31 March, 2011

Eric Gill: Procreant Hymn

This is a time which we always enjoy (and usually feel we rather deserve!) . . . when a book has been completed and photographed and some promotion has been designed and despatched.

In the old days this involved a physically-printed card or leaflet and it was the postman who brought replies, the whole process taking quite a time. In the computer age, however, things are very different. Once I have completed a leaflet with photographs and the necessary facts, Frances will do her wizardry with her address list and the thing will whizz off in all directions. Results are almost immediate but seldom very productive at that early stage . . . involving such automatic information as the fact that suchandsuch librarian halfway round the world is on holiday for two weeks! One has to wait a bit longer for the joyful bit, the "that looks really good, yes please I would like to order a copy" sort of reply.

Happily there has already been a goodly number of such reactions so we are relaxing a bit when thinking about our considerable investment this time and feeling that all the labours were justified.

So, what is this project about which I have said so little here or elsewhere?

the complete copper engravings for
Procreant Hymn by E. Powys Mathers

This is our Preface to the two books:

When, in 1926, Procreant Hymn, by E. Powys Mathers (1892-1939), was published by Robert Gibbings at The Golden Cockerel Press, there were printed 175 numbered copies for sale with a further 25 copies for presentation. There was also a notice, loosely inserted at the end of the book, which stated ‘Subscribers may be interested to know that three alternative designs have been engraved for this book and may be obtained separately from the artist’.
In the publication there are five images, all copper engravings by Eric Gill. These are known to be titled
God Sending, Earth Waiting, Earth Inviting, Dalliance and Earth Receiving – although the titles are not printed in the book. As advertised in the notice, Gill made alternative plates, although there were actually four of these rather than three. They basically follow the composition of the published versions but the male and female figures, already naked in the published versions, are presented in a state of realism which would clearly have been unexpected (and, in many quarters, unacceptable) at that time.
We at The Old Stile Press have been entrusted with all the copper plates that Eric Gill engraved for this book and we have decided that the most interesting form in which we can make them
available to book collectors, is to provide two complete copies of the book – one following the model of the Golden Cockerel book (now hard to track down and expensive) with the other breaking completely new ground by substituting the alternative plates to produce a book that has never been seen before.
Our books follow the pagination of the
Golden Cockerel book but uses a much larger page and, importantly we think, are set in Aries, a beautiful and little-known typeface designed by Eric Gill himself.

This Old Stile Press edition of Procreant Hymn was prepared and
printed during the winter months of 2010. Nicolas McDowall
designed the publication, set and printed the type, at
Catchmays Court, Llandogo, Monmouthshire NP25 4TN, UK. The
intaglio printing, directly from Eric Gill’s copper plates, was
by Martyn Grimmer, Masterprinter at Spike Print in Bristol.
The paper is 200gsm VĂ©lin Arches Blanc and the type is Aries.
The binding was by The Fine Book Bindery and incorporates
patterned papers designed and printed by Nicolas McDowall.
The Edition (which consists of separate copies of the book
in its two distinct forms, housed together in a lined slipcase)
is restricted to:
60 numbered copies for sale
together with 15 copies hors commerce.
For orders received before May 31st 2011,
the price of the complete item will be £850 plus p&p.
Thereafter it will be £950 plus p&p.

Below are the bindings of the two books - with printed papers designed and printed here

and here is how the books sit within their slipcase.

If anyone wishes to hear more, please email.

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