Out and About with the Quill: Fisher Small and Fine Press Fair 2019

This Saturday, Toronto was cool and cloudy—perfect weather for people to peruse books, prints, art and more at the Fisher Small and Fine Press Fair, held at the University of Toronto’s gorgeous Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. This year’s event saw coast-to-coast participation, with vendors from all over Canada congregating in the reading room to sell their wares.

The PQL table at the Fisher Small Press Fair

The PQL table at the Fisher Small Press Fair

I did a short walkabout late in the day, and managed to chat with just a few of the vendors about their works. I made it a point to talk to some familiar faces as well as to introduce myself to some new folks I didn’t know by sight. Here’s a short summary, if you weren’t able to join us.


Wesley Bates

Clifford, Ontario wood engraver Wesley Bates had the table right next to ours, so I had a great view of the artwork on display at his table. His gorgeous prints—particularly the ones of the natural world—were a hit with many art lovers at the show. My favourite was the beautiful print that will be used as the title page on his upcoming book with Robert Reid, Casting into Mystery. It is truly stunning!



knife | fork | book

Kirby and Jim Johnstone at the knife | fork | book table.

Kirby and Jim Johnstone at the knife | fork | book table. Photo by Don McLeod.

Kirby and Jim Johnstone (of Anstruther Press) sat behind the knife | fork | book table, and let me tell you, they had some very eye-catching books on display. Of particular interest to me was the inaugural issue of their annual publication that focuses on visual poetry, entitled Not Your Best. Speaking as someone who is frequently overwhelmed by the “best of” lists that roll our every season, there is something calming and appealing about a publication that encourages exploration, and celebrates the overlooked. Also of note—knife | fork | book’s chapbook imprint, featuring pretty little volumes like Khashayar Mohammidi’s Dear Kestrel, which was gifted to me, and which provided entertainment on my train ride home.


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The Book*hug table, behind which sat the ever-at-work Jay MillAr, was full to bursting with pretty editions. One fascinating edition on the table was Ken Hunt’s The Odyssey, which somehow marries space, poetry, technical jargon and ghosts. Seriously worth checking out just for the cool factor. Also eye-catching to me were the very short stacks of The Unpublished City, a two-volume anthology of distinct and diverse voices from Toronto’s literary community—they must have been crowd favourites that day. Also of note, a small volume modestly pushed off to the corner—Jay MillAr’s own I Could Have Pretended to Be Better Than You, published by Anvil Press.



George A. Walker

George A. Walker displays his favourite engraving from his limited edition of The Hunting of the Snark.

George A. Walker displays his favourite engraving from his limited edition of The Hunting of the Snark.

Of course I had to stop by and talk briefly with wood engraver George Walker and his lovely wife Michelle. George recently finished his limited edition of The Hunting of the Snark, an (it must be said) charmingly snarky edition of the Lewis Carroll poem featuring wood engravings drawn from the current American political climate. I particularly loved the map tucked into the cover—beautiful work, indeed. The entire package manages to be brilliant and funny and astoundingly fitting. (Look for our trade edition this fall.)



Nestlings Press

Next I visited Warren Clements of Nestlings Press. I mostly had to stop because the covers were adorable and silly and absolutely smile-inducing. I couldn’t help but pick up Clements’ own Eight Ways to Kill Off Classic Literature: And Other Unexpected Light Verse as well as several adorable collections of versified Aesop’s fables. Well worth a look!



Natalie Draz

Natalie Drazholding her art piece, Flock.

Natalie Draz holding her art piece, Flock.

One table I had to stop by belonged to Natalie Draz. I had spent all day behind our own PQL table watching as she picked up this plumed stack of paper and folded it into this beautiful dream catcher-esque paper sculpture. I had to know more. Turns out, the piece was called flock, and it was displayed alongside a number of its siblings in an interactive exhibit involving pulleys and strings. It was kind of mind blowing and makes you think about how we experience art and books.



Greyweathers Press

Greyweathers Press display table.

How cool is this Greyweathers Press display?

And finally, I had a chance to speak to Larry Thompson of Greyweathers Press. Larry has been enormously busy consulting on Carlton University’s new Book Arts Lab, and is now just getting back to work on an exciting new limited edition book of engravings about Manfred Von Richthofen, the infamous Red Baron and the Canadian pilot who is alleged to have shot him down, Roy Brown. It promises to be a beautiful book of engravings!



PortraitHope you enjoyed this little glimpse into the fair. We’ll be back in the GTA for Word on the Street on September 22, and for the Howard Iron Works Expo and Fair on September 28, so we hope to see you again soon.



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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.