In January 1931, Bob Brown worked with Nancy Cunard’s Hours Press to publish Words—two sets of poems printed in a single volume. The book was subtitled I but bend my finger in a beckon and words, birds of words, hop on it, chirping. One set of poems was printed in 16-point Caslon Old Face, a classic font style used in all Hours Press publications. The other was relief-printed from engraved plates at less than 3-point size (perhaps, according to Cunard, less than 1-point). Because the subtitle was also printed in the microscopic text, archives, libraries, and bibliographies often mistakenly omit it.
Although Brown was, for Cunard, “at the very center of his time, a zeitgeist in himself,” they printed only 150 copies, and the book passed into relative obscurity. It is generally mentioned only as a footnote in discussions of Cunard’s life or in reference to Readies for Bob Brown’s Machine, Brown’s better-known anthology of experimental texts by modernist writers, including Cunard herself.
One can place Words at the intersection of three lineages. Nancy Cunard wanted to produce elegant modernist works in the fine-press artists’ book tradition that Hours Press helped initiate: “to achieve impeccably clean things with fingers grease-laden." Brown wanted to demonstrate how microscopic texts for his reading machine might appear if printed next to poems set in 16-point type. A reading of the book from the perspective of an avant-garde audience places it in the tradition of art-stunts. (In this regard, Brown’s friends, George Antheil and Marcel Duchamp, influenced his interest in art-stunts involving machines and mechanisms.) As a performance of reading strategies, Words, with its magnifying glasses and hidden clues, alludes to detective stories or to the paranoid’s micrographia and art brut. — from the introduction
Words: I but bend my finger in a beckon and words, birds of words, hop on it...
Words: I but bend my finger in a beckon and words, birds of words, hop on it, chirping. by Bob Brown
Edited and with an introduction by Craig Saper
Roving Eye Press 2014
Used hardcover in very good condition