a collaboration between Ray Nichols & Martha Carothers

THE SEQUENCE OF PAIRED IMAGES BELOW shows the complete copies of Artist Proof #1 and Artist Proof #2. The images illustrate how the book, while having a continuity from one page to the next, does not share the backgrounds of any of the other text pages nor does the text fall in the same position from one page to the next nor one book to the next.

Electric Fire From the Clouds, an artists book collaboration between Martha Carothers of The Post Press and Ray Nichols of Lead Graffiti, pays homage to Ben Franklin's discovery of electricity in 1752. The text pages are printed slowly & patiently via letterpress on "ink pulls"—the result of pulling sheets of paper through the inking rollers on Lead Graffiti's Vandercook Universal III. The text was linecast on an Intertype C4 and then positioned relative to the pulled image on the sheet. Therefore, no 2 pages in any 2 books look alike because of the changing background and the placement of the type.

The page backgrounds started out as a way to remove a lot of ink quickly from our Vandercook Universal III when starting to clean the press between colors. With a bit of solvent drizzled on the inked rollers, we could hand feed  a sheet of paper through and remove quite a bit of ink with little elbow grease.

After a while, we were liking what we were seeing and started pulling 2 sheets through back-to-back, which gave us 2 ink pulls at one time. With a lot of practice, we started being able to loosely control the look to a degree. Over time we had built up a couple of hundred sheets, sometimes overlaying different ink colors. You can see a second application of these ink pulls in How Ink Writes Poetry. The structure of the flutter book (pages printed as spreads and bound together by gluing the folio along the foredge) format is shown in the opening photo of Jill's book, Abecedaritype.

We are already starting to imagine how different our feel for the book and the layouts of the pages will be after we've completed the required 400+ text spreads. There were two of us working on the page layout of the text for each of the 10 text pages, averaging about an hour for each page (2 person-hours). It will take us a while to get them all done and we expect to print them in groupings of maybe 5 to 10 spreads at a time.

This notion of not producing a standard edition of visually identical books will also be interesting as far as collectors who may find it difficult to choose one book over another. 

Let's say you bought copy #5 and wanted a second copy for comparison. Do you buy one of the copies that are available immediately or do you wait? It isn't unreasonable to think we might take a couple of years printing the entire edition of 40 books. Perhaps the collector would just declare that they want #40 on condition that we would try to produce an extraordinarily creative copy. The desire for owning multiple copies could set up an exciting chess game and the need to think moves ahead.

Pawn to King's 4. Your move.

Production details

Electric Fire from the Clouds

This book is currently available in our Lead Graffiti store online.

Edition : 40 books intended, numbered and signed by Martha Carothers and Ray Nichols, printed in 2017 - 2020 or earlier

Size :  26 pages, 8.5" x 17"

Binding : Bound by hand in a flutter book format with glued foredges

  • Covered with a sliding slipcover construction in French 140# Speckletone Black with letterpress-printed title and spine

  • Main text pages are French 140# Speckletone Black illustrated edge-to-edge with opaque white ink pulls

  • Pages include title, preface, and colophon

Production :

  • Cover, title page, and main text set on an Intertype C4 in hot metal Franklin Gothic Condensed 24 point; with digital photopolymer plates for preface and colophon set in Founder's Caslon

  • Printed slowly & patiently via letterpress in 2 colors on a Vandercook Universal III


You can purchase the “ink pull” pages which will provide the background to the story pages to be included in your copy of the book.

Lead Graffiti will have total creative control of how the type is positioned with the layout of the background pages.

You’ll purchase 4 “A” pages and 6 “B” pages. The pages are $120 apiece. You need 10 total.

Lead Graffiti reserves the right to exchange an ink pull of our choice if we run into catastrophic problems during the printing.

NOTE: the images of the ink pull pages are slightly brighter to help show the detail on your computer screen.