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The Holman Family

The Holman Family

Early in 1972, William Holman produced another masterpiece – This Bitterly Beautiful Land: A Texas Commonplace Book by Al Lowman. It is a collection of quotations about the state and its people, drawn from non-fiction sources. Featuring one quotation and illustration per page, it is essentially a book of typographical broadsides, with each page individually designed and with type selected to match the particular passage. The nineteen different faces were both hand- and machine-set, the latter in both monotype and linotype.

Two hundred seventy-five copies were printed on English handmade paper with an Asbern handpress and Barbara Whitehead’s charming and vibrant woodcuts were reproduced in color; thus each page represents two press runs. As Carl Hertzog rightly noted in his introduction: “The difficulty of accomplishing this craftsmanship in printing a book of this nature, wherein every page must be created as a complete unit yet blend with the book as a whole, is prodigious.” It cost $150 merely to find out which typeface was best suited for the first line of the title page. (Alone among his Texas contemporaries, Bill Holman still handset his title pages.) Four different faces were tried: American Uncial, Janson, Palatino, and Weiss. Weiss worked. What finally emerged was a volume described by one commentator as having the earthen, grassy look and feel of a Texas hillside.

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