Updated: Sep 17
It is time to put a book in the spotlight. This is one of our favorites at CBV. One of the earlier releases of Suntup 3 years ago and only accessible to buyers of Bridges of Madison County by Suntup: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris - Suntup Editions lettered state. It was a hugely popular release and all 3 states demand a high price on the secondary market. You need deep pockets for any state of Red Dragon by Suntup Editions, but the lettered one in particular. If you are a Thomas Harris collector however, then it should tick all your boxes. Unique binding in red hornback crocodile leather, living author signature from an author who has not spammed it at every opportunity, spectacular art, and very rare. Somehow this book even demands a higher price than a signed 1st edition / 1st printing. Only the future will decide if that remains so. It is definitely rare. Only 26 letters exist and some additional publisher copies. No more than 30-35 is my guess.
The burgundy red sparkling cloth solander case draws immediate attention. When space allows, I have this case diagonally in my bookcase to let the light play with its cloth. Just the spine out feels like a waste of what this production has to display. Its lovely gold foil lettering on the spine-label is well done so we understand you are satisfied by just seeing the spine every day.
Open the solander, and you are welcomed by the scarlet red crocodile leather which rests softly on black velvet. When I first read the description of "hornback" crocodile leather I thought it was referring to the species of crocodile. But I learned it refers to the part of the skin. Here is a useful website explaining the parts of crocodile/alligator leather. So the hornback (had to correct auto-correct 4 times before it accepted that I did not mean horseback) part is the spine which is why we see those beautiful little "horns". If it is alligator or crocodile I couldn't say personally.
Here are close ups, but even this doesn't do it justice. It feels awesome. Real supple to the touch and a delight to handle and open up.
And open up it does. The indent at the spine makes it open up easily. Not completely like a coptic binding or greater indent would let you, but still far enough to open comfortably without forcing the binding. The endpapers have a nice orange palette.
Then you can get to the best part (I'm a paper nut so I'm biased): The paper. Paul Suntup chose to print this on Strathmore pastel paper which reminded me of my numbered copy of I am Legend which is Teton paper. It has that same beautiful textured grain that works really well for print. While Red Dragon was not printed letterpress it still has an added tactile experience because of that texture in the Strathmore paper.
Here are pictures from I am Legend numbered printed letterpress on Teton paper (which has even more bonus points for the the deckled fore-edge):
And here is Red Dragon lettered printed off-set on Strathmore Pastel:
You have to have the right angle of (sun)light to find the difference and make the indent of the letterpress visible on the IAL copy. It is not something I miss on Red Dragon because of the paper that is used. It looks and feels exquisite.
Jason Mowry put the cherry on the top for me personally. I did not know his art until Red Dragon was announced. Unfortunately the art pieces I was after that were made for this edition were kept in house (I would have done the same), but it did spur me to buy Jason's work. His dreamlike otherworldly watercolor and gouache paintings that often represent the binding power between humans, animals and nature have been captivating me ever since this first encounter. It is one of those special traits of book collecting from small and fine presses. The amount of stories and art that would have never entered my life without this hobby, is staggering. I guess that's what makes this all a form of art for me and will keep me entertained for life. I think I'll leave this blog entry at that. Enjoy the pretty.
Blog entry and pictures by Maurice Lutgens from CBV
*Since there are often different spellings in American English and British English of the same words, I have probably mixed it all up because I am Dutch. Zach is the better writer here ;)