1. What is Waning Moon Publications?
Waning Moon Publications is a home-based bindery and publishing company for occult and related materials. We (mostly my fiancé and I) specialize in producing artistic hand-bound titles using leather and decorative papers. It is very much a magical project as much as it is a business since I find that books are themselves magical tools on many levels.
2. What made you decide to start it?
I love to collect books and I took up the hobby of bookbinding so I could eventually rebind my favorite books in leather. First I started to publish just my own books, but then I began to meet other authors who had great ideas but either lacked the encouragement needed to bring them to life, or could not find a publisher to take on the project. You see, publishers invest quite a bit of money to release a book so need to really take profit into account. They can’t afford to take risks. In my case, I have the luxury of taking risks when I believe in the author’s work because this is not my primary source of income. In fact almost all the profit I make goes back into the company so I can fund the next project. It’s nice to have that level of freedom to say the least! It’s also a great feeling to produce something fresh and exciting. For example, The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus is the first English translation of a little known grimoire. Later this year we’ll be releasing the first fresh translation of Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad in 50 years and this will be by magicians and scholars of Dee!
3. So, why are your books so expensive compared to the books at my local bookstore?
Currently all my books are hand made using “archival quality” materials, which means the books will last longer than we will. Start-to-finish, it takes a few weeks to a month to create a book, and that does not include all the editing and layout that is needed long before printing – that takes months! So between time and materials, the production costs ad up quickly. For example one goat skin costs between $90 and $115 depending on size and can only cover a few books since I have to cut around defects.
Once I start expanding into mass-produced books for certain titles, I’ll finally be able to offer low cost books, but not all my titles will be mass produced. Some books are better released in small quantities since its scarcity adds to its mystical context. Some things should not be easy to obtain. There is something to be said for having to seek and work toward obtaining information. Sometimes I feel the internet, despite all its benefits, has caused us to take information for granted and thus dulled it’s impact on the psyche. Anyone who practiced magic before the rise of the internet can probably appreciate what I am talking about, and how the excitement of discovering new material or new contacts had much more impact than today where much material is one Google away.
4. Can you walk us through the basic process of hand binding a book?
Well, after the prerequisite editing, typography and layout, there’s the printing. I hate that part. I basically sit in front of my printer – a special $3000 unit that does color, duplexing, and can handle the abuse. I need to inspect every page for defects and the printer is s-l-o-w and quite evil (I swear it knows when I walk away before it messes up).
Then I fold the signatures (usually 4 sheets), punch small holes in the fold for the sewing, trim edges of the text block, sew the signatures together by hand, and then glue the spine of the text block. This part is relaxing but takes the most time and just can’t be rushed.
Next comes prepping the spine. This is where I use a special press to hold the book while I use a backing hammer to slowly smooth and (for thicker books) curve the spine. I then add spine support using mesh and craft paper as well as add the headbands, ribbon for book mark, etc. This is a very important part which also takes much time. The spine is what you see when the book is on the shelf and is the backbone of the book so must be formed well.
I then add the boards, put the leather on, then cover paper, and finally the inside cover paper. This is usually a 2 to 3 day process since glue must dry well while sitting in a press between each step, but it is when you start to see a book come to life so is very exciting!
Finally, I treat the leather with a special oil, add spine title when there is room, do a final trim of papers when needed, and inspect book for defects. The book then has to sit in a press for a week or two to ensure all the moisture from the glue has dried so the book does not warp.
You would be amazed at how much glue is used! I typically use 4 to 5 different types of glue through the whole process and quite a lot of it.
Well that’s the gist of it at least, of course I have to measure and cut all materials which eats up time. I also treat the book binding process as a magical working so often start projects on certain days, seasons, or phase of the moon, use incense and oils of the proper attribution, add powdered herbs to the glue, and often inscribe sigils on the cover boards before covering them with leather.
5. What is your favorite book that Waning Moon has ever bound?
Ah, that would be the one I am doing now: The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus. It has been a massive project and is the culmination of all the techniques I have learned while binding my other books. I can’t wait to send the authors their copy! Not only does it look great but it has never been translated into English before and is a not very well-known work grimoire so this is history in the making!
6. What book or writer that you haven’t published or bound would you like to?
I like the grimoiric feel of Michael Ford’s books. I think some of his work would look great in a special edition. Also Joseph Petterson has edited some great translations of various grimoires and I would love to work with him one day on a new project. Material-wise, I am hoping to eventually find a more “witchy” book to publish. Not a witchcraft 101 but rather a type of Book of Shadows ala the 1970’s style of witchcraft or perhaps Sabbatic Witchcraft.
7. I know that due to the time it takes to publish you’re selective about submissions. What do you look for in potential Waning Moon Publication book?
I definitely have a small checklist I keep in mind when reviewing material. Unique or personalized systems of magic catch my attention the most. The material must be internally consistent, as in, well thought out with a nice flow. I prefer scholarship over opinion unless backed by significant personal experience. Grimoires should be practical – a record of work done, and not theoretical mumbo jumbo that sounds nice but has never been tried. And finally it has to be something that makes sense being published as a hand bound limited edition. A novel with a magical theme for example would be better as a mass produced title. This is also why my book on Wiccan Ethics is only in paperback.
So I guess it comes down to being material which is alive, not dead – something that has value to the reader and the writer alike and not just a book to sell for money.
8. You wrote a book called “Ethics and the Craft”. Can you briefly tell us your thoughts on the evolution of Wiccan ethics?
I find it fascinating how much Wicca has changed over the years and how certain authors and books have lead that change for better or worse. What also amazes (and frightens me) is how easily details on Wicca’s roots are getting lost as the first wave of elders (like Doreen Valiente) pass away. We know so little about the early days due to secrecy, petty politics, and personal bias and it seems very little emphasis these days is placed on its history.
9. Folio, quarto, or octavo?
I ~love~ folio (especially extra large folio) and hope one of these days I have a book which makes sense to publish in such a large format. There is something exciting about handling an oversized book. The trick is finding something that can be printed on large paper but also have some decent thickness to it. This is actually the inspiration behind my super-limited “High Priest” editions.
10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
Hmmm… the boxers vs briefs in an intriguing one but I’d love to know what your favorite book (any subject) is and why.
Okay first, what most of our readers don’t realize is that the tenth question comes with an explanation that we edit out upon publication. It says, “This question cannot be changed. We ask everyone this one question. You can ask anything, even silly stuff like who is your favorite boy band or boxers or briefs!” Hence, the reason that the boxes vs briefs comment was made.
As to the actual question, “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle. It was the book that got me into reading. I love it as much today as when I first read it in fifth grade. “Wild nights are my glory….” (Close seconds are “Different Seasons” by Stephen King. The intro to “The Body” in that book blew my mind. “The most important things are the hardest things to say.” Also, the comic series “The Sandman”. If I need to tell you why, you haven’t read it.)
John J. Coughlin has been a practitioner of the Occult Arts since the mid-1980’s. In that time he has worked with several groups, although he primarily prefers to walk a solitary, eclectic path. Also associated with the Gothic scene, John has incorporated his personal aesthetics and ideals into his spirituality giving him an often unique perspective.
Preferring to consider himself an “obscure occult writer” due to his distaste for self promotion, John believes those who will benefit from his work will eventually stumble across it when the time is right. Professional writers are cursed with having to sacrifice their integrity to please the majority in order to sell their work to the masses. John does not seek to make a living off his writing and is therefore free to write about what he finds interesting and important regardless of its trendiness or political correctness. Much of John’s work remains in private distribution within the various magical groups with which he works.
John is also webmaster of waningmoon.com which is the mother site for his various web projects geared mostly to Gothic and Pagan audiences including the Gothic, Pagan and Vampire personals. John is also editor of the NYC Pagan Resource Guide which has been serving the NY, NJ, and CT area since 1996.
As a rogue scholar of sorts, John Coughlin has been researching the history and evolution of Wiccan ethics in order to show how the religion’s perception of ethics has developed since its inception and to promote true scholarly research into the Craft’s history.