Hand Printed Books


Tom Killion began making wood and lino-cut prints specifically for handprinted book illustrations in his late teens. His first illustrated book was Twenty-eight Views of Mount Tamalpais, completed when he was 21. He printed his original blocks on handmade Japanese paper, accompanied by haiku-style poetry handset in metal type. This introduction to fine printing set the tone for much of his later work, and two of his succeeding handprinted books, The Coast of California and The High Sierra of California, were similar in style, although larger in size and more ambitious in the number, size and coloring of the images.

Many of Killion's handprinted books are in the Rare Book collections of major libraries, while the rest are in the hands of private collectors. Several, including Twenty-eight ViewsThe Coast of California and The High Sierra, have increased significantly in value. Over the years, Killion also illustrated several other author's works, including those of his mentor in fine printing, the poet William Everson. Here is a list of most of the fine press books that include original Killion hand carved block illustrations:

Handmade Books with Original Killion Illustrations (all are out-of-print):
28 Views of Mount Tamalpais (Killion, Cowell Press, 1975)
Fortress Marin (Killion, Quail Press, 1977)
The Coast of California: Pt. Reyes to Pt. Sur (Killion, Quail Press, 1979)
Eastward the Armies (Everson, Labyrinth Editions, 1980)
In Medias Res (Everson, Adrian Wilson, 1985)
The Poet is Dead (Everson,Good Book Press, 1987)
Walls: A Journey Across Three Continents (Killion, Quail Press, 1990)
The High Sierra of California (Killion/Snyder, Quail Press, 2000)

*Rare Handmade Book(s):

Twenty-eight Views of Mount Tamalpais (1975) edition of 92; Signed & numbered by artist; Handprinted by Killion on UCSC’s Cowell Press summer 1975. This is Tom’s first handmade book, printed on Japanese Hosho paper with one decorative kitakata paper over title page and acid-free interleaving tissue between each page. 29 pages, 10.5”x16.5” horizontal folio, punch and sewn book block bound into hard-back half-linen covers with cream endsheets by Schuberth Bookbindery, San Francisco. 29 original lino-cut prints printed in blue ink, including most of Killion’s earliest prints, going back to 1969. Text is Killion’s haiku-style poetry of Mt. Tamalpias in ‘Sky, Earth, Sea’ theme, handset in Bembo type. (currently unavailable)

Highlight:   "Walls: A Journey Across Three Continents" (Quail Press, 1990)


Walls: A Journey Across Three Continents. This is a beautiful book, handprinted on both sides of handmade Japanese Torinoko paper, which, one reviewer noted, demonstrated Killion's "mastery of the black art" of letterpress printing, as the translucent kozo-paper necessitated perfect "back-up" of type lines on both sides of the sheet. 

Walls took Killion most of the 1980s to produce, has 65 original illustrations and includes many of the artist's earliest multi-block reduction-cut color prints. Most of the prints are of European and African scenes (see Europe & Africa web page), while the text is drawn from Killion's travel journals of the 1970s and 80s. However, the opening frontispiece of the book is the state II, 3-color print of "Steep Ravine Beach", while several scenes from the Pacific Northwest and Yellowstone appear in the first section.

This is the only artistic project in which Tom attempted to meld his deep interest in Africa with his printmaking. The book measures about 11 by 13 inches, runs to 116 pages and is bound in Niger goatskin and raw half-linen with a linen-covered slipcase. The original prospectus and several page spreads are shown here: