As recounted in Pressed for Time: A Descriptive Bibliography of the Work of Russell Maret (2014), printer and artist Russell Maret once attended a reading by former United States Poet Laureate Mark Strand (1934 – 2014) at John Cabot University in Rome. At the event, Strand read a prose piece called “Hermetic Melancholy.”  Maret, impressed with Strand’s work, approached the poet and Nocturnes is the resulting collaboration between them.

For this book, Maret chose twenty-three works from Strand’s collection of forty-seven prose pieces, including “Hermetic Melancholy,” and designed the typeface wryly called Strand Serif especially for this publication. He used this and Van Krimpen Titling, another typeface he designed, to print the book with the help of his long-time assistant Nancy Loeber. Unlike some of Maret’s books, this work features no illustrations, thus allowing the text to speak for itself.

Strand’s brief, poetic vignettes are characteristically surreal in their imagery and often witty in their execution, such as “The Social Worker and the Monkey,” “The Students of the Ineffable,” and “A Banker in the Brothel of Blind Women.” The text is printed in black with the title of each piece printed in blue on only one side of paper which was machine-made in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Adding a subtle depth to the look and feel of the book, a sheet of dark grey paper is hidden inside the light grey pages which are folded over at the fore edge.

This hardcover sewn book is quarter-bound in dark grey cloth with a printed paper label on the spine. The cream-colored paper sides are decorated with a smoky grey design that features a thin white horizontal line. Created by Craig Jensen of Book Lab II, the binding also features light grey endpapers and endbands of black bookcloth.

Nocturnes was printed in a limited edition of 100 copies. This copy is signed and numbered 23 by Mark Strand.


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