Private Press

Custom-book publisher Hammond Editions creates personal memoirs to document passionate lives.

Hazel Hammond has a hard time dropping names. She can't bring herself to say "Broderick" when she describes how a phone call—from the actor's friend, the playwright and filmmaker Kenneth Lonergan, to her partner, photographer Alen MacWeeney—somehow triggered the idea for a new, old-world business. But indeed it was Matthew Broderick who commissioned MacWeeney to document the Greenwich Village apartment of his mother, Patricia Broderick, the wildly talented artist and writer, as well as her studio in the weeks following her death in 2003.

"The original idea was to take pictures of the apartment we grew up in and my mother's unique way of juxtaposing things," Broderick explains. "Then it grew into more. The books are an art form, and it's so nice to have this handmade lasting eulogy."

"Alen took ten days to photograph Patsy's apartment, her studio, and her art," says Hammond, who has worked as a photo director for DEPARTURES and Travel + Leisure. "He helped Matthew and his sisters edit the work into around one hundred fifty little rough prints." The group then met in Patsy's kitchen to discuss it, says MacWeeney, an Irishman whose best conversations you could easily imagine occurring in a kitchen: "I said, 'You can put these pictures in a box then put it in a drawer and never look at it. Or you can make a book.' "

Thus Hammond Editions was born, an exclusive service linking a photographer, a creative director, a printer, and a binder to those seeking to create a custom-made, limited-edition, hand-bound document of a life, family, or occasion.

Hammond refers to the team of four she coordinates as a pool of artists. First, of course, is MacWeeney, an accomplished and versatile portraitist who takes fine-art photos of the subjects. Second is the low-key but brilliant graphic artist Yolanda Cuomo, who designs the layouts. "This project represents a new hybrid in bookmaking," she says. "It brings together old-world techniques, high-tech digital photography, and new, amazingly soft papers. Because of this union of new and old, I feel as if we should be wearing fuchsia monks' robes."

Third is printer Rocky Kenworthy, who oversees color correction—the process of adjusting the color balance to produce an accurate image—and piezo printing, a pressurized inking method. Fourth and last, Paul Vogel of Vogel Bindery in East Hampton, New York, hand-sews the endpapers and the signatures (folded pages stitched together before binding) into a book, with a procedure used by 15th-century monks. The only difference? Electricity.

The result is nothing like the typical scrapbook or photo album. Each image is a work of art that could easily stand on its own. When you hold a Hammond Edition in your hands, you know it is truly unique.

The printing is done on archival watercolor paper. A Hammond Editions volume kept in dark storage will easily last 200 years; kept in the open, 100 to 150 years. A slipcase of rich plum linen protects the 108-page Broderick book from the mess of daily life. A die was created of Patricia's signature so it could be scrawled on the mint-green cover in deep red. Inside, you witness the humor, the high-brow/low-brow references, and the rich artistic life of this woman. You see a family of miniature figurines next to the works of Nabokov; a pinball machine alongside a long dining table; a stuffed bunny on Patricia's bed contrasted with a rendering of the same bunny in one of her paintings. Art and intellect mingled magically in the world of Patricia Broderick and now do so on the pages of the book that memorializes her talent.

The next Hammond undertaking will be completely different. "The look of every book we work on is inspired by the content," Cuomo explains. "It's like we're archaeologists—we don't have a formula. These are books that come from life."

Hammond, who acts as the liaison between the client and the artists, spends a good deal of time vetting prospective topics. The books can take up to a year to complete, and because the team can manage only a limited number of projects at a time, it is vital that they connect with the right stories. Dream commissions include documenting a particularly prized stable, a moment in a child's life, one person's enthusiasm for sailboats and the sea, and a house that's been in a family for generations. "This is about serious passions, interests, and hobbies," says Hammond. "In other words, real life."

$ Hammond Editions start at $25,000; 212-517-8091; e-mail

$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.