19 April, 2012
This week we have reached that exciting point in the birth of a book when all its component parts are assembled and we can actually hold a bound copy in our hands.
A storyteller, a photographer and the designer/printer came together to create The Swimmer.
Sarah Butler - or as she prefers to be known as a writer, S.J. Butler - works as a freelance author, journalist and editor as well as ‘onion chopper, washer of socks and maker of tea’. A modest expression of her own talents. The Swimmer was published in The Warwick Review and then was selected for The Best British Short Stories 2011 published by Salt.
The photographer, Steffi Pusch, read the story and responded excitedly with images which employ both ancient and modern photographic techniques.
At this point, enter Nicolas who felt that the story’s sense of flow and the photographer’s images, which float as if in the water alongside the swimmer, could happily be brought together in a book where type has been chosen for slow contemplative reading and the cover design places the whole in the heart of nature.
The Swimmer tells the story of a writer working in her room overlooking a river during a long, hot summer. Overcoming her initial fear of the river with its power and strength to overwhelm a swimmer, she steps into the water and into an unexplored realm of emotion.
‘Words and pictures swim together’ in the cooling water past tree-lined banks, under a bridge and around curving bends . . . so much is concentrated into this depiction of a self-revelatory experience.
The photographs have been printed with archival pigment ink on high quality fine art paper by Steffi Pusch and are tipped on to the pages of the story. She has used a Holga and a pinhole camera, both medium format film cameras - chosen because they allow very little control and so ‘you need to work intuitively. I tend to feel, to sense the atmosphere of the image rather than to document something definite in front of my camera.’
Copies of the book should reach us fairly shortly and will be £145 plus p&p so do let us know if you would like to receive one by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
16 April, 2012
We seem to have been focussing on other aspects of our lives of late and our blogs have been very erratic. One of our friends made a new year resolution to put something on his blog each day and has kept to it faithfully! We are not going that far in our promises but certainly we shall endeavour to write more frequently about what is happening at the Press and the Spring will surely spur Nicolas into taking photographs of life in the Wye Valley!
Just before we found ourselves surrounded by grandchildren in their Easter holiday from school the latest edition of Parenthesis arrived in our mail. The magazine is produced for the Fine Press Book Association members twice yearly, one edited in the UK and one in North America. It is a beautifully produced and designed magazine covering all aspects of printing, design and collecting of books with reviews of recent publications (www.fpba.com). National newspapers and magazines tend to ignore books such as we produce because of their limited numbers but sometimes it is good to be noticed and introduced to a wider world than we at present can reach.
I write about this because, in the current Parenthesis there is a review by Thorsten Sjörlin of our two bibliographies which gives a good idea of what the books have to offer.
"Reading the two volumes of The Old Stile Press bibliography (and this is a bibliography you read) and looking at the profusion of illustrations, you soon realise that his (Nicolas’) love (. . . of drawings made with black ink and, just as important, of the white space left in between) remains undiminished.
"Often one feels that a book is just a vehicle for illustrations, but look closer and you will find that everything is thought through very carefully: text, illustrations, design, size, the lot.
"As a resource for the avid collectors of books from the Press, they must be invaluable, and as an introduction for the uninitiated they must be regarded as excellent publicity.’
"The two volumes are an important contribution to the world of the private press, and we should be glad that Nicolas McDowall (with his collaborators) has undertaken such a thorough overview of the book production of the Old Stile Press."
It was good too that the reviewer was not previously familiar with our output and so came to the books with a fresh eye. Sometimes, and perhaps inevitably, reviewers are also collectors who come with a biased view of books they like and respond to, or other printers who look very technically at the books and not at their overall artistic impact.
Both books are still available: the earlier one is £40 and the second is £45 - we can send them together for £78 incl. p& p in the UK. Overseas postage is at cost.