New Jersey’s got it (or had it)

Daniel J. Driscoll and his Heptangle Press limited edition books
Daniel J. Driscoll and his Heptangle Press set a particular high-water mark that has not been equaled in limited edition printing

Out of the Broomcloset

We are now living in what could be considered the “Golden” Age of small (and not so small) press editions of both new, and ancient works on Magick. Limited editions often can only be possessed by those with deep (or very deep) pockets, this has been a recent development over the last 40 years or so. Much of this abundance of riches has been made possible by living in the computer age. Doesn’t that sound quaint, and hopeful, with the transformations to the publishing industry that were made possible by this fact.

Read more Out of the Broomcloset by Leon Calafiore here at Out In Jersey online.

Most all of these publishers will acknowledge, when asked, that one of their inspirations, when starting out, was a small press operating on Long Hill, in the Passaic Valley at Gillette, NJ. Usually noted in its colophon: publishing information noted in the back of a book.

For many of those publishers, who have never seen New Jersey, this hopefully seems wonderfully evocative. The area certainly has its charms. It is a small community with pleasant, not grand homes, the sort of New Jersey town many of us grew up in.

Yes, there were other, earlier presses producing similar work, but Daniel J. Driscoll and his Heptangle Press set a particular high-water mark that has not been equaled. It’s an amazing achievement. Between 1975 and his death in 1990 (referred to as an untimely death at 46, when referred to at all), he single-handedly set the metal type. He later acquired a Monotype machine to cast his own type as well. To print, he used a hand press. The sheets he would then bind as finished books. It would seem he also did his own binding. Then he would send off his orders to small book shops and individual inquirers. Most hipsters would be put to shame by what he achieved at a time when the classic methods of producing books in this manner were being wholly abandoned commercially.

Some of the volumes were re-editions of classic works (such as Agrippa’s 4th Book, the prospectus for which is in the illustration). Others, such as The Enochian Evocations of John Dee were contemporary works done in collaboration with living authors. What an exciting time it must have been, shepherding these projects from conception to completion.

The first book I purchased was The Chaldaen Oracles, at the long-gone Magickal Childe in New York City. Compared to the other books there, it was an anomaly. It was printed with metal type on fine paper. And one was able to feel the impression of the type on the pages. It cost $20 then, a bit steep, though now a standard price for a hardback. Over the years, I tracked down and collected everything else produced by Heptangle. Eventually, I had questions about how and why these volumes were being created. But by that time, there was no one left to ask, just second-hand information was available. The family and collaborators were dead (save one, who was disinterested in being interviewed). Public records were, at best, spotty.

What stands is the work itself. Plus, a grave marker in Stirling New Jersey. It is an amazing achievement; a New Jersey boy who, having a love of type and printing, built his own business from the discards of a changing industry. He produced a legacy that inspires, and endures.

In my ramblings through the state this summer, I hope to visit the town and place, pay my respects, and raise a glass in memory. I hope you will, too.