About Pegana Press

Our Story

 

          Here at Pegana Press we strive to create the kind of books which add to the enjoyment of reading a good story.  We are Mike and Rita Tortorello and we love beautiful books.
          We met in 1982 at EWU where we were both enrolled in the Audio Engineering program at that school's prestigious RTV dept., and we became life long partners when me married in 1984.   Mike began collecting books of the Fantasy/Science Fiction genre nearly 40 years ago and the idea for Pegana Press evolved out of our desire to create the kind of books we had been collecting.  In 2009 Pegana Press began operation using a Vandercook SP 15 press.  The first project to roll off the press was a broadside edition of Rhymes From A Suburb by Lord Dunsany.  Pegana Press took its inspiration and its name from the work of Lord Dunsany.
          While looking for material to create our first book, Mike discovered Paris, A Poem written by Hope Mirrlees, who is best known for her work Lud-In-The-Mist.  The poem had a fascinating history, and was so rare that no copies were available when he began searching it out.  Working from scans, he recreated the layout of the text of the original, which is an important part of the poem.  The project took over a year to complete, laboriously type setting each letter while recreating the layout of the original work.
          The next project was to collect the short stories of Lord Dunsany which had appeared in early magazines, and which had never again appeared in print.  These previously uncollected stories were gathered from libraries, and were released as Lost Tales volume 1 with the authorization of the Dunsany Estate.  It was followed up by volumes 2 and 3, both containing previously unpublished works, provided by the Estate, as well as manuscripts provided by collectors.
          While Mike hand sets each letter and space of type which appears on the page, he is also responsible for choosing the content, which always requires much research and time.  A lot of thought goes into the design of each book, as well.  Materials are chosen carefully to enhance the book.
          Rita became the binder for Pegana Press in 2012.  All of our books are hand made with loving care from start to finish.  And we hope to continue to operate that way for many years to come.     

          It's a wonderful season to hide away with a book.  We wish you Happy Reading, from your friends Mike & Rita at Pegana Press.

We invite you to take a virtual tour of the printing process.

At Pegana Press our books are hand made starting with the printing process.

Welcome To The Press

The photo above shows a drawer of Goudy Franciscan type. Also shown is the composing stick and metal spacing on the table in front of the drawer.

Setting 4 lines of type at a time in the composing stick. The lines of type are set a letter at a time, upside down and backwards to get the right perspective for the press.

The words get separated by various thicknesses of metal to create the spacing between words until the type is snug within the margins of the stick. If a word doesn't fit at the end of a line and can't be hyphenated then I take out the spaces, and put in smaller spaces until the word fits. Here I'm typesetting page 6 of Lord Dunsany - Lost Tales Volume 3 in May of 2014. Once I have enough lines, they are transferred onto the bed of the press to be printed. Each page takes about 5 hours to set.

Vandercook sp15

Here is our page of type locked up in the press bed using wooden furniture and quoins to exert pressure.

This photo shows Mike cutting paper. These sheets will become pages for the next book.

This photo shows a page ready to be printed. Mike cranks the handle to move the carriage across the type block, which both distributes the ink and rolls the paper across the freshly inked type in a fluid motion.

A Word About Type

The Case of the Disappearing Type

The ornate types we've been using for the current run of books has an interesting history of  revival and subsequent disappearance.  The very tools and machines made to cast the type has been sold, used, and lost in the last 20 years.


The ATF Foundry was the preeminent producer of type in the United States for about 100 years.  As their work declined in the 1990's, one of the employees began buying up the Barth casting machines, as well as the molds, mats, and matrices from which specific typefaces were poured and cast from.  The Barth casters were important in that they were the best of the casting machines and could make harder, sharper type than any of the other machines currently used by anyone then or today;  the mats and matrices were vitally important as they preserved the original designs for the typefaces as the craftsmen had intended them.

Eventually that employee started the Dale Guild Foundry and began casting new type in the mid 1990's. They began a relationship with NA Graphics in Colorado to sell their type which is where I discovered them. Slowly over time, I bought more and more of the type as I began to print entire pages with it.

The Goudy Franciscan was a Font Frederic W. Goudy redisigned from another earlier design of his Aries font, and sold by Goudy in 1932 to William Grabhorn, an eminent San Francisco printer, who used it for several distinctive and award-winning books.

The beautiful cursive font Civilite is believed to be the first original cursive cut in  type in 1552 and designed by Robert Granjon.  The "modern" adaptation Pegana Press uses was designed by Morris Benton in 1922 and first produced by the ATF Foundry in 1923.

Dale Guild Foundry, in the meantime, was unfortunately slowly dissolving as a business and eventually in 2013 the Barth Casters and other casting molds were separated and sold throughout  different parts of the world. So the foundry cast the last of this type years ago and these fonts are unlikely to ever again be cast with this quality in the original designs.  Almost all of the type has been purchased long ago, (there was not much made)  and is now unavailable.

So the Goudy Franciscan, Friar, and Civilite types we use are now on their way to extinction and I'll have to retire them when it becomes too worn to use. As I do test prints for each page, I examine them with a magnifying glass and replace any worn letters one at a time to get the best print possible.  Tedious and delicate work but essential to achieve our very best effort.

Our books are appreciated for the rarity of the material we've collected and published over the years and their hand printed and bound qualities.  They are also living histories of the dreams and designs of long passed artisans who etched into metal these symbols that mean so much to us .


originally posted on our blog 12/30/2015

Welcome To The Bindery

Click on the first photo below to take a virtual tour of the bindery as Rita binds The Golden Key.

Pegana Press On Patreon

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