Leonard Seastone, “The Delicate Work of Song”

Dyed linen thread, red and dark green leathers and red cedar boards. Titling in gold leaf.

Hand dyed linen thread is sewn through a dark green leather spine, over red leather cord-tapes. The book’s paper would not react well to an interior glued spine so this method eliminates the adhesive. Oriental papers in an occidental binding can suffer from the use of an adhesive. The book may open flat for greater ease.

Quarter-sawn red cedar shellac finished with leather tapes. Fabricated and bound by Leonard Seastone.

The Red Cedar is 1/4 sawn from old growth trees. I have counted over 130 annual rings on some of the covers. Each cover is naturally very different. And extremely light. My use of the red cedar comes partially from my recent studies in building lapstrake and carvel-planked wooden boats. Exotic as this old growth wood is, I salvaged it from the damage bin of a local lumber yard: it is clap-board. I planed it to a uniform thickness and hand cut the slots and dadoe for the leather to weave through The inside cover also has dadoes cut so the leather may lie flush with the wood. The finish is 7 coats of thinned shellac buffed with 0000 steel wool, and a micro-crystalline wax.

The first response to the book is its lightness.

Title Page
Hand-set Delphin I and Trump Mediaeval, poly-plates on Seikosan washi. French folded. Poetry by Ronald Baatz.

The poetry is by Ronald Baatz. Here is a review of another of his books, Bird Standing:
“The high art of the short poem has no master more accomplished than Ronald Baatz. The places found in these poems impart a metaphysical geography amazing in scope and imaginative dimension,a sense of how the continents of conscious thought and feeling must have been experienced and known before they drifted apart. This book is stunning. Its visions redeem a world and a language we may have thought were lost. Think again.”
–Michael McClintock President, United Haiku and Tanka Society.

Guyang Chen is my collaborator on this book. She was a Letterpress and Book Structures student of mine at Purchase College, which is when she first developed her ideogram technique. I asked her to work with me and luckily she agreed. More on this later.

The paper is extraordinary. Without dampening it allows for a very crisp impression and the Delphin I type, designed by Georg Trump at 12 didot has very delicate characteristics which is encouraged by this paper to reveal its beautiful face. The cutting of the Seikosan washi was done a single sheet at a time; this process alone took a week of work.

Pages 22-23
Text as illustration. Ideograms by Guyang Chen.

How I have long desired to be able to utilize the Chinese and Japanese means of the language illustrating itself. Here, in my 43rd year of printing, it has been made possible. Guyang’s ideograms are comprised of latin letterforms: the typeface is Bradley. She first experimented with combining Bradley sorts to mimic the language of her native China. In The Delicate Work of Song she worked digitally so as to be able to be able to overlap and flip the letterforms. The ideograms are the poetry in selected forms almost like a reverse translation into the Chinese. Referenced here is the idea presented by Eliot Weinberger that 20th century American poetry would not have existed in the form it became without the translations into English of ancient Chinese poetry. (The New Directions Anthology of Classical Chinese Poetry, 2003)
The two ideograms on the lower recto page are the words “they come.”

Pages 28-29
Offsetting and simultaneous printing of unpigmented ink. Type and plates letterpress printed by Leonard Seastone at The Tideline Press.

The pages are French folded and originally were to be cut and left deckled-edged, but the hard line of the cut disturbed me so I scored, folded, damped and tore each sheet before binding. I am conservative with expensive materials, and the 1/16” excess was hard to manipulate which again required another hour and half per book. Often the well made book aborning moves beyond the maker’s imagined economy of time.

Here I printed on the tympan before feeding the paper to print. The unpigmented ink was offset onto the back of the sheet as it was being printed on the front. The ink moves through the paper. The image evokes many images and ideas, but I have said enough for now, so I’ll leave those delicate possibilities for your imagination.


Leonard Seastone (West Sayville, New York)

The Delicate Work of Song
Handset type and poly-plates letterpress printed onto handmade seikosan sewn with hand dyed linen thread through leather spine and over leather cords that are woven into red cedar boards (shellaced and waxed). The book block spine is without adhesive.
Edition of 30
Pages: 48
Dimensions open: 7.562″ x 9.5″ x .625″
Dimensions closed: 7.562″ x 4.687″ x .625″