More of Triangles & Squares: From the Black Mesa Press

March 27, 2016

Though not included in our current exhibit “Shapes in Books: Triangles, Squares, Circles,” The limits by Anita Barrows, as published by Black Mesa Press in 1982, qualifies both for the triangular window and the squares on the cover and page below.

Cover of The limits (Black Mesa Press). From the Private Press Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Verso of the cover and what lies beneath.

The title page is spare,

Title page.


but the colophon offers additional information:



The unnamed printer was in fact Charles Alexander, who had studied with Walter Hamady at UW-Madison. We have a number of broadsides, books, and printed ephemera from Black Mesa Press, of which the earliest is a broadside (Letters by Samuel & Hanna Circle) dated 1979. Alexander then moved to Tucson, where he established the Chax Press. For several years in the 1990s, Alexander directed the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, then returned to Tucson. He and the Chax Press recently relocated to the University of Houston-Victoria, where Alexander was named the new Poet and Designer in Residence.

There is an exceedingly brief entry for Black Mesa (Madison, WI) in the online continuation of the International Register of Private Press Names. That entry indicates a founding date of 1979 and notes that Black Mesa Press was “[i]ncluded in the 1982 edition of the International Register, the source of the online edition.” More information about Charles Alexander and the Chax Press can be found via the author page maintained by the EPC (Electronic Poetry Center) at SUNY Buffalo and in recordings made available through PennSound.

What’s in a name? The International Register of Private Press Names was established in 1960 by J. Ben and Elizabeth Lieberman, proprietors of The Herity Press, who also published the The check-log of private press names beginning in 1960. Several volumes of that work, which ceased with the 1982 edition, are held in UW-Madison campus libraries. The register now continues in online form, as maintained by the Briar Press.

We invite you to examine more of the work of Alexander’s Black Mesa Press (note — not the Black Mesa Press in New Mexico publishing UFO-related titles!) and Chax Press in Special Collections. The Memorial Library stacks and the Kohler Art Library also hold titles published by Chax Press.