Hand-printed Books exhibition

Image: Field notes – Manawa by Toni Hartill.
The Hand-printed Books exhibition celebrates text/image collaborations between Aotearoa artists, poets, printers and binders. These pukapuka range from traditionally bound, to unfolding and concertina structures, to unbound artists’ books – one example, housed in a clamshell box, is Twelve poems by Hone Tuwhare interpreted by seven Dunedin printmakers (2007). The printmakers responded to a poem from Tuwhare’s Come rain hail (1970) including Inge Doesburg, Simon Kaan, Mary McFarlane, Kathryn Madill, Olav Nielsen, Jenna Packer and Marilynn Webb. Interpreting a poem as an image was a new experience for some. Doesburg said: “Psychologically, it is a different way of dealing with a visual image. You don’t want the image to be a picture of the text – you aren’t regurgitating what has been said already … instead you are interpreting your feeling about the text and it is possibly quite different from what the text is actually telling you … it’s not so much an illustration as an addition to the text. It adds to the reader’s/viewer’s experience.”

Image: Twelve poems by Hone Tuwhare, image by Simon Kaan.
Gregory O’Brien writes that Alan Loney “wants to ‘make a book in which all the individual parts are of equal priority’, believing that all parts of the production – words, type, images, paper, binding – should be ‘rewarding to pay attention to’… His art is one of delicate modulation and, at times, understated humour.” Come and see Loney’s Swell (1987) which incorporates words and images from road signs, diary entries and advertising slogans, and illustrates how “Every layer of production investigates the possibilities of the book as a vehicle for image and language – the language is an ‘opening out’ of the image, the image ‘opening out’ the language.”

Image: Swell by Alan Loney.

In Open sky: a homage to Ruth Dallas (2008) Loney chose phrases from Dallas’ poems and some of her haiku which he felt evoked her essence; then selected delicate illustrations from blocks and ornaments found in the Otakou Press Print Room. 

Image: Searchings: Max Gimblett by Alan Loney

Searchings: Max Gimblett (2005) is our third Loney book on show. These texts and images are selections he made from Gimblett’s journals. Each of the 50 limited edition copies has two original ink drawings by Max Gimblett bound into the volume – thus making each copy unique. This pukapuka was edited, designed and typeset by Loney and printed by Tara McLeod.

Like Twelve poems, Toni Hartill’s artists’ books have an openness of format, and are not bound between a front and back cover. We share her unique, and beautiful, Lost Forests of the Plains II (2018) which has a cascade structure, and is made from linocuts. There is no text, instead this book conveys the ghostly kahikatea ngahere (forest) remnants of the Hauraki Plains. Once our tallest tree, the land kahikatea grew on was drained and turned into farmland, and the timber turned into boxes to ship butter to the UK. It is estimated that more than 98% of pre-European kahikatea have been lost.

Image: Lost Forests of the Plains II by Toni Hartill

Toni’s unfolding book Logbook: Ngunguru River (2016) similarly shares environmental concerns. It depicts the Ngunguru Sandspit – sacred to local hapū, and home to a rare intact coastal ecosystem. This whenua was only recently protected from future development. Toni uses a variety of techniques in this artwork: drypoint, monoprint, watercolour, and collagraph.

Image: Full Circle by Elizabeth Steiner

Elizabeth Steiner’s Full Circle (2006) asks the question: “How can I make a book that has no end and no beginning?” She developed the answer in a non-adhesive woven binding that allows each folio to rotate around a tubular spine without end. She then added the content; this ten page book is about the numbers 1 to 10, in a limited edition of 10. She used numbers and words in English and te reo Māori, plus Roman and binary numerals, and printed them on a variety of handmade papers including harakeke, ginger and Bhutanese Tshaso using linocuts, cardboard relief prints, and collage.

Image: Small poems about birds by Linda Gill, designed and bound by Elizabeth Steiner

Elizabeth also designed and bound Small poems about birds by Linda Gill (1999) where the poems are gradually discovered via the use of handmade coloured papers that conceal, reveal, and echo the text. For example, for the poem “White-eye” she uses green and pink papers to mirror the poem’s “drab-green” bush, and “plum-pink” prunus, while ochre card hints at the Australian outback where the tauhou (white-eye) may have emigrated from.

Two of Brendan O’Brien’s exquisitely designed and printed books are in the exhibition. Peter Vangioni has said “The qualities inherent in O’Brien’s hand-printed books – the slightly embossed text thoughtfully arranged on the page, extensive use of colour and use of found printer’s blocks – are what make these books stand out… they capture the eye and entice the reader to explore the pages inside.” Brendan includes Joanna Margaret Paul’s line drawings in her poetry collection access to lilac (2005); and line drawings by Douglas Macdiarmid for In the Mirror, and dancing, poems by C.K. Stead (2017).

Image: access to lilac by Joanna Margaret Paul

A wonderful example of poet, artist, printer and binders collaborating is Freda du Faur: Southern Alps, 1909-1913 (2016). This collection focuses on the life and achievements of mountaineer Freda du Faur (1882-1935) - the first woman to climb Aoraki-Mt Cook; and the first, together with guides Peter Graham and Darby Thompson, to make the Grand Traverse of the three peaks of Aoraki-Mt Cook. Poet Rhian Gallagher worked with artist Lynn Taylor and printer Sarah M. Smith to produce this exquisite concertina book. Rhian has said working with them was, like the book itself, an unfolding experience. “Both Sarah and Lynn worked incredibly hard during the printing itself – they literally brought the book to life.”

Image: Freda du Faur Southern Alps, 1909-1913 by Rhian Gallagher, images Lynn Taylor

Lynn said that the collaborative nature of the project was definitely a case of achieving more together. “Donald [Kerr], Sarah, Rhian and myself were part a wider circle of people that ensured the Freda project came together: Kaia at Southern Papers, Romilly Smith from Special Collections, Don and Steve at the Bindery, Library Staff and some friends who came in as 'clean hands' speed up printing and putting type away”.

Image: Skew-Whiff by Peter Olds, image Kathryn Madill

Graffiti writers were – inadvertently – part of Skew-Whiff (2011) which incorporates samples of their work which poet Peter Olds found on walks around Ōtepoti. The poems – and a centrefold of found graffiti – were handset and printed by John Denny. The pukapuka also includes eight illustrations by Kathryn Madill which she printed from solar plates using an etching press.

Image: Namecall by Rachael Naomi, handset and designed Makyla Curtis

Rachael Naomi’s poem Namecall celebrates extraordinary women who were childfree, and was written in response to a presumption that these women might contribute less towards society than those who have children. The overlay and overlap of Rachael’s beautiful calligraphy for Namecall, and the shape of the poem on the page, inspired printer Makyla Curtis to create a relief print embracing the affect of impression. Rachael’s calligraphy was transformed into a photopolymer plate and Makyla handset and designed the image, which was then printed by Graham O’Keefe on a Heidelberg platen.

Tarawera Te Maunga Tapu (1999) brings woodcut magic to our exhibition - a green ruru woodcut by Margaret Lawler-Bartlett stares soulfully next to Riemke Ensing’s poem “Birds passing the Night.” Riemke has said that the book, which is 30cm tall to resemble the height of a mountain, gives a fine impression of solidity and grandeur, and yet also manages to capture the ethereal.

Image: Tarawera Te Maunga Tapu by Riemke Ensing, image Margaret Lawlor-Bartlee

Tara McLeod hand-printed this beautiful collection, and another in our exhibition - Page, stone leaf (2013) by Dinah Hawken, with images of stone rubbings of runes by sculptor John Edgar. Bronwyn Lloyd noted how “Tara described the nail-biting process of trying to print directly from a selection of small banded stones by Karekare sculptor, John Edgar, to illustrate the volume. When the stones cracked under the pressure of the cylinder press, the artist produced a series of stone rubbings instead, with additional design details in coloured pencil… and the resulting book is a glorious synthesis of Hawken’s spare poetics matched with the ghostly rubbings of stones decorated with Edgar’s minimalist lexicon of coloured lines and dashes.”

Image: Page, stone leaf by Dinah Hawken, image John Edgar.

This exhibition displays works using a variety of papermaking, printmaking, and binding examples, and a range of aesthetic and tactile characteristics.

These Angela Morton Room pukapuka are objects to be read and handled, played with, and explored – but this is difficult to achieve when they are exhibited in vitrines. To help bridge this gap we have a Powerpoint display showing more of their content: bound, unbound, and unfolding.

This exhibition runs from 14 April to 31 May 2023. Open daily in the Angela Morton Room Te Pātaka Toi Art Library, Level 1, Takapuna Library.

Artists Toni Hartill and Toni Mosley, and the Angela Morton Room librarian, will share further hand-printed artists’ books from the collection at the PRINTOPIA Festival on Sunday 7 May. Please scroll here for details of the event.

For more about our collection please see Ina Arraoui’s review of our artists’ book exhibition Out of the Cupboards; blogs about our private press books Tactile Verse: Aotearoa Letterpress Poetry Books, our Albrecht to Zusters: Aotearoa artists’ books exhibition, and our STARGAZER exhibition of artists’ books inspired by Keri Hulme’s poetry.
Image: Twelve poems by Hone Tuwhare, image Marilynn Webb 

Author: Leanne

Angela Morton Room Te Pātaka Toi Art Library

Instagram: angelamorton.room



Tara McLeod: A Typographic Journey

With essays by Keith Maslen, Riemke Ensing, Bronwyn Lloyd, Donald Kerr, Paul Thompson, Alan Loney, and Christine and Tara McLeod.

Katsura (2020)


Gregory O’Brien. On and Around Creation: The Hand-made Books of Alan Loney. Art New Zealand, #57, Summer 1990-91.

Pressed Letters: Fine Printing in New Zealand since 1975 Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Curator Peter Vangioni

University of Otago Printer in Residence 2016 https://www.otago.ac.nz/news/newsroom/otago625176.html


Coming full circle: Reviving Private Press Printing at the University of Otago

by Paula Jane Whitelock