and, finally, one of Bill Garnett . . . also studying John's book but, for some reason, looking like a Renaissance saint!
11 March, 2014
For John, his "Book Day" was when he came to Catchmays Court to see, and handle, the sample copy of the Main and Special editions of his great work, hot from the binders.
I had previously printed small editions of some of the mighty woodcuts from the book and John signed and annotated this (one of my great favourites) to remember the occasion.
The group from the previous post had reconvened, with the addition of Beth, an artist friend of John's, and a fine time we had admiring the binder's workmanship and, above all, the magnificence of John's images.
We were seeing the cover for the first time -
and elements of the Special Edition, such as the portfolio of superb images that do not appear in the book
and the recess in the bottom of the book that fits, for each of the fortunate owners of the Special Edition, one of the actual linocut blocks used in the printing of the book
When the party had left, I was able to set about the necessary photography of the book and the results can now be seen on our website - with full details.
As the double-page spread is so wide, only a general idea can be given of the full sweep of the great images on the usual 'slideshow' so I have taken a number of photographs of 'details'. Some were posted earlier and a couple are given here.
I could not resist including a good number more on the webpage as I was fascinated to find how powerful an experience it was to look at a large woodcut and then to zoom in on just the expression of a face or the brilliantly effective woodcutting to depict a coil of barbed wire.
So, now I will leave you with yet another photograph of John Abell being justly proud of his handiwork
and, finally, one of Bill Garnett . . . also studying John's book but, for some reason, looking like a Renaissance saint!
25 January, 2014
The final piece of printing had been done, the sheets folded and inserted to form sections. John Abell had now to sign each copy of the colophon page before the sections were collated into books. Happily this coincided with John having finished cutting the two lino blocks planned for the cover, so a trip to Catchmays Court was organised to include our mutual friend, Bill Garnett, of Pomegranate Fine Art.
As John signed, I slipped the page into its section and we talked . . . about . . . what more appropriate than "what shall we do for out next book"! These photographs show the aftermath of all this, a little lunch, during which the pile of signed sheets was pushed ignominiously to the edge of the table!
The next day saw Frances performing her lonely dance round the piles of sections to produce ever-growing piles of collated copies - ready for transport to the binders. That is when I have completed the final printing, of the cover blocks.
19 January, 2014
I can hardly believe it, but the lengthy slog of printing The Diary of a Dead Officer is almost at an end and the binding process can begin. John Abell is at the moment cutting blocks for the papers that will cover the book and the printing of these should be my final task.
Frances has been folding sheets as they are completed and recently has begun to insert sheets into others to form sections. This is one of the most exciting moments in the whole process as I begin to see images and passages of text in their true relation to one another - rather than to what was next to them on the press.
The above is the 'emblem' that appears, very effectively, on the book's halftitle . . . pointing atmospherically towards the rest of the book.
This photograph was taken of John during a recent visit to Catchmays Court . . . during which I was able to show him my printings of his linocuts which (as you may remember from an earlier post) he will never have seen printed before!
Rather than photographing complete pages, I have today directed my camera at various details of blocks and have taken advantage of some 'stage-lighting' provided by the winter sunshine. You will therefore not get a full idea of what the book will look like but the power of these images will, I am sure, make an appropriate initial impact.
06 November, 2013
We spent last weekend at the major Book Fair in Oxford and had a good and successful time. We had restricted what we showed to recent publications and some 'Specials' of earlier titles where we still had copies. Sales in both categories were encouragingly brisk and the sample printed pages from The Diary of a Dead Officer (see previous post, below) made a tremendous impact.
As I woke on Monday morning I had a lovely sense of freedom to do many things but, when it came to it, we two poor oldies realized that we were too utterly exhausted from all that talking etc that we could not manage to do anything except, in my case, to haul my camera around for a bit in what happened to be a gloriously golden Autumn day.
One or two people at the Fair had been kind enough to say that they have enjoyed my photographs on the blog . . . so I am encouraged to post these now. Then back to the press!
26 October, 2013
The time has come, we think, for us to reveal what is happening in the printing office at the moment . . . or, rather, what I have been printing away at for many weeks now, while Frances tells the world about the already wonderfully appreciated The Third Thing and Ralph Kiggell, now returned home to Bangkok, makes plans for the book to be promoted and exhibited in a number of his far eastern galleries.
Above you will see the titlepage of our new offering which gives most of what you need to know about the text. There have been editions of this remarkable and moving text but not many . . . and I do not know of one where the words have been balanced by equally powerful images.
That clearly is the particular strength of this publication (planned, for obvious reasons, for publication in 1914) [ . . . or, even, 2014. Thanks for pointing that out, Natalie]. John Abell's wood and linocut techniques have become simply more and more hard-hitting since we first met the young artist a couple of years ago. He has since won prizes and the acclamation of many who have seen exhibitions of his work - often woodcut images of incredible complication and four or five feet square - printed laboriously by the artist himself with the back of a spoon. Five hours labour per print is the going rate, John says!
It did not take the OSP long, as I think you may imagine, to bind this artist to us and agree a text which would be appropriate to his skills and the times.
I have been working for some weeks on printing the text (in Bodoni type and a dark green ink) but I have just reached the excitement of beginning to print the images. It is this that I thought I would photograph for you today.
First of all, here is a lino block, fresh from John. It bears his unique brand of 'drawing' . . . very bold and in a handful of crude coloured markers. As the lino is pale, you can hardly see the cutting but it has by this stage been completed, in all its detail. You will note that it has not been 'proofed' in any way. John never does. Somehow he is able to know exactly what the cuts he makes will look like.
Look carefully at this 'drawing', for it is about to disappear, for ever. Below, you will see that the rollers of my press have inked the lino before the press makes an impression, in exactly the correct place one hopes, on the page which already has text printed on it .
. . . and this is the result of that inking. (The two scruffy pieces of paper below the block, by the way, are there to warn me if the pressure on it from the rollers is forcing the block down the bed of the press.) Here is the printed result.
Here you can see the image in a bit more detail and . . .
. . . and here the image is seen in relation to the rest of the type on the spread.
There is still a long way to go but I hope I have whetted a few appetites to see the completed book, sometime early next year I hope. I, for one, am absolutely thrilled with how the book is developing . . . and so was John when we showed him the first printed image!
23 October, 2013
This year I have not been overdoing the 'wonders of Nature in the Wye Valley' brand of post . . . but I thought this might be an exception. Breathtaking to see it in this peak of brightness - especially as the day on which this photo was taken had seen torrential rain for hours on end.
I do not know whether e-smell has been invented yet but I certainly don't have an ap for it. If I did, you could enjoy, as we did, the extraordinary smell of burnt sugar that comes from the leaves that have fallen to the ground.
It is a Cercidiphyllum japonicum and I planted it a number of years ago. More recently I planted a Liquidamber quite near to it and that is also doing well, in an adolescent sort of a way. In a few years time the double act should be quite something!
14 October, 2013
As we have written here in an earlier post - Jubilate Agno was the result of an overwhelming day for us in one of Britain’s most spectacular libraries: spectacular in its physical buildings but also in the astonishing collection of books and archives housed there. The joy at being able to turn the pages of Eton College’s Gutenberg Bible and observe its printing and decorations at close hand sent this printer rushing to pay tribute to the experience in a book from our press.
Christopher Smart’s Jubilate Agno seemed an appropriate choice of text and in conversation with Angela Lemaire, with whom we have collaborated on so many occasions, we discovered a shared pleasure. She was eager to create images which would pay tribute in similar manner to the early decorators of the Gutenberg. When the woodcuts had been cut and the printing of text and imagery had finally been achieved here, it became a stunning book. The Library at Eton was delighted with their copy and the book has been bought by many other institutions and individuals.
Last Saturday, however, saw the book in august company once more. The Bodleian Library had bought a copy and had then selected it for an important event in their calendar . . . when they invite Friends of the Library to a fundraising event to view some of their recent acquisitions and to sponsor individual titles. Called Duke Humfrey’s Night, a reception takes place first in the Divinity School alongside the Radcliffe Camera and the Sheldonian . . . glorious Oxford architecture.
The designer of the invitation to this event had asked if he could borrow some of Angela Lemaire’s imagery - but then followed the design of the text as well. There was also a catalogue of the acquisitions which the Friends were being asked to sponsor - with the ‘alpha’ and ‘omega’ from Jubilate Agno on the covers and within. We were all delighted by such a prominent honour, and indeed to have been asked to join the event - Angela coming south from Scotland and we heading east from Wales.
All the acquisitions were laid out in Duke Humfrey’s Library, each with a member of the Bodleian staff to elaborate on the catalogue details and show off the particular aspects which made it important to the Library’s collections.
So, alongside eighteenth century travel diaries, family and military journals, rare printing, music, an oriental woodblock, papyri requiring considerable conservation and ephemera, Jubilate Agno was displayed in one of the ‘cubicles’ created by the shelving.
We met many enthusiastic ‘Friends’, including those who had ‘sponsored’ ours, and it was wonderful to talk with the now 90 year old Colin Franklin who remains as lively a bibliophile as ever. Richard Ovenden, Interim Bodley’s Librarian, spoke to the assembled company about an archive of Fox Talbot and early photography and, later, was similarly talking of his delight in handling Jubilate (and in receiving details about Old Stile Press books).
It was an evening that will remain in our memories alongside that day in the Eton Library with Michael Meredith.
P.S. Sadly I cannot say that we met these earlier visitors to Duke Humfrey's Library - at Hogwarts, no doubt!
18 September, 2013
It is usual, I think, for the latest whatever-it-is to be thought of as the most beautiful and in every way the most outstanding of all . . . whether we are talking of babies or books made by hand!
Each of the books I have been involved in has had its moment in the sun BUT I have to say that the latest, Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing, just brought back by Frances from the binders, is really something rather special. Rejoicing at its completion is, for me, partly a reflection of the extraordinary amount of time I spent printing and over-printing yet again each of these pages. As the weeks went by with a daily printing, I became ever more relieved (on behalf of anyone who might think to purchase a copy) that we have never costed a single minute of the time I spend on any of the many activities involved in producing them into the price of our books. Crazy I know . . . but I just love doing it.
There are many people who were entranced by Ralph's earlier masterpiece Leading the Cranes Home (now completely sold out) who have been looking forward for some time to this new venture. The subject matter and choice of texts in this book are quite different from the former but the format and arrangement of the two books are exactly the same. Here again each spread is given up to the printing of a poem or piece of prose (this time on the subject of Water in all its different manifestations) together with one of Ralph's stunning multi-coloured woodcuts in the Japanese manner.
I have posted a few of these spreads here earlier but now a full description of the book and a (generous!) slideshow can be found on our website.
Also described is the Special Edition and glimpses given of the prints Ralph has made specially for this purpose and quite separate from the book. There are only ten of these Specials and I have to say that more than half the copies have already been spoken for after an email to interested parties sent yesterday. If you would like to get your hands on one of the remaining copies I would urge considerable speed!