31 December, 2011

Random Spectacular No 1

One of the greatest pleasures I experienced this Christmas Day was to turn the pages of this utterly delicious periodical (I hope) and to savour its many and varied delights. I cannot remember quite where Frances saw it mentioned but one glance showed that we should have a copy.

Having enjoyed it SO much, myself, I hasten to photograph and post a few pages with the sole hope that others will be as enchanted as we have been and will buy it . . . if there are any copies left! I have done this with no thought to copyright infringement or the like but hope that those concerned will take this eager promotion in the spirit in which I have brought it about.

As it is printed in vibrantly coloured lithography, this poor restricted letterpress printer is able to re-enact the old 'child in a sweetshop' routine and wish, even more than usual, for a second life - in which to concentrate on printing by classic lithography.

If you do not know about this publication already, you will be wanting the details. I could repeat them here but a click will take you to details of the editors and St. Jude's Gallery, in Norwich, who are responsible for the lovely gallimaufry and where all the facts can be obtained.

Meanwhile, I will simply continue to delight you with a few pages!

Part of Mike Hearld's Menagerie:

From Jake Tilson's Fonts and Fishcans:

Images by Angie Lewin:

From an article on the agrarian culture of East Anglia. Photograph by Justin Partyka:

From Tuscan Town Scenes: images by Emily Sutton. Delicious overtones of Eric Ravilious's Highstreet.

From In search of Fonthill: by Simon Martin with images by Ed Kluz

22 December, 2011

misty morning

Thwarting our resolve to get to Tesco really early this morning,
one glance out of the window showed that
it was essential that I should take the camera for a little walk.

I have to say that I am rather happy with some of these
so I have no hesitation in offering a few
as a little Christmas Gift,
to all our online friends,
from the two of us at

Catchmays Court!

07 December, 2011

A new edition of a much loved book

The second of the books with texts by George Mackay Brown that we published, emerged in 1991, to coincide with George's 7oth birthday, was In the Margins of a Shakespeare. The book was very well received and some time ago joined our first venture with GMB (Keepers of the House) into the dark world of out-of-print-ness.

For anyone who may have been searching the online shelves of ABE or the like, I have good news. A new edition of In the Margins of a Shakespeare has just been published. There is, for many, just one catch . . . it is in Japanese!

After happy email exchanges between Tokyo and Llandogo on various matters over a number of months we received, just yesterday, a couple of early copies of this deliciously neat and elegant edition which I, for one, am more than proud to be, as it were, the grandfather of.

I cannot begin to imagine the editorial complications involved in paging the two versions but the fact that Llewellyn Thomas's image for the piece on The Tempest ends up on a different page from the original indicates that there was nothing as simple as a page for page substitution.

The image at the head of this piece is of our cover and the same arrangement of printers' flowers can be seen on the cover (and elegant wrapper) of the Japanese version.

I omitted to say above that a Japanese edition of Keepers of the House appeared some years ago from the same publisher, Alba Shobo. We have not yet mentioned any possibility of the same honour being afforded to the third of our George Mackay Brown collaborations . . . The Girl from the Sea . . . but that of course is happily still, at least, available in its English form!

As a postscript to this story I must add this final photograph which demonstrates, yet again, my egregious sluttishness when it comes to distribution of type. I always seemed to have some other book to move on to! Still, it is quite happy having sat there for the the past 20 years (ye gods!) so another 20 should not make any difference.

27 November, 2011

Gemma's Mural . . .

. . . in our kitchen!

I simply cannot imagine why I have not, before now, given myself the fun of introducing this remarkable work to you out there. The mural has sat on one and a bit of the walls of our rather cramped kitchen (including the doors of cupboards and even on the wall at the back of a glass fronted cupboard) for more than ten years and has given a wonderful feeling of warmth and airyness and soft breezes carrying the the scent of thyme and oregano . . . to us and to all those who visit.

Way back then we had met Gemma who lived a mile or two downstream from here but was, at that time, spending most of her time at art-college. She painted, she sculpted, she made pots and at every point there was splendid evidence of a meticulous approach to the portrayal of the natural world - especially plants.

When her College course had ended, it seemed the right moment to mention our idea of a commission to transport some of our kitchen walls to a sunnier clime! "Good idea" said Gemma, "Where would you like it to be? I have never been to Greece". "That does not matter" said we, "Here are some photographs of Crete to start you off and the rest can come from your imagination!"

It was lovely to see the great work develop and thrilling to see it finished. While Frances is cooking away of an evening, I am often to be found propping up one of the doorposts and staring out to sea past one of the headlands standing steeply up from the warm, surfy sand.

In the intervening years we have seen Gemma around a bit but have not been able to spend much time with her.

Last evening, however, we had a lovely meal with friends a bit further up the river and they asked whether we had seen what Gemma has been up recently and had we seen her blog.

It has been the greatest fun, as I said earlier, to reminisce about the genesis of Gemma's mural but what really made me want to break what seems to have been a truly Trappist degree of silence from my Blog is my enjoyment of Gemma's internet presence and my strong desire to share with as many as possible the images that she has already made public there and those which I feel sure will follow during subsequent months and years.

I hope that you will be intrigued enough to want to follow up this link. You will be rewarded by a photograph of a sculptural event involving wood and fire and water and of ice sculpture that is slowly built up rather than the more usual carving down.

15 September, 2011

It's that time of year . . .

I can't resist posting this photograph which I rather like. Click it bigger and then stare at it for a bit.

I think, though, that it might need to come with a health warning for folk who are adversely affected by such things as driving past a line of trees through which the sun is shining. I do not want to cause fits or fainting with all these spots. Pass the smelling salts!

09 September, 2011

a look at our 'bindings'

This week, following a Bookbinding Conference at Warwick University, several of the participants came to visit us here, including some binders from overseas. We are always delighted to meet such people. We all spend our lives absorbed in books but we think about them in somewhat different ways! We had some lively and interesting conversations over lunch outside in glorious sunshine and they continued as the binders looked at a display of books we have printed. (For some of these, unbound copies are still available. Any bookbinders who are interested in doing their own bindings on one of our books, please ask for a list of those we still have available in unbound form.)

However, it did set us thinking about some of the books where our own bindings have been (we think!) particularly successful and involved especially interesting materials or designs evolved together with the artists working within the book.

Here, as a reminder of some of these, are photographs which concentrate on the exteriors of certain books. There are, of course, further details on our website and copies are available of each of them.

The Dream Song of Olaf ├ůsteson was bound by Habib Dingle in wood. He had described to us how much he wished to prove that you could do an edition of a book (not just a single copy) using wood without the costs being significantly higher than a more standard binding with a slipcase. After a considerable search for suitable wood in the quantity he needed, we discovered a reclamation yard who were about to saw century-old pine beams into floorboards - we asked them to modify their measurements so that we had boards of the right thickness which Habib could then shape, sand and polish. We think he probably went through more anguish than he revealed to us but what we have is a very handsome binding totally in keeping with this very early text from a Norwegian Christian poet. Maryclare Foa has filled the interior with intense woodcut images.

Each book has a different character determined by the grain and nature of the wood used - if specially lucky the purchaser of the book may get a few nail holes which adds to the character. A groove at top and bottom has leather inserted to protect surfaces of book and shelf, and the spine is of natural leather embossed with imagery drawn by the artist.

Apart from this binding by Habib Dingle, all the other books photographed here were bound by The Fine Bindery or, as it has now become, The Fine Bookbindery. Maurice and Kevin and their team, which has stayed together through various vicissitudes, have collaborated with us in producing designs in keeping with the artist’s intentions for each book.

Pyramus and Thisbe has a strong half leather binding to remind us of the slightly clumsy workmen whom Shakespeare has caused to come together to present a play for Midsummer and become part of the Dream. The boards represent a stone wall with chinks through which Pyramus on the front and Thisbe on the back, peer at one another so that, right from the first, Christopher Nurse’s chiaroscuro prints set the scene for what is to come.

Secret Commonwealth deals with the parallel universe of creatures which Robert Kirk describes following his research into the beliefs held by his seventeenth century contemporaries in Scotland. Second sight and faery, good and evil, fertility and the Subterraneans above and below the earth are considered. This is all suggested by the earth-coloured Harmatan leather which covers almost two thirds of the book abutting the printed images of those Subterraneans running below and among the roots of trees - all beautifully executed.

Letters & Heads is a marriage of text and image though poet and artist did not know one another in spite of the fact that they were both born in Greenock, on the Clyde outside Glasgow. W.S. Graham wrote, in St Ives, Cornwall, these poems expressing the difficulty of humans really to communicate and engage with one another. Douglas Thomson paints and makes woodcut prints of heads equally disengaged and struggling to make contact with others.

We, as printer/publishers, put the two together in this book and for its slipcase Nicolas painted papers emulating the wild seas and blue skies of St Ives in a pastiche of the paintings of Peter Lanyon and others at that time.

We have created several large, almost square books with different artists who relished having a big area for their images to sweep across. One of these is Angela Lemaire’s Pyed Pyper which uses the earliest known version in English of the tale of the Piper from Hamelin. It is not the verses of Robert Browning.

To emphasise the antiquity of this text we decided upon full bookcalf leather with rules and devices blind tooled with considerable heat so that they are almost burned into the leather. The Pyed Pyper himself is at the centre.

Not all the remarkable bindings we are highlighting here use leather - two especially involve cloth printed with designs by the artist involved. In the case of The Revelation of St John the Divine, together with Natalie d’Arbeloff we decided upon an outside case which has a board opening in each direction. This is covered on the upper surface with a large piece of black cloth - as large as the press would take and requiring two of us to feed it into the rollers - which was printed in white to give the impression of carvings in stone. The outer boards open to reveal a face resembling that on the Turin shroud, printed in black ink on linen. The inside of the boards has paper printed with swirling wheels and deep red ‘margins’.

The book itself is a concertina fold so that the deeply impressed imagery is only printed on one side of the Arches paper. The pages are joined with linen strips on the outer edges. This book was exhibited together with the earliest known copy of Revelation and numerous others printed over the ages which now reside in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin - some company to keep!

The second binding involving cloth printed on our press, with a design by the artist who created the book’s images, is Martin Pitts’ The Waternymph and the Boy. The cloth is a soft blue linen printed with watery swirls and poolside plants in honey coloured ink on a cover that is flexible and tied with gold grosgrain ribbons. The poem within is a Victorian version by Roden Noel of Ovid’s Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.