The next issue of The Microbibliophile will be published and distributed on July 7, 2017.
Reprinted from May 2015 issue of The Microbibliophile
KINGSPORT PRESS: The Questions Continue
by Jim Brogan
Over the last several months (Issue 191 and Issue 192) I have written a few short articles about the miniature books published by the Kingsport Press. As you know there are three very small miniatures, published; Lincoln, 1929, Coolidge, 1930, and Washington, 1932. Preceding these three volumes was another miniature, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address’, 1928, that has evaded the sights of collectors for some time, if not forever.
I have been doing a lot of research about the Kingsport Press and just what was the story about the creation of the 1928 book and where a copy may reside today. Maybe an institutional collection, maybe a private shoebox, or maybe a copy of the book no longer exists. Some of the items researched are:
• an article written by Julian Edison in the Miniature Book News, Number 39, December 1979
• a presentation award booklet from the Newcomen Society In North America, dated 1959
• the convention proceeds of the EBOA Convention of 1928 (Princeton University actually had a copy of this document)
• a 50-year tribute book to Kingsport Press, titled A Way of Life, 1973
• some long conversations with the archivist of the Kingsport, TN library
Sometimes these searches go down many roads and make many turns in looking for the answer. The search goes on and I will continue looking for a copy of the 1928 publication. The most informative information actually came from the Miniature Book News article where the editor included the text of a letter written by the President of Kingsport Press in 1956 (Walter F.. Smith) to Percy S. Spielman outlining the thoughts and production processes behind the creation of the little miniatures. The text briefly explains the thought process initiated as an idea from a student in the Kingsport Press Vocational School to produce a miniature book to highlight the quality of their workmanship and the actual production processes. It goes on to explain that the book won the coveted First Prize at the EBOA convention and received a lot of press in various contemporary trade journals.
The preface of the 1929 edition, in the words of then President Palmer, ‘multum inparvo’, “…Being purely an educational exercise, the edition was distributed without charge and an edition of one hundred and fifty was quickly exhausted. And thus the little book fulfills its mission – bearer of great sentiments and field of large endeavor and all in miniature format….”
Does that mean exactly what was said, they were all sent to other trade companies and more than likely lost forever or maybe somehow a few copies survived in a memento case of a retired employee? Who knows? I will continue the search. Remember that Kingsport Press was a very large printing company and they were obsessed with building the best quality into their products, which were book, books, and more books. Here lies some of the confusion and mystery between the 1928 book and the 1929 book. The contest winner was submitted to the 1928 convention and won the prize in 1928; we know that from the Proceeds of the Convention book. The preface of the 1929 book leads the reader to understand that it (the 1929 book) won the award. Could the plates for the 1929 book been used for the 1928 book as well? Who knows? That is another question, or maybe the text from the 1928 preface could have been used to create the preface for the 1929 book? The colophon of E.B.A. version of the 1929 book does mention the prizewinner as the "initial version."
E.B.A Version: (Last page of regular text is printed on page 139 [recto] and then there is one blank page [verso], then on the next page [recto] is printed as; “These miniature editions of Lincoln’s Addresses originated with the students of the Training Division of the Kingsport Press. The initial edition won a First Prize at the 1928 Convention of the E.B.A. at Boston.”
LXIVMOS Version: (Last page of regular text is printed on page 139 [recto] and then there are blank pages, [verso and recto], then on the next page [verso] is printed as; “A special edition of the 150 copies of this book has been printed and bound by the students of the Training Division of the Kingsport Press for the LXIVMOS.”
An additional piece of investigative content was supplied by Julian Edison, the reference he discovered on an older ‘bookseller’s catalogue’, ‘Goodspeeds’ (Boston, MA, dated August 1978).
Fine copy: A special edition of one hundred and fifty copies of this book [Lincoln 1929] has been printed and bound by the students of the Training Division of the Kingsport Press for the LXIVMOS.’ Originally published in the preceding year (1928) "to be sent to the annual convention of the Employing (sic) Bookbinders of America, meeting in Boston in October 1928 (where it won First Prize)."
More mention of the 1928 edition but no visual confirmation of the actual book just yet. How about your thoughts, concerns,and additional information at your convenience please. Maybe we need a bigger flashlight for this treasure chest?
Along the above "roads traveled," as always; one-thing leads to another, a fellow collector called several weeks ago to put me onto the track of ‘something special for sale’ about Kingsport Press. As I mentioned they (Kingsport Press) were always interested in quality and showing that they could deliver the best products for the money. The picture below is of a "salesman’s sample" which visually outlines the various steps involved in the production of the Lincoln, 1929 miniature. The "sample" outlines all of the steps required to actually produce the miniature. This was certainly a labor-intensive process and it involved drawing on the production wizards that Kingsport employed to create the process, build miniature machinery to do the work, and actually produce the books. More than likely,these highly skilled employees were all graduates of the vocational school that Kingsport created as part of the printing company. If you study the history of the company, they moved to Kingsport because of the availability of raw materials for the business. There was a large available pool of people available to work in the plant but for the most part, they had to be taught the printing trade from the bottom up, hence the need for the vocational school and from there came the student with the idea for the miniatures.
The "sample" is 9" x 113/8" and was original contained within a shallow 1/2”-thick cardboard presentation box with a removable lid. The green background paper for the actual sample and the presentation box is identical. The details of the sample board and the production process are outlined in the attached picture.
The top of the sample contains an actual printed sheet 101/4" x 51/2" printed both sides and folded containing all 160 "uncut" pages of the text for the actual miniature book. On the left side are the ten printed ‘sections’ folded and cut but not trimmed that will make up the book. On the right side below the large sheet is a sewn book with the 10 sections, the next item is a trimmed book, and then the trimmed book with spine ribbon attached, ready to be attached to the cover.
Across the bottom edge is first an actual leather cover, cut and stamped, ready for attachment to the book case.
In the center of row is an actual completed book, next to a postage stamp to give a representation of the actual size of the finished book.
Further to the left is another actual completed book, open to show the actual printed pages and the margin registrations as well as the gutters. The text labeling on the sample card would clearly indicate that the intention of the item is to show the quality and level of work that the press was capable of producing. As I uncover more information about this miniature set, I will bring it to you in subsequent issues of The Microbibliophile as well as a reprint of the actual production processes outlined by the Kingsport President Palmer. Remember, "the fun is in the chase."