NOEL YOUNG REMEMBERS:
(The following article, simply titled “Publisher’s Notes” is taken from the 1979 booklet, Capra Press: A Biographical Checklist, 1969-1979, compiled by Melissa Mytinger and published by Capra Press).
The apprenticeship years of Capra Press, before the die was cast, were tentative, carefree and haphazard. As a matter of fact, the press wasn’t even named until the first book was half printed. Although I have no particular interest in astrology, the name Capricorn gave the excuse to carve a hasty goat’s head on the maple mounting block of an old zinc engraving. Although the block still survives, the name was later altered to Capra to avoid conflict with an imprint of an established eastern house.
A point I want to make, now that I see my past laid out so irrevocably on these pages, is that it wasn’t my clear intention to found a publishing house. I had been happy enough designing and printing books for other independent presses (Black Sparrow, Scrimshaw, Oyez, Something Else, Christopher’s Books, Unicorn, et al.) until one day I made the fatal presumption to publish a friend’s poetry work under my own imprint. There, I’d done it! No trick at all. Not until the books were all stacked in the basement did it occur to me that something had to be done with them. I sent out a modest mailing to friends and western libraries and actually sold a few copies. All this time, of course, I was running the printing shop with a small crew and we were taking in a couple thousand dollars a week. So you can appreciate the absolute absurdity of my triumphant whoop one day when I opened the mail and found a two dollar check to pay for a copy of that poetry book. There you have it ‘ the birth of an obsession.
For the next four or five years I divided my time and energy between printing and publishing, keeping full commitment in abeyance. Here I must confess that I’d been a writer at heart and became a printer in the first place only so I could print my own stuff and peddle it from door to door. Although I never actually did, I mention this only to show a long abiding interest in books, both conceptually and physically.
In 1974, encouraged by the success of Leon Elder’s* HOT TUBS, I kicked over the traces, gave my type and presses to the crew and moved upstairs with a typewriter and file cabinet. I used to wonder what editors did all day, imagined it one of the world’s most leisurely occupations with lots of time for stoking pipes and mulling. I soon learned nothing was further from the truth. I’d never been busier and as I look back I wonder how so many titles got published. One hundred and twenty titles seems like a lot, particularly since I only had part time help until three years ago. But I suppose, given a ten year period, nearly any statistic can seem impressive, like the number of cheroots I smoked laid end to end (3678 miles), letters typed to authors in one continuous line (910 miles), or time on the telephone (157 days). Although I miss the frolicking antics of our apprentice years, I more appreciate the kind of book we are doing today, so much more developed than its forebears.
I feel deeply indebted to Melissa Mytinger for compiling this record. She is one of the few people who knew Capra before it began and has been alongside ever since. This checklist is close to infallible; it becomes a valuable reference for my own use too: past performances often help steer the future course of events. Moreover, it’s a relief to be freed from my capricious memory and to have this irrefutable bibliography instead. A certain authority comes with being cast in type, and to this I humbly submit. For Capra, the die is cast.
*Leon Elder is my pseudonym. (See HotTubs movie trailer) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Vd_zXH74s&list=UUQplZeYb4Ae7vwtxZuVKy7w&index=3&feature=plcp