[Pania of the Reef (Napier)]
We've just received a very nice review from Australian-based fine printer Jurgen P. Wegner, in the thirtieth issue of his Brandywine Bookman’s repository for Australia & New Zealand [pp.9-10]:
30.4. The Pania Press
What are the limits of the private press or of fine printing today? With the advent of new technologies — or rather, the demise of traditional ones and the fact that it is increasingly difficult to source material and equipment, especially out here in the “colonies” — private printers are adopting a variety of new technologies for their work. A recent Australian private press book, for example, was printed letterpress from polymer plates ... which — so I gather — is quite the done thing nowadays. Is this an indication of the limitations of the private press or a sign of its expanding horizons? Anathema for the purist? But then artists’ book produced by photocopy are old hat ...
I was looking for the name of the chap who prints some rather nice stuff as the Fernbank Studio down in Wellington. Of course, nothing is to be found online. With the welcome serendipity of the Internet I did however find the name mentioned amongst notes of her favourite books on the “blog” of another press — the Pania Press. The press name harks back to her childhood in Hawke’s Bay where there is a bronze statue in Marine Parade of Pania of the Reef, a character from a Maori legend. Proprietor Bronwyn Lloyd is a freelance writer with a Ph.D. from Auckland University. The press is located in Auckland’s seaside suburb of Mairangi Bay “where I spend my time writing, crafting and making limited edition books for Pania Press, a bijoux publishing company that I co-founded with my husband Jack Ross in 2006”.
Note the use of the term “bijoux publishing”. Her website — or rather “blog” — provides a good descriptive listing of the items produced to date. I would have liked to have had some more bibliographical details such as libraries and collectors find useful: how each work is printed, the type of paper used, extent of the item, &c. Lloyd replied to me that “we produce such small numbers, often gift editions for family and friends, so our ‘audience/ market’ is fairly small and intimate and in truth, I hadn’t given much thought to potential collectors [sic]”.
The Press’s “blog” shows some of the wide variety of work produced. The texts are mostly fiction — poetry and short stories — though, as with all her publications, there is a great deal of inventiveness and craft involved. Writing about the origins of the Press she says that she and her husband:
“... were talking about how frustrating it was that our talented writer friends were struggling to find publishers. We thought that if we controlled the means of production [sic] then we could publish small editions of their work and get them some visibility. We have a very limited budget and we don’t have access to a printing press or any book-making tools, to speak of, so we opted for a design aesthetic that has handmade elements (stitched covers, hand-binding, screen-printing, collage (etc)) but with a commercially printed text. I source nice papers (normally laid vellum) through my local printer and I teach myself new construction techniques as I go, which is my favourite part of the process”.
And these publications are quite remarkable. Their overall design aesthetic I would regard as craft-based rather than trade, with inspiration from the recently very popular revival of making your own scrapbooks &c &c. From the illustrations provided on the “blog” the texts seem professional enough but the cover designs are really delightful. Each one is an experiment in design and production. I especially like the use of such things as sewing machine stitching not only as part of the design but as a means of creating whole illustrations. An example of the latter is in the covers for Jack Ross’ Love in wartime. Produced in a limited edition of 30 signed copies, each of the 10 specials has its own sewn illustration from cup and saucer to flower pot motif. Another favourite technique is collage and a further work by Ross produced last year, Silhouette, is also comprised of unique copies with each illustrated with a collage of vintage fabric samples as well as fashion cuts from issues of 1950s Ladies home journal.
Other works include a collage of wallpaper and also one with a key! A favourite interest and illustration process is the pop-up (or pop-out) book. These range from a simple abstract design as found in Katharina Jaeger’s Fold to the more complex constructions as for Jorge Luis Borges’ The minotaur with its fine, fold-out series of steps and other protrusions. Then there is the extraordinary Notes found inside a text of ‘Bisclavret’ as well as a “wine box” theatre. And even an artists’ “book”: an edition of Guillaume Apollinaire’s Je donne à mon espoir in a limited edition of 21 copies. Further craft/art information is available at her: http://mosehouse.blogspot.com/. Check out the websites and buy the books! The Pania Press titles are distributed through Parson’s bookshop in Auckland.
Name: Pania Press
Contact: Bronwyn Lloyd
Address: 2/5 Hastings Rd., Mairangi Bay, North Shore City 0630, Auckland, N.Z.
Catalogue website: http://paniapress.blogspot.com/2008/02/catalogue.html
1. This and the following quotation is from an email to me from Bronwyn Lloyd dated 27/11/2010.
2. Ever since my own experimental portfolio of P.J. Proudhon’s What is government (Sydney : Blackdawn Press, 1986) which used a ripped and torn collage of papers, tickets, forms, &c, and sewing machine stitching for illustrations.
3. Jack Ross, Love in wartime, Wellington, Pania Press, 2007, (Pania chapbook; 1). Limited edition of 30 signed copies.
4. As above but a special “limited gift edition” produced in 2006.
5. Jack Ross, Silhouette, Auckland, Pania Press, 2010. A4, signed and numbered edition of 12; sold out.
6. Katharina Jaeger, Fold, Auckland, Pania Press, 2008, (Pania artbooks; 2). Includes an essay by Bronwyn Lloyd titled: The half-life of haberdashery; sold out.
7. Jorge Luis Borges, The minotaur, translated by Jack Ross from the poem Laberinto, Auckland, Pania Press, 2009, (Pania peculiars; 2). Fold-out pop-up in a hand-printed slipcase; edition of 21 copies; sold out.
8. Guillaume Apollinaire, Je donne à mon espoir, translated by Jack Ross, Auckland, Pania Press, 2009, (Pania peculiars; 1). Hand-written text with hand-printed imagery on deckle-edge cotton rag paper in slipcase; edition of 21 copies with 7 for sale at NZ$25.
[Statue and original (1954)]
I guess it's understandable that he finds it odd that we haven't put in full details, measurements, details of printing, etc. with each new title. The collector's market is, after all, the one we're most likely to access in the future. It's a good point, and one we'll certainly take notice of from now on.
As a book designer and printer himself, Jurgen Wegner seems to appreciate Bronwnyn's design innovations more than the actual texts of the books we've produced. His write-up is so positive overall, though, that there seems little place for misplaced author's vanity. Bronwyn's handcrafted covers and other design features are the innovative aspect of Pania Press, and it's nice to have this pointed out so unequivocally.
Thanks, Jurgen! I hope your own endeavours continue to flourish! A complete run of your newsletters would no doubt be extremely valuable in itself. I see the Australian National Library itself boasts only a partial set ...
- Jack Ross