casting.  The books are printed primarily on a large Vandercook press; in addition, Mark uses a parallel impression platen press for printing smaller components of the books, as well as two type casting machines.   The books are printed from type made at the Press, with the type from a previous project melted down to make the type for the next, a continuous cycle of utility.

The books are printed in editions of twenty-five to fifty, with one or two books printed a year; Mark prints works of both nonfiction and fiction, often post-1950s literature or lesser-known contemporary titles, such as Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski and 2BR02B by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  Mark prints the type and the illustrations himself, often working with local artists; the artwork frequently features traditional printmaking techniques, such as woodcuts or linocuts.  The artist’s hand is an important element of the illustrations and the books as a whole:  the aspect of touch, of the physicality of each piece can generate a meaningful response in the viewer.  Mark then binds the books by hand, focusing on the challenges and intricacies of each structure.

A testament to its influences, The Prototype Press continues a dedicated tradition of fine press printing and bookmaking, a tradition steeped in exceptional skill, attention to detail, and a love of books.