The Trianon Press Archive is a collection of published materials, unpublished works, general business documents, exhibition materials, personal documents, and documents relevant to UCSC’s McHenry Library acquisition of the Archive. In operation from the 1950’s-1980’s, Trianon was a fine arts press based in Paris. They made luxurious art books. The Press was run by Arnold Fawcus, a former combat ski-instructor and counter-espionage intelligence officer turned fine art book-maker. You can't make this stuff up!
The Press is best known for their work under the William Blake Trust making the highest quality facsimiles of the catalogue of Blake’s illuminated prints. Trianon’s prints are virtually indistinguishable from the Blake originals, save for watermarks. Trianon also published reproductions of modern works by artists such as Paul Cezanne, Marcel Duchamp, Ben Shahn, and others. Trianon’s publications also have a strong connection with prehistorian Abbé Breuil’s reproductions of various cave painting sites in Africa. All of Trianon’s texts are interested in visual culture, and while they have many affordable trade versions, it is their handcrafted luxe editions for which they are known. These books are artworks in their own right.
Beautiful and meticulously crafted these books were essential for making rare texts and otherwise immobile artworks accessible to interested readers and scholars in a pre-internet age. They were, of course, also for collectors. The books and the processes by which Trianon made them are situated within the long history of bookmaking and image reproduction from medieval illuminated manuscripts to digitized off-set printing used today.
The press utilized collotype, a photographic print reproduction process, and pochoir stenciling to color their images en masse but by hand. A temperamental process requiring years of apprenticeship, collotype was a photo-mechanical process that made images of the highest quality reproducible in runs of about 500. Requiring strict conditions of humidity, temperature, and care, the machines needed to produce collotypes are described as having human or animal like qualities and needs. As of 2019, only one press in the world continues to work in this tradition as more efficient and modern printing and imaging technologies have made the labor requirements of collotype obsolete and insupportable.
Pochoir stenciling, a signature method of the Press, involved an equally if not more laborious process of painting individual swathes of color onto sheets of paper using hand cut stencils as guides. Preparation of the stencils themselves was its own meticulous and process requiring experienced craftsmanship. From subject matter to production to marketing, the whole life cycle of a Trianon text was deeply intertwined with fine art practices. Further, Fawcus utilized museum exhibition as a means of promoting Trianon’s work, connecting the texts to the artworks and artists reproduced in the books, and putting them on par with those works.
Within the five ton archive, I worked on the general business documents, including correspondence, financial records, administrative records, publicity materials, and production records. Within these sub-series of the business records were fascinating objects and documents. I was particularly taken by the collection of unpublished (ultimately rejected) manuscript samples sent to the press, as well as the beautiful artwork samples in the Archive, which included publication prospectuses with sample prints and Christmas cards designed in-house. My favorite was a children's book of poems in English and Italian with ridiculously cute illustrations. It was called Let the Little Colt Go Bare. Going through this portion of the archive meant processing more than two dozen cartons and a total of 930 folders and bins each containing multiple documents–sometimes dozens or hundreds–most of which was paperwork. Processing this archive made one of UCSC McHenry Library’s largest archives available to students and the public after many years of hard work. As a successful and prolific press, this archive is useful to book historians, those interested in graphic reproduction, ecologies of print in France, book design, graphic design, literary studies, cultural anthropologists, museum exhibition, and more. Search the archive and view the archival finding aid by clicking this link.