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Production Narrative

by J. Drucker

This book was produced in two different ateliers in Amsterdam, both of which were open if one paid a per diem. The etchings were done first, because that particular studio was going to be closed in August. The labor involved in printing the entire sequence of etchings was considerable, and the other artists in the studio mocked the project, which looked to them like the printing of dirt off the surface of the plate. 10 copies of 10 stages of the etching in a few weeks' time on damped paper in a strange country was no small feat for me at the time. I remember taking the printed pages home at the end of that period of printing. They were wrapped in plastic and cardboard and I carried them on my bike. The package was enormously heavy. Only sheer will and determination (and absence of options) pulled off the transportation. By the time I dragged the package and bike and myself upstairs to the apartment I was sharing, I was completely exhausted. I sat down in a chair and didn't move for twenty-four hours. The letterpress production was a little more sane in pace, since I was doing it at the Drukhuis on the Herengracht, a peculiar place presided over by a strange man who was printing images of old master drawings using all kinds of odd materials in the ink (Las Meninas with a skirt textured with "cat bark" used in litter boxes). But the proofing press had no rollers, only a cylinder, and the only other presses in the place were hand presses, I think, since I didn't use them or couldn't. The printing is quite dreadful as a result, since each form had to be inked with a brayer and I wasn't skilled enough to get good inking or a clean impression from such a set up. Still, the project came together, and I bound it in a weirdly invented, very strong, but very sewing-intensive binding structure. There were ten copies. One went to the Stedlijk, one to the Museum of the Book in the Hague. One went to Stephen Rodefer, who bought it. One went home with me to my parents (the copy I now have). What happened to the others? I know I left some in Amsterdam when I left, but I can't recall if I managed to place any of the others anywhere or not.

Critical Analysis

by J. Drucker

Design Features

typographic: The typography breaks into statements and gloss. The 24 point Garamont statements contain the key terms, such as "vague" or "small event" and these are repeated in each instance, on each page, in a line that is always in the same order in the series of statements. Basically, each new element has its first statement in the top line, and on each successive page, it moves down a line. The gloss, below, in 12 point Garamont, comments in vernacular language on the graphic activity.

imagery: The etchings record successive stages of an etching plate on which "events" have occurred. There is no realistic or figurative imagery, just a series of marks, stains, processes, etc. that are given an identifiable character in the texts.

graphical: The layout allows the texts on vellum to be read on top of the etching plates, though the vellum is fairly thick. To really see the etchings, you have to turn the pages or else slip the etchings out and put them next to the texts.

openings: Each opening repeats the structure of bound vellum text overlaid on an etching.

development: Sequence and accretion are part of the project's basic conception and execution.

textual: The text is abstract above, vernacular below.

intratextual: The interrelation of the text and image is crucial, both because the conception of specificity, the work of definition, is played out in the two registers simultaneously. So, a notion like "the small event" is defined by the way it looks, and changes, on the plate and by the way it is recontextualized in the statements and commented on in the gloss. None of these elements works independently.

Experience of the Medium


Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


born: United States
active: United States
citizenship: United States

birth: 1952-05-30

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: Johanna Drucker

place: Amsterdam

publication: 1978-00-00

edition size: 10

note: All printing, binding, and distribution was done in Amsterdam. [J. Drucker]


horizontal: 18 inches closed

vertical: 24 inches closed

depth: .5 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
letterpress (local)
intaglio (AAT)

binding: hand sewn (local)

bookBlock: paper
endsheets: paper

ink (local)


format: codex (AAT)

cover: Boards covered in linen canvas.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed


Etchings printed June at the Grafische Atelier. Letterpress July at the Drukhuis from Garamont 10, 12, 24, 48 on various papers. All the type inked with a brayer and printed on a Potter proof press which is why it's so funky. Completely executed in Amsterdam, Netherlands by Johanna Drucker, 1978.