Sunday, March 23, 2014

Only for Fans of the Printed Word

If you look forward to the disappearance of paper and ink in favor of digital media, you can skip this post.

If you think computer-typeset, laser-printed text is all the world needs, don't bother reading on.

Because when I say printed, I mean printed, with moveable lead type set in trays, inked, and pressed onto, really into, heavy paper.

Oh yes, and if you don't want me to ask you to make a donation, you'd better switch to the next blog on your list. I have never done it before on this blog, but I am going to break my rule and suggest that you give a few bucks for something cool.

Alex Green has run a small indie bookstore in Waltham, Back Pages Books, for the past ten years, starting shortly after he got out of college. Needless to say, nobody does this to get rich. It's amazing he has been able to stay in business. It is an old fashioned place, with unfinished wood bookshelves, readings in the evenings, no parking lot, and a proprietor who knows his customers by name.

He's been doing letterpress printing on the side. High quality small run things, single poems, short pamphlets and books, special programs and invitations.

This is a dying art. He used to use a printing press located near him, but it moved, so he now has to carry trays of lead type on buses. It is, as he says in this nice video, romantic but absurd.

He is trying to raise money to buy his own letter press, so he can keep up his art, maybe even give some lessons. Donations in any amount are accepted; if you want to go straight to the donation page, it's here. Credit cards are fine. He even has some printed items he will send you in exchange for donations at various levels.

I have known Alex for a long time; he is the nephew of my college roommate Larry Green. Larry and I had met at a science fair and remained friends after college, when he became a promising medical researcher. And then all of a sudden he died at a young age, of Hodgkin's disease.

It was actually Larry who taught me, deep in the night on the second floor of Weld Hall, the concept of the absurd. He argued to me in the language Kierkegaard and Sartre, and I lamely tried to argue back in that of Quine. A Harvard education at its best.

Alex is an honest man and a good guy, and no crazier than you have to be to want to live your life running a tiny bookstore and printing beautiful documents by laboriously setting lead type and cranking fine paper through a hand-operated press. He won't squander the money, and if you support him, then some day, perhaps, you will be able to get him to do some beautiful printing for you.

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