“It’s the Cadillac of Vandercook presses,” Walter Feldman said, flipping a switch and setting the printing press’s six rollers into synchronized motion. He laid a square of newspaper onto a large drum roller and pointed out how neatly a pair of flat ribbons secured the paper against it. “You can make a broadside up to twenty-two inches by thirty inches on this.”
For the past quarter-century or so (“I’m not good with numbers,” Feldman, a professor of visual arts, said, shaking his head), he has taught a yearlong class in bookmaking.
Last year, the John Hay Library cleared out space to make room for the Walter Feldman Book Arts Studio. It houses Feldman’s collection of printing presses, as well as binding equipment, the mother of all paper cutters, a guillotine for trimming whole books to size, and what looks like an oversize dough beater. It’s for macerating cotton rags into the pulp from which fine paper is made. “What we don’t want to do is make paper out of wood,” Feldman said with a grin.
Only fifteen students are admitted each semester, and each must give a copy of their creation to the library. Outside the studio, illuminated cases display last year’s books. Hand-printed, hand-stitched, and embossed, each is a gem so pristine it’s hard to envision all the force and machinery required to craft it.