Remembering Jan Sobota

written and illustrated and printed

by Ladislav R Hanka


    Those of you who knew Jan will be gratified to see something available about his life and work.  Please feel free to read the text (which is presented in a nice legible pdf format in the next folder called Sobota text), download it or print it.  I will be happy to see knowledge about Jan disseminated and my own work too gain a second life beyond my studio and the few museums and collectors who can afford these sorts of highly laborious and thus necessarily expensive  books done as very limited editions of fine art.  

    The originals are printed in small editions by hand  by an intaglio process from the copper plates onto papers made by Zdenek Kral in the Czech Republic.  His death has meant that I made a conscious choice to use up the last of his papers on this project.  There are no more.   Mr. Kral was part of the renaisance of books as art from the latter part of the twentieth century much as am I and as was Jan Sobota.  He provided artists with exceptional papers just after the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia.  Jan introduced me to his papers.  Jan introduced me to many other wondrous things around the book arts and like these papers and stories, that’s all there is.  The chapter of this story that was written large by Jan Sobota in the book of records belonging to the book arts rennaisance of North America and Central Europe is closed.  We can retell the stories and draw our conclusions but Jan has died.  What remains is what those he influenced now do with it.   Jan was not just Jan and the  several thousand bindings that came from his hand.  Jan Sobota was a seminal figure who taught many of us by his example.  The book arts are changed by his having walked among us.

  Those who would like to have the original book can contact me and purchase an unbound edition to bind themselves.   The cost will be 1,000.00 US dollars.  A bound edition with slipcase may also still be available and will cost  1,500.00.   The binder is Vernon Wiering in Grand Rapids MI.  There are unique copies bound by others and if that interests you, please inquire.  Prices will vary depending upon notoriety of the binder and my attachment to the piece.   The papers by Zdenek Kral are nearly used up and so that too is a limitation.    There are others made at Velke Losiny that have similar working characteristics and feel, but the stuff that Mr Kral touched is now very limited.

   If you’ll peruse sections of this website and one other you’ll find other pictures and words about Jan Sobota and his bindery work:



Cost of Book:  Unbound pages: 1,000.00

                        Leather bound with slipcase (by Vernon Wiering):  1,500.00

At the moment copies of  Remembering Jan Sobota are in the following public collections:

        Kent State University

        Kalamazoo College

        Case Western Reserve University

        Rowfant Club

        West Bohemian Gallery of the National Gallery of  the Czech Republic in Pilsen

        Western Michigan University

        Grand Rapids Art Museum

Ladislav R Hanka


Etchings of Jan Sobota assembled into a memorial print  - Page size 16 x 22.

Paper is a Czech hand-made by the now deceased Zdeněk Král  - while my supply lasts; after which the paper will be some other kind, made by those still alive to run a Hollander and strong enough to dip and couch the slurry from the vats and make us some other kind of beautiful paper.

    The portraits are photo-etchings.   I made the head-shot from a photo somebody took at the Pilsen opening of our show in 2009 on the occasion of Jan’s turning 70.  The one with the monster book sculpture in the form of a Pike  with their good ole hound-dog Kuba, is a shot that I snatched from Jan and Jarmila’s website.  (The dog Kuba is of course not be confused with his mythic cousins Kubula and Kuba-kubikula).  Only much later did I find out that this iconic photo of Jan and his monstrous housing for the binding of my book, County Survey, was taken by their close friend Laird Thompson.  It all apparently happened under a  brilliant Canyon moon with the cattle settling in for night behind the Chuckwagon, under a lone star shining bright in the pale moonlight when all was right – deep in the heart of Texas ...   Richardson Texas, that is -  during a good ole-time Texas barbeque,  oh so many moons ago.  The Pike was brand new and the world was fresh and we were all young and the beer and merriment flowed freely.  The wine and whiskey were best drunk in copious amounts with spicy food that was made ever so good by the amazing elixirs of hard work, good companionship, camaraderie and hunger.  

All those memories and sentiments are to be had in this print on a dead-man’s paper (Yohoho and a bottle of rum) for the paltry sum of 150.00 each.


unbound copies 1,000.00 $ US

bound edition with slipcase by Vernon  Wiering    1,500.00.