Johanna Drucker's Artist Books
An online repository of facsimiles, metadata, and commentary

Dark, The Bat Elf Banquets the Pupae


Project Statement

Dark was born of dreams and drugs, of hallucinatory meanderings and quasi-mediumistic focus. The text was channeled as much as it was written, in a state of self-hypnosis, sitting at the dining room table in Philadelphia, my parents' house. Unable to believe an entire book could come into being, I conjured it. Not that I hadn't written plenty before (the pile of adolescent novels was evident in the drawers), but that work was unsuited for letterpress and art production. The term artist's book didn't quite exist in 1972, not in the context of school or studio. Dark just arrived, fully formed, as a book. Texts and images matched, but where they came from I couldn't have said. The drawings, directly done on the stone (litho), also had to be conjured. I could almost see them before they appeared, as if they were mind projections caught on the surface of the stone. Little Dark, his plump body wrapped with sinewy vines, was so real, so palpable, that I wasn't creating him, rather, catching his likeness from an already existing creature. The pupae had been an invention of that year, their corrupt infantilism a manifestation of another dark force, perverse, slightly evil, definitely wicked in their erotic implication. The project of Dark? Infantile sexuality, latent, exotic, repressed, exposing itself in gropes and glances, obliquely. I hardly knew what I wrote. Or drew. Later I came to see the peculiarity of this text.

Production Narrative

Produced using stone lithography and hand-set, letterpress. I had trouble keeping the edges of my stone clean, so I made a frisket and printed through it, hence the "raised" edge of the frame. Cutting the paper was a pain, since we had no paper cutter. And thus the pages are a bit uneven. Otherwise? Not much I can recall, except that it was amazing to see it come into being.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Asymmetric throughout

imagery: Illustrations look like children's book work but aren't.

graphical: Not a strong statement, graphically. The pages just hold their own. Vignettes work to bleed image and text into each other in true Romantic mode.

openings: Size and scale relations are fairly well thought out.

development: Story, and the complex images are at the end.

Critical Discussion

What to say about a book of infantile sexuality written in rhythmic, rhymed prose code?



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


note: This was produced while I was in art school.

Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: self-published

date of publication: 1977-00-00

publication history: A very limited edition work.

Aesthetic Profile

subject: artists' books (LCSH)

themes: perverse sexuality, eros, fantasy

content form: experimental text (local)

publication tradition: illustrated book (local)

inspiration: Goblin Market (Christina Rossetti), The Princess and Curdie (George MacDonald), Five Children and It (E. Nesbit), and other tales of goblins and such.

related works: "Light and the Pork Pie," and other fantasy stories of the early 1970s

other influences: drugs and fantasy illustrations, Charles Ricketts

community: school This was produced at CCAC, in the print shop, though that world provided little or no intellectual community. Betsy Davids, then my teacher, provided far more by her role model as writer, her influence as a teacher, and a printer.

note: A curious, unique little object, tactile and visually engaging.

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: No manuscripts for this book still exist, but a number of pupa drawings from this period do exist, as does a long, complex manuscript (or more) of writings from the early 1970s.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

place: Oakland, California

edition size: 13 copies


horizontal: 8" x 8" inches closed

Production Information

production means:
stone litho (local)
letterpress (local)

binding: hand sewn (local) Sewn, glued, awkwardly cased.

bookBlock: paper Rives
endsheets: paper Rives

ink (local) Litho ink and letterpress ink.


general description: Red velvet covers, very appealing to the touch, and creamy, thick paper with drawings both give this an antique children's book feel, but the production values are somewhat quirky and even amateurish.

format: codex (AAT)

cover: Boards covered in red velvet with a cut-out image of "Dark" pasted on.

color: no


pagination: unpaginated

numbered?: numbered

signed?: signed


Printed in Times New Roman on Rives.

General Comments

note: A very funny incident occurred. I sent a copy of this book to Lawrence Ferlinghetti at City Lights. I received a message from a young man poet, David Volpendesta, in San Francisco, who was part of a group of young writers around Philip Lamantia, the old (aging) surrealist. The note was exuberant, filled with praise, excitement, enthusiasm for the work. Who are you? It read. Who can you be? We want to meet you. We are reading your book out loud to each other. Where in this world did it come from? I was thrilled and wrote back that I would love to meet them/him. I dressed in some ridiculous sailor blouse (I had a weakness for them in those years, left over from my childhood) and a little blue pleated skirt. I went to get on the bus to go across the bay to San Francisco and the bus driver said, "Oh, you know, you only have to pay half fare." (He thought I was under 16, though I was 21 by then, but very thin and young looking, true enough, plus the ridiculous little-girl outfit). I did go to see them, stayed with David in the city in his apartment (all very chaste) he lived in North Beach. We met Lamantia. I became friends with David, other friends of his, and from time to time saw Lamantia as well. But he was a committed surrealist still, and I was not, it all seemed too retro to me, a historical paradigm, not a contemporary one. And the event did not exactly launch a career, as I had imagined it might, but it did give me a sense of the possibilities of publication and was my first entree into a world of literary persons and circles that was way beyond the student realm.