a first


i have written before about the various permutations of one particular book and i recently learned about an interesting variation within another book i own: karel martens’ printed matter/drukwerk from hyphen press. 

karel martens may be my favorite designer working today. i eagerly collect his book designs, read his interviews and envy those who study within his program at werkplaatz typografie. i don’t always like the designs from the werkplaatz but they always encourage me to consider the possibilities of typographic choice and investigation. i immediately purchased printed matter/drukwerk when it was first issued in 1996. a second edition appeared in 2001 and an expanded edition in 2010. many years ago, i bought an edition i had never seen before. a book dealer in germany who knew i collected contemporary dutch book design sent an email saying he had something special for me. it was printed matter/drukwerk, but with a white jacket. at the time i had never seen this edition—not in articles or publications, nor did i have any info on this edition. permutations in book editions is a facet of book collecting that i just love. there are historically subtle differences in the title pages or a misprint on a specific page that will separate a first edition from a second edition. i noted a special difference in rand’s designer art in this blog. when i first obtained this ‘white’ edition i did not look into its origin but simply placed it on my shelf with, admittedly, materialist pride.
 a first edition has its special allure. ‘first edition’, two words fraught with meaning. i’m not sure if when buying a book you care about whether or not you’re buying a first edition. i often do. i still prefer reading a hardbound copy of a book over a paperback, though i do purchase paperback editions, but i haven’t been seduced by the ipad or kindle. i attend book shows, both antiquarian as well as commercial. this past fall i attended the art book fair at ps1. each year, publishers and independent book sellers are organized by printed matter, one of my favorite book stores in manhattan. it is a wonderful book fair. i still prefer to purchase books at these events and it’s important to arrive there early, which i don’t always do. at this particular fair, i walked around eagerly and discovered many wonderful editions that i had seen on the internet. i ran across a dealer from holland who was selling karel martens’ new book, full color. i immediately bought five copies. yes, five. christmas was just around the corner and i like to give gifts to the designers working with me. not everyone is as manic as i am about the latest books released and so many people just buy their books on amazon. but i try to support the local booksellers, so i was thrilled to buy these copies of martens’ book. as i was chatting with the bookseller, i was excited to learn that mr martens would be in attendance the following day to sign copies. i rearranged my saturday schedule and, when the time drew near, i gathered together a bunch of books designed by martens for him to sign, including his latest book i had purchased. i arrived and waited my turn. i introduced myself. i had never met him before but i knew we were just one degree apart so i mentioned the person we had in common and we spoke briefly about him. i handed over my pile of books for him to sign. the bookseller had already sold out of martens’ new book and, when i pulled out my copies, a few people standing nearby asked to purchase one. i thought it odd that the bookseller had not brought enough copies. after mr martens signed his new books for me, i presented the ‘white’ edition of printed matter/drukwerk. he looked up and asked how i had obtained this particular copy. i told him and he said this was a rare edition and was done especially for the day he was awarded the heineken price. only a small number were printed and i was lucky to have one. as a book collector, i already knew that a rare edition is desirable and a signed copy even more so. it was nice to hear mr martens tell me its origin and have the answer to a question that had long lingered. soon after, i did a quick search and hyphen’s press website provides a clear and interesting breakdown of all the editions of printed matter/drukwerk. so fulfilling for a manic collector like me.



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