14 October, 2012

JUBILATE AGNO by Christopher Smart

Last evening, Frances and I gave a talk to a friendly and enthusiastic group at the Monnow Valley Art Centre which was mentioned by Frances two posts back. The subject of the event was the relationship between ourselves, the books we produce and the artists we work with.

We also planned to describe our latest project in the context of the talk and we were thrilled when it proved possible for the first bound copy of the book, sent by the binders, to reach us (just a couple of hours) before we left home for the Monnow Valley. Great drama in the unveiling, then, and general approval all round, I am happy to say.

This project is a major one for us and has been one of the central activities in our lives for a long time now, although we are aware that we have not revealed anything about it during the many months we have been labouring. Even now we can only offer a partial unveiling as the Main Edition slipcase and the solander box for the Special Edition have yet to be completed and we will also have to remain coy about the prices for the two editions . . . for we still do not know some final costs.

For me, anyway, the book is a tribute to the day when I was given the mighty pleasure of being able to study (closely and intimately) the great copy of the Gutenberg Bible in the library of Eton College. On our way home I decided that I wanted to make a book which, apart from many other reasons for bringing it about, was clearly a tribute to the wonderful Bible I had been allowed to examine.

After much thought, we decided that Christopher Smart's  strange, wonderful and life-enhancing text entitled Jubilate Agno would be a fitting subject and the challenge to work the great mass of words into an editorially disciplined form (and to enable the artist, Angela Lemaire, who enthusiastically chose to accompany us on this great trek, to be able to express her own approach to a much-loved text) was appropriately daunting!


We will of course post more about this exciting book when the binding has been completed and the prices fixed.

Angela's images are all printed direct from her wood- and linocut blocks and all the colour you see in these photographs is the printed colour to be found in all copies of the Main Edition.

Please note, though, that (as with earlier ventures) Angela has added much hand-colouring to the pages of the ten copies of the Special Edition, for which a drop-back box is also being created. On previous occasions, these copies have been snapped up almost immediately so do contact us to make a reservation, subject of course to hearing what the price has to be!

15 September, 2012

Ashdown Gallery Show

As an update to our previous post urging people - at least those living in the South-East of England - to go to see the show at the Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row, we were sent these images of the opening night where copies of The Swimmer were flying off the shelf.  Great stuff.  The photos on the walls, and indeed within the book, are by Steffi Pusch and the story writer, S J Butler, read from the book and we can include a short clip of that . . .

We still have copies of the book if the gallery sells out - they only had two left this morning.

07 September, 2012

Looking ahead

 After a quiet summer September arrives and activity is all around us . . .

 One of the most beautiful galleries opened its doors and its magnificent garden to book and print lovers who found their way through the delights of the Herefordshire countryside to Monnow Valley Arts Centre (previously in London the same people ran the Wolseley Gallery). Overlooking the Black Mountain at the top of which Eric Gill lived at Capel y fin, the garden has sculptures and unusual garden furniture, fountains . . . but we were all there to see their new show of prints and books collected by Julian Francis. 

His passion has been for wood engravings by artists such as Gertrude Hermes, Agnes Miller Parker, John Buckland Wright and he then moved towards some of the books that such people illustrated in the middle of the twentieth century.  It is a fascinating exposition of how a collector becomes hooked and explores the work of an artist thereby gaining an understanding of the imagination and the craft employed in working with wood in this way.  The interesting collection is elegantly displayed but is not for sale.  Alongside the main gallery space is a studio space in which the walls are hung with framed prints which are for sale by many of the same artists whose books appear in Julian Francis’ collection.  There is also a table of Old Stile Press books to draw attention to our forthcoming talk on Friday 12 October about the collaboration between artist and printer in the creation of our books.
for details about this see the gallery website www.monnowvalleyarts.org

For those in the South East of England, rather than in the glories of the Welsh borders, there is an opportunity to see a show of photographs by Steffi Pusch who collaborated with Sarah Butler on our recently published book The Swimmer.

The book will be on display from 13 September - 3 October at the Ashdown Gallery in Forest Row, East Sussex and can be read and bought at the show - together with some of Steffi’s highly original photographs. Steffi printed all of the photographs in the book herself and then they were tipped into the text.

Details of the gallery and how to get there are on their website (www.ashdowngallery.co.uk) and we do hope that many will go and see the book and photographs there.  For all sorts of reasons we shall not be at the various autumn book fairs which we have been at for many years - particularly Whitechapel in East London and Oak Knoll Fest in the USA - we shall have to rely on people exploring our website to discover the many exciting books which we  display there.

14 July, 2012

The Beauty in the Random

 When I showed these photographs to Frances, she said they looked like shots of outer space taken by some amazingly powerful radio telescope and waxed lyrical about on television by Professor Brian Cox!

 Those of my dear readers who have been around our Press and this Blog for a time will know that I am for ever being mesmerized by 'found' pictures in the world around me. I have captured these in rocks, in sea/sand and sundry others.

These were even more strange and evanescant than usual. All I need say is that I had a job yesterday (in the furtherance of the current printing project) which involved cutting a black-painted board into quarters. Involved in the task were a saw, some oil, a boot (on my foot) used as a vice, resultant sawdust and some water dripped from plants as I was working outside - as it had stopped raining for a miraculous minute.!

It was as I was picked the resultant four boards up from the ground (and a split second before I had wiped their surfaces clean) that I realized what incredibly beautiful visions I had been shown. So I went for my camera and . . .

. . . then cleaned them off in preparation for the day's printing!

07 June, 2012

. . . in praise of rain

Although I love and need the sun,
I have to admit to being really excited by wind and rain.
This image should be a movie
so that you could see the sheets of rain moire-ing up the valley
but at least you can get an idea of the tree's movement
and can see the small god passing up-river on his little cloud.
The tree is of course my favourite Aspen . . . planted it myself!
As always it is the very last to greet the Spring,
holding itself in skeletonic check for almost a month after the rest.
 Then . . . the grand entrance,
a burst of incredible growth (not that many days ago in point of fact) and then all is made up.

21 May, 2012

This is the time of year . . .

 . . .  when I am drawn to express my awe and ecstasy at the beauties yet again showered upon us by Nature - each year more wonderful than the last - and my joy that there are at least some who still feel that these gifts are the sufficient and perfect reward for all the labours and trials and sadnesses of our lives and that, even if there are many who are blind to them and seem bent on destroying these beauties in a mad scramble for money and power and self-love, nevertheless the next Spring will come round and offer the same munificence . . . so that our souls can be renewed and we can be sustained for another year.

I have these feelings of wonder and thankfulness every day of my life but the focus is even more profound today . . . the eve of the day that marks my having enjoyed this delicious life for three quarters of a century.

17 May, 2012

Come to the Fair!


The London International Antiquarian Book Fair may not sound like the obvious place to find contemporary books but in the National Hall at Olympia this year there is a room devoted to what is described as ALSO exhibitors - there you will find Old Stile Press books and other stands with artists books, fine bindings, tools and materials for binding and conservation . . . and a bar with real ale!  The main focus is, of course, on wonderfully rare books from the finest dealers both British and International and this year especially on the National Trust which cares for 140 libraries around the UK.

We hope that you might be able to visit the Fair and if you would like a complimentary ticket let me know and I will forward one to you.  I - that is Frances (it seems I confused people by writing here about my father and some readers thought it was Nicolas' father!) - look forward to seeing you.

We shall have on display our newest titles : The Swimmer

and earlier ones - for instance, in the 200th anniversary year of the Grimm brothers do you have a copy of Harry Brockway's Faithful John?

13 May, 2012

something nasty in the woodshed!

This is not, as you might think, one of the deeper dungeons in the Tower of London. It is our woodshed . . . the scene of one of the most important labours of our lives, keeping warm.

This morning I had the great pleasure of seeing and reading an exquisite photographic essay that Nancy Campbell has posted on her website on the subject of The Woodpiles of Denmark.

I immediately felt that I might grab my camera and see what I could offer by way of an alternative vision. In Denmark, the building of a woodpile is clearly a matter of civic pride or, at a personal level, the outward sign of some very tidy minds!

I have to say that things are not quite like that in this part of the Lower Wye Valley. An altogether less formal approach holds sway . . . as can be seen below.

We are, of course, very much at the end of the log-burning season at he moment and much of what can be seen here are logs that I have tried to split . . . and failed.

 . . . and the woodshed is almost empty.

What has to happen now is that we telephone a couple of burly and brilliant young men who come with their saws and a trailer and their boundless energy and set to translating trees around the place which have blown down during the year, shed branches, grown so big as to overcrowd and reduce light (and thereby have earned a squirt of red paint from my can) . . . into a full woodshed ready for the new year.

All I can now show you, therefore, is a selection of natural sculptures . . . or victims waiting for drawing and quartering.

Some recent roofing work has happily provided us with a generous stack of what we call 'easy-burn' wood

 Finally, and nothing to do with wood, is what I reckon to be one of the most arresting photographs of my career. I should, however, correct that to read 'my camera's career', for I have to admit that it was taken 'by mistake' as I stumbled over a small piece of wood to take a capture a larger (above)!

I did help it on a bit in Photoshop but I am thinking of letting the camera go out by itself from now on.