Category Archives: About/Reflection

Fahrenheit 451 Review

Book Review

News & Observer’s Wake County Book Club review contest. 2003.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

John Dancy-Jones

The protagonist in this book, a fireman whose job is to burn books, is a lost soul scarred by the harsh sociological nightmare of his future world.  He is really the only character in the book: his wife and boss are ciphers representing, respectively, limp media addiction and ruthless macho power.  Ray Bradbury never worried about being politically correct, and this short novel dates itself to the 1950’s in several ways while serving up a timeless message uniquely and strongly, well placed in the long lineage of twentieth century “Brave New Worlds.”  It also accomplishes what all great science fiction must: an interesting and believable technical device (that marks it as SF) and enough literary and emotional content to make us want to read it.  A diatribe on media, propaganda, and apathy, Fahrenheit 451 captures your mind and heart not with the fate of its hero but with the quality of its message: the freedom of ideas is an essential component of a fully human existence.

Before you can reach such lofty ideals, the story puts you in the suburb from Hell, where a robotic beast with infallible senses and poisonous needle teeth patrols the streets, sniffing out victims on the hit list of the invisible totalitarian government.  Montag, the angst-filled fireman, cannot relate to his delusional, suicidal wife, nor to his genial but calculating boss.  He does relate, however, to the victims of his work, and to the messianic teenager next door, who is the conscience of the book.  From her he gets sensual but platonic infusions of radical thoughts.  From his victims he gets books.  The books he secretly obtains and hoards become wedges between himself and the carefully structured web of his existence.  Montag never comes to terms with the people in his life – each relationship is cut away like bonds in a liberation.  The growth and resolution in Montag is patterned with the insight given to the reader – the realization that is not the books as objects that are important – though they are the focus of the action. It is the ideas contained in the books that are such powerful agents of knowledge and self-awareness.

What is a perfect message for a young person coming of age in the 1960’s such as myself!  We had our goals set by Sputnik, our values defined by flower children, our innocence robbed by Lee Harvey Oswald.  Most science fiction was published by men, whose social mores seemed derived from the True and Argosy magazines found in my father’s den.  Bradbury’s work had exactly that flavor – Rod Steiger played a wonderfully mysterious but unmistakably tough version of Rod Bradbury’s science fiction muse in “Illustrated Man.”  But woven into the conventional science fiction is a sharp critique of humanity that applies more widely than any given set of technological evolutions or external novelties.  The image of burning books becomes an unforgettable sign of universal malaise.

The fundamental optimism contained in the book involves the resolution of the plot (in case you haven’t read the book).  Montag finally finds kindred spirits – railroad hoboes with Ph.D.s – and discovers that cultural knowledge is inherent and persistent in the human personality.  A final SF device proposes that anyone who has read and loved a book has a recoverable memory of that book in his brain.  “I’m The Book of Job,” he is greeted.  “I am Plato’s Republic.”  This was a fundamental lesson for me over three decades ago, being more enamored of books and libraries every year.  I still love collecting books, but I understand their value.  It is what’s inside our heads, not what ‘s printed on the page, that really holds the meaning.  And meaning derives from plurality – from a rich multiplicity of images and possible meanings rather than the impoverished “reality shows” that society depends on in Fahrenheit 451.  This book is a spookily accurate estimate of how low mass media might take us, and a reassuring good thought for the resilient spirits that want something better.


Yama’s Grand Run with the Handmade Paper Swatch Swap

Yama Ploskonska makes paper as a means to an end, but make no mistake – he is obsessed with the papermaking process. How else to explain the stupendous projects with DIY equjpment, the stupendously ambitious printing projects with his paper as star, the patent-pending chiaroscuro watermark in his own contribution to this book, and most of all his noble efforts to develop community among papermakers.

The final point is exemplified by the 2021 Handmade Paper Swatch Swap Yearbook, which culminates a 21 year run. Yama worked hard to publicize and recruit for the project, garnering 82 papermaking artists from around the world to contribute over a hundred swatches of one or more of their papers, with descriptions of their fiber sources and recipes for preparation and formation of sheets.

The papermakers listed below hail from 19 countries, such an amazing achievement given the physical, personal presence created in each of over 100 scrapbooks, that they are worth listing: all over the USA, Japan, Italy, the UK, Portugal Denmark, France, Mexico, South Africa, Haiti, Ghana, Ecuador, Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Micronesia, Germany, Brazil, and Peru.

Each artist sent small swatches in an edition of a little over a hundred (so less than a dozen standard sheets) and Yama assembled the group’s collection into the scrapbooks. The fiber sources and techniques are as varied as the geography of the studios: Aviva W. Fontes from California collected discarded leis on a Hawaiian vacation and combined them with her morning tea bags to tinge her pulp. Alicia Canary in Massachusetts collected the highly invasive Japanese knotweed for its strong fibers. Suzi Ballenger in Rhode Island used Japanese indigo (in the banana family) to create a spectacular color in her rough-textured sheets. Julie Johnson in Oregon grew her own kozo (the traditional Asian fiber) and used okra slime as a sizing and formation aid. One of her samples was infused with tiny bits of turkey feathers! My favorite technique came from the premiere papermaking studio in the US – Amy Jacobs, Master Collaborator at Dieu Donne‘ in NYC, re-laid dark pulp on white , covered with lace, and used a fine nozzle spray to get a lacy stencil effect. Her “Ghost lace cotton” is truly unique!

Fibers used included lots of linters, the by-product of textile production that is a staple supply, and much recycling of everything from used clothing and junk mail to backyard weeds and old Brazilian bank notes. Raw fibers were cooked in lye or soda ash and usually beaten in a Hollander. Recycled stock was common, usually reduced to pulp in a blender.

Yama deserves great praise for coordinating and physically producing this marvelous scrapbook. Find him on Facebook and tell him so!

FB Paper SwatchSwap group


Book arts studios are open!

Salisbury St sign

The new studios of the Paper Plant have opened for business just outside of Asheville,  NC. John Dancy-Jones is producing paper and printing, as well as scheduling papermaking workshops.

work area

Main work area of papermaking workshop.

I am just doing a trial run of my book arts camp in July, I hope to offer it officially summer 2017. Regular workshops are ready to go now, and I have several already on the calendar.

educational materials for teaching book arts.

educational materials for teaching book arts.

I am letterpress printing handbills now and will be addressing a couple of leftover projects before doing any new letterpress projects. But if you want a unique business card…

printing shop

The handbill is pictured below. Come see us!

Paper Plant flyer

The Paper Plant website

Our Hand-laid Paper


 About Our Hand-Laid Paper

 Our handmade or hand-laid paper is formed one sheet at a time with a mould and deckle, then “couched” on to felts and pressed.  Usually it is dried asian style on boards, providing one very smooth side and an air-dried “toothy” side.  The pulp is made partly from high-quality scrap collected from artists, framers and printers. For strength and quality, “linters” are also used – short fibers left as waste from the textile industry.  The paper is moderately sized internally using methyl cellulose or potato starch.  It is a waterleaf printmaking paper – absorbent for watercolor or calligraphy (usable but tricky for both), but perfect for any oil-based crash printing technique.

Our Paper is available at The Paper Plant Website


Papermaking Classes

John Dancy-Jones Book Arts Biography

contact John at


Having developed a large book collection and an intense interest in books, I went to work at UNC-G’s Jackson Library in 1977.  As adminstrative assistant my time was flexible, my activities highly varied.  I gravitated to the Special Collections Department, headed by Emmy Mills, and became friends with Charles Adams, Library Director Emeritus.  Dr. Adams taught me how to use the Washington Press owned by the department and encouraged my early papermaking experiments.  By the end of 1977, I was producing good quality recycled papers and had ordered my first press – a versatile flatbed with high and low block positions, a type chaise, and a forgiving hard rubber roller.

My papermaking developed out of a backyard project with my first wife, Nora.  we used screens from her silk screen course and dried the sheets right on the screens.  I was immediately captivated by the possibilities. Early on, most of my paper was board or glass dried – essentially an Asian technique.  I contacted numerous paper mills in North Carolina, sending them samples of my paper and inviting input.  Several answered back and sent large samples or scraps of various felt materials. I obtained lye and worked with some natural materials, but settled on developing a process for making utilitarian printmaking paper out of high quality scrap.I began ordering cotton linters, building equipment, and building up stock. I bought a laid mould from Bartram & Green in England for 35 pounds.   About this time, I ordered fonts of 10 and 18 point type – Palatino, Stemple type from Germany (ordered from NYC).  I prepared to do some serious letterpress projects.

In 1980, I left Greensboro and Jackson Library to return to Raleigh and get into the bookstore business. I managed one for two years, then bought their shelves when they closed and opened The Paper Plant in downtown Raleigh, NC in 1982.  Used books in the front, papermaking and letterpress in the back. Over nearly nine years, The Paper Plant became an unofficial book arts center and a home for Raleigh’s alternative arts as well. Early in its history, I picked up a Kelsey 3×5 letterpress from a local print shop who had used it with a tiny mechanical matrix to print numbers and emboss serration on to football tickets!  Once The Paper Plant was established as a community resource, the studio gained a wide variety of press equipment and type.

Starting in 1983, I edited and published a series of broadsides, folders, and chapbooks, mostly involving the local writers emerging in our open mike series.  After The Paper Plant bookstore clsoed in 1990, I established residential studios for most (but not all) of the book arts equipment I had amassed.  In 2001, I culminated my use of those studios with the production of Snapper, a book physically produced by the author.

author’s personal bio

my book arts display at Cameron Village Library

The Paper Plant Bookstore and Press

Hand-laid Papers and Small Press Publications

The Paper Plant was a bookstore and book arts center in downtown Raleigh from 1982-1990.  John Dancy-Jones was owner and operator.  He is editor of The Paper Plant as small press publisher.


                       Hand-laid Papers                   Paper Plant Publications


Blank Books + Notecards         NC Presses


Papermaking Classes        Bookmark Quotes

Netweed    The Paper Plant    Bibliophile   Raleigh Rambles   Raleigh Nature


Paper Plant Website Highlights

Fred Chappell      Snapper      The Paper Plant Archive      Frank Porter Graham       NC Presses


paper press imageThe Paper Plant 

Small Press Titles & Hand-laid Paper Products 

Small Press Titles – The Paper Plant, Peloria Press, Half-Moon Press
Warren Ashby’s Frank Porter Graham, Fred Chappell Broadside
Hand-laid Paper, Stationary, Blank Books, Papermaking Classes

The Paper Plant Press publishes broadsides, folders and chapbooks using handlaid recycled paper and letterpress printing in conjunction with current desktop publishing technologies.  From 1983-90, the Paper Plant bookstore sponsored a weekly open poetry series, and many of the chapbook authors emerged from that setting. Twenty published titles include award-winning alternative literature, a fine arts calendar, and a children’s book.  Many of our writers regularly feature as performance poets.  We seek to present an alternative take on the publishing process, looking for non-academic, even non-literary influences, in a search for poetry as an oral art, in a belief that poetry is an essential and multifarious expression of life.

John Dancy-Jones, Publisher, Printer & Papermaker

The Paper Plant
P.O. Box 543
Raleigh, NC 27602
(919) 839-8277



Dorothy Dinnerstein & St. Teresa of Lisieux

Let us not be justices of the peace, but angels of peace.

The Dorothy Dinnerstein quote is from her book, The Mermaid & the Minotaur.


The letterpressed hand-laid paper bookmarks above are each available at The Paper Plant website. $1.75 @ (incl shipping), a dozen for $12 ($2 shipping)


Welcome to The Bibliophile



 Here is my world and I hope you enjoy it.  Reading is my passion, papermaking is my calling, and living, breathing and consuming books is what this blog is all about.  There will be lots of lists, reviews and information. However, THIS SITE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION>  Check back soon for more.  best,  John.


The Bibliophile has become the blog resource of The Paper Plant, but it is now, summer 2011, in construction as it was in 2008, and probably always will be.  Just don’t let me be Causabon!!