[New York]: Russell Maret, 2016. Single volume, measuring 14 x 10 inches: . Orange morocco spine lettered in gilt, orange handmade paper boards printed with pinwheel ornaments. Text printed letterpress, most leaves recto only, in black and colored inks. Signed and numbered by Russell Maret on colophon. Housed in original grey cloth clamshell box with orange morocco spine label lettered in gilt. Printer’s prospectus laid in.
Signed limited edition of this obsessive letterpress tour-de-force, a printer’s meditation on the function of ornament, number 17 of 80 copies of the standard edition, out of a total print run of 100. Ornamental Digressions was originally conceived as a specimen book of Maret’s pinwheel ornaments, a display of patterns printed with metal type after his own design. Over time, however, his focus changed: “I began envisioning elaborate arrangements that were not inspired by what the ornaments could do but by what they were not supposed to do. While reading or walking around the city, texts and images would spark ideas for designs that made no practical sense at all, and my thoughts would digress into designs of eight, or nine, or more colors.” The resulting book opens with four disciplined black and grey designs, introducing the new pinwheel ornaments, followed by fifteen colorful “ornamental digressions,” each paired with a suggestive quotation from writers as various as Lady Otomo of Sakanoé, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, Effie Gray, Henry James, Louis Kahn, and Kim Williams. The book ends with Maret’s meditations on those fifteen source texts, making Ornamental Digressions a provocative art historical commonplace book as well as a triumph of letterpress printing. A fine copy, signed by printer Russell Maret.