Louis Collins and the Seattle book fair brain trust really outdid themselves this time. As I walked to work Saturday morning for the show’s opening, I was met by a crowd of thousands of people, all trooping down Mercer St. toward the Seattle Center!
Come to find out all those people were marching for Heart Health, but the number of attendees at the show was impressive as well.
The aisles were full all day, and the gate for Saturday topped 1000 visitors. Most of the people I talked to reported excellent sales. And, as usual, setup and move out proceeded without a hitch.
Alas, the picture was not so rosy for Ten Pound Island Book Co. My sales numbers topped out at $360. Considering travel expenses, booth costs, and meals and hotels, not to mention cost of goods, this was a disappointing number.
I’ve had shows like this before. If you’re a specialist, and nobody in attendance is interested in your specialty, well… However, these meager totals are usually offset by excellent buying. If I only make a few hundred bucks but am able to spend $10,000 or so, I’m a happy man.
Not this time.
In fact, I only bought one thing worthy of note, and I’m not sure there’s even a market for it.
People who study such things have told me that the colorful clipper ship sailing cards were produced by a combination of letterpress, wood engraving, and lithography. I always understood the words, but I could never really visualize the process until this remarkable artifact turned up.
It is a set of three zinc printing blocks for the clipper ship sailing card “Volunteer.” Presumably, each plate printed a different color.
Here’s how Wikipedia describes the process:
Zinc plates could be obtained for less expense than fine lithographic limestone, and could be acquired at very large scale. Zinc was coated with a solution containing gallic acid and phosphoric acid that caused hygroscopic salts to form on the plate’s surface. A printer would then cover the zinc plate with a coating of asphalt varnish, expose it under a drawing and develop it. The zinc affected by the lines of the drawing proof would be coated with hygroscopic salts. Bathing the plate in acetic acid resulted in the dissolution of the salts, the asphalt varnish protecting the remaining surfaces of the plate. Then the printer would coat the plate with a colored lacquer varnish called fuchsine, dried, dipped in benzene. This would dissolve the varnishes, leaving only the fuchsine varnish in the areas associated with the drawn lines, and hygroscopic salts elsewhere. The printer then wet the plate, the water localizing on the salts. As in lithography, ink applied to the plate was repelled by the hygroscopic areas, and attracted to the fuchsine areas. Sometimes zincographic printers created printing proofs on specially coated papers.
And here’s what the finished product looked like
So I came home thousands of dollars in the hole, but at least I learned something about printing clipper ship cards.
We’ll see if I get any luckier next year.