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

The Surprise Party Or: on not going not ongoing


Project Statement

A work conceived in mean-spiritedness, to caricature four people who had been kind friends, but whose company I had become tired of (superficial soul), and whose celebrations and events had paled in their capacity to engage by contrast to the world of poets and new friends. A most unflattering work, particularly in what it reveals of its author's sensibility.

Production Narrative

A number of difficulties arose in production of this book. The first was the cutting of the tissue paper. Putting it into the guillotine cutter and keeping it flat, even, and straight was almost impossible. We used quite a number of extra sheets around the tissue as packing. Printing the tissue letterpress wasn't difficult, though handling it required some care. The images were drawn in ballpoint, with blue ink, so photographing them in the copy camera took some extra effort.

Critical Analysis

Design Features

typographic: Stymie light, nicely set and printed in color. The type wraps around each image differently, shaping the text on the pages.

imagery: The images are carefully drawn caricatures.

openings: Not the best feature of the design, since the verso of the white pages is left blank.

Critical Discussion

Not a great work, but clever, mean-spirited caricatures of four people. As a book-object, it was sufficient to its purpose -- meant to look like a party favor, designed to have the ephemerality and immediate appeal of a birthday present. Successful enough on its own terms, but the terms are pretty narrow. This is an early book, done to make something and see it through, to realize an idea in a short space of time, have the satisfaction of doing some drawings, writing, and pulling them together.



Johanna Drucker

type: initiating


Publication Information

publisher: self-published

date of publication: 1977-00-00

Aesthetic Profile

subject: artists' books (LCSH)

themes: friendship, social interaction, meanness of spirit [A. Schutte]

content form: experimental text (local)

publication tradition: artists' book (local)

inspiration: commercial birthday paraphernalia

other influences: satirical works

related works: Prove Before Laying takes up some of the working-under-letterpress-constraint theme.

community: press Production of this book took place at the West Coast Print Center as part of an informal workshop Don Cushman held for some of us to learn how to use the Multi.

note: note: This work was created entirely by Johanna Drucker, but printing of the images was by Don Cushman. [A. Schutte]

Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: The manuscripts are all gone, but journal notes and such from this period exist in the artist's archives. No production notes, however.


Publication Information

edition type: editioned

publisher: self-published

place: West Coast Print Center, Berkeley, California.

dates: 1977-00-00

edition size: 120 copies


horizontal: 10 inches closed

vertical: 7 inches closed

depth: .1 inches closed

Production Information

production means:
offset (local) Images
letterpress (local) Text

binding: other Tied together with ribbon.

bookBlock: paper A combination of multi-colored tissue paper and substantial off-white opaque paper.

ink (local)

other materials: white ribbon tied over the staples on the spine.


general description: The book measures 7 inches tall and 10 inches wide, with a depth of approximately .1 inches. The book is bound on the left, opening on the right; it is held together with two staples, and white ribbon has been tied over top of them.

format: codex (AAT)

cover: 10" x 7", with a double layer of paper. A thin, translucent off-white sheet with the title printed on it in red over a drawing of a party scene on off-white paper. The binding, staples covered with white ribbon is visible on the right.

color: yes


pagination: unpaginated 18 pages

numbered?: unnumbered

signed?: unsigned



Related Documents

manuscript type: other

location: artist's archive

note: The drawings are still in the artist's collection.