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The Dig

From: American Book Review
Volume 34, Number 3, March/April 2013
p. 6 | 10.1353/abr.2013.0030

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Many of my favorite publishers have reprinted important and under-appreciated books over the years. For example, Dick Higgins at The Something Else Press published facsimile editions of Dada Almanach (1920) edited by Richard Huelsenbeck and New Musical Resources by Henry Cowell, as well as several Gertrude Stein reprints, including The Making of Americans, Geography and Plays, and Lucy Church Amiably. Judicious reprinting, particularly for a small publisher, helps to keep significant cultural information alive while supporting the press’s lineage and identity.

Since 1995, I’ve published no fewer than twenty such books, which in retrospect seem to fall into three categories: documentary collections, facsimile editions, and reprints.

My first experience recovering and reprinting a lost book occurred in 1995, following my encounter with issue no. 11 of New Wilderness Letter, a little magazine edited by Jerome Rothenberg. No. 11, co-edited by Rothenberg and David Guss and titled The Book, Spiritual Instrument, was published in 1981 and includes contributions by an impressive range of artists, poets, and scholars, including Alison Knowles, Karl Young, Herbert Blau, Dick Higgins, and David Meltzer. Having published my first trade book, Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists’ Books, that same year, I felt that The Book, Spiritual Instrument would be an interesting intellectual compliment to Drucker’s work while adding an anthropological, philosophical, if not spiritual perspective to the field of writings about artists’ books. New Wilderness Letter no. 11 proved to be quite elusive in the days before Abebooks.com; despite my searches, I was unable to locate more than one copy. Rather than produce a straight reprint by photographing the original pages, we reset the type, which meant keyboarding the full contents of the book. Becky Cohen’s photographs of poet’s reading from their own books were carefully reproduced in gatefolds as in the original publication. The cover incorporates a photograph by Michael Gibbs, which accompanies his translation of Mallarmé’s essay referenced by the book’s title.

When republishing The Book, Spiritual Instrument, the idea of an expanded edition of this seminal work was not far behind, and within a few years, I was working with Jerome Rothenberg to co-edit a sort of sequel, A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing, which was published in 2000.

A Secret Location on the Lower East Side by me and Rodney Phillips, The Angel Hair Anthology edited by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh, A Book of the Book, Doings: Assorted Performance Pieces 1955–2002 by Jackson Mac Low, and A Purchase in the White Botanica by Piero Heliczer edited by Gerard Malanga and Anselm Hollo are in some sense documentary anthologies that gather together often obscure and out-of-print works and recast them for a new audience, sometimes with the addition of new material, whether an introduction, commentary, or bibliography. For example, Doings (see above) presents a comprehensive collection of Mac Low’s handwritten, drawn, typographic, and musical notations—works composed through non-intentional methods and that operate simultaneously as visual art, literature, and scores for performance. The book includes detailed performance instructions and notes on the procedures of composition, gatefold reproductions of the poet’s original visual scores, as well as a CD of both live and studio archival recordings.

We’ve reprinted several works by Joe Brainard, including his classic, I Remember. Full Court Press first gathered and published all of the original installments as a single volume in 1975. Penguin picked up the edition in 1995, and Granary followed, redesigning and reprinting the book in 2001. I Remember is our bestselling title, having gone through six printings and selling over 20,000 copies.

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The Vermont Notebook, Joe Brainard’s collaboration with John Ashbery, was first published by Black Sparrow Press in 1975. The Granary Books reprint in 2001 had a new cover while the text pages were photographed and printed from the Black Sparrow edition.

In 2012, Granary reprinted Bean Spasms by Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett and Joe Brainard, which was conceived as a facsimile of the Kulchur Press edition from 1967. The cover and text pages were faithfully reproduced from the original; the...

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