Crab Quill Press—Artist Books > Crab Quill Press

Crab Quill Press



Crab Quill Press is devoted to aesthetically charged graphic media. Crab Quill artist books celebrate the book as a kinetic structure and system designed to deliver sequenced information in a form that attends to tactile and visual pleasure. In their production, Crab Quill books engage the history of image making and binding technologies, as well as the history of the book. The books range from individual artist productions to extensive collaborations between calligraphers, graphic artists, authors, and translators. The publications are printed primarily on handmade papers using a Ray Trayle etching press and a Vandercook proofing press, are hand-bound, feature wood covers, and are presented in custom Solander boxes or slip cases. While some publications are editioned, other volumes remain unique and generally include original drawings, paintings, and writings.


Books by Crab Quill Press are noted for their comprehensive integrity and elegance of concept, design, and production. Books are meant to be held in the hand, turned by the hand, felt by the hand. They provide places where the hand and eye collide. Each Crab Quill book presents a small course in haptic and visual aesthetics. Incredible attention is paid to the selection of materials of each book and to the ways those materials are combined to create an aesthetically charged, kinetic information delivery system.

The majority of Crab Quill books features wooden covers. Although the use of wood is unusual in this day, the early history of codex bindings was dominated by books sporting wooden covers. In fact, the etymology of the word "codex" is "tree trunk." In most historical volumes the wooden boards are covered by leather. I have chosen to leave the wood revealed. Thus, great care is taken in selecting wood for the cover so that it is not only structurally stable but also beautiful for the hand and eye and in some way interprets or reflects internal content. The surfaces of these wooden covers are treated in a variety of ways including being stained, dyed, sealed with lacquers and varnishes, branded, sand-blasted, and burnt with lasers. The weight and motion of the cover is a defining aspect in the haptic entrance into a book, and in this regard wooden boards have no equal in the world of books.

After opening the cover, the next material encounter is with paper. Paper in Crab Quill books is carefully selected for its ability to carry etchings, letterpress type, as well as original drawings and watercolors. Printmaking papers, especially those made by Hahnemühle, are found in most Crab Quill books. These acid-free, archival papers are unsized and are generally heavy and quite tactile. In comparison with paper found in most trade volumes, these papers appear to be filled with air and tooth. In the process of printing, most papers become calendared and debossed to some degree, providing various textures throughout the book. Unlike prints and drawings generally encountered behind glass, the book allows the viewer to encounter these images without an impeding vitreous mediator. End papers are usually hand-made, decorative Japanese papers, chosen for both the contrast with the weighty printmaking papers and their ability to interpret or function as an intermediary between the cover and the text block.

Bindings are also revered, for it is the binding that determines the way the materials that comprise the book act and react to the hand and are encountered by the eye. Crab Quill books tend to use two bindings that are mechanically sound, flexible, and ergonomically elegant. The first is the sewn-boards binding, championed by Gary Frost; the second is the drum-leaf binding, developed by Timothy Ely. In both cases, these bindings have been modified for exposed wooden boards as well as to accommodate a drop-away spine. The drop-away spine functions as a quadruple-hinged structure that lifts away from the back of the book as the book opens. This simple construction grants maximum flexibility to the spine and allows the book to open a full 180 degrees. Thus, the viewer has the pleasure of viewing information without obstruction across a flat plane (as opposed to the senseless pawing and craning experienced when confronted with the hindering parallax caused by a curved surface induced by an inflexible spine). When opening a Crab Quill book, the spine—lined with linen or leather—will drop into the palm of the holding hand as a silent invitation to enter its world.


Books published by Crab Quill Press have found their way into a variety of public and private collections including the Chu-Griffis Collection, Connecticut College, New London, Connecticut; the Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; The Hallie Ford Museum of Fine Art, Willamette University, Salem, Oregon; the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon; Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts; and Stanford University, Stanford, California.