06 November, 2013

After the Oxford Fair

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 Diary of a Dead Officer

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

Burnt Sugar

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

Duke Humfrey's Night, Oxford

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

Water Baby!

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!

03 September, 2013

Books on show this month

Last month Angela Lemaire had a show of her books, prints and paintings in Edinburgh and now forthcoming in London and Eastbourne are two more shows which will include books from The Old Stile Press.

Josie Reed will be known to many who visited her Gallery in Bath where she had several very successful shows of books.  Now, as Reed Contemporary Books she has curated a show at Flow in London of artists' books.  Previously we have mentioned Flow because there have been exhibitions of contemporary Designed Bookbindings held there - but this show focuses on the whole book - not just its binding! Josie has selected Jubilate Agno among her fifty beautiful books.

The second show - in Eastbourne - is at the Emma Mason Gallery which concentrates on printmaking. This is an 80th birthday tribute to Garrick Palmer.  His book LAND will be among the exhibits which will consist largely of his miraculous wood engravings. Sadly there are no more copies of The Ballad of Reading Gaol which he did with us - though separate prints exist still.

"Garrick Palmer at Eighty"
A celebration of the work of wood engraver Garrick Palmer
19th September – 12th October 2013
At the Emma Mason Gallery, Eastbourne


emma mason
B R I T I S H  P R I N T S

3 Cornfield Terrace
East Sussex
BN21 4NN

t   01323 727545
m 07944 535354


We hope some of you may be able to get to these shows - the next Fair which we will be at ourselves is in Oxford at the beginning of November - more details when we know them.

25 August, 2013

a good time of it . . .

We had skillfully avoided all suggestions for a grand party and indeed mentioned the fact only to a few friends whom we happened to be contacting anyway. One of these was Natalie d'Arbeloff who rushed to wield her Photoshop over the photograph that appears on our website to produce this wonderful image!

So, it was our Golden Wedding Anniversary yesterday and we had a very good time of it.

We ate lots of delicious seafood and drank an appropriate amount of wine, sitting looking at our valley and listening to the wind in the aspen tree. We also went to a good garden centre in search of a clutch of golden trees and shrubs to make a special corner for our garden, to record the event . . . and to add to a brace of glorious Acers that had been sent by our daughter Cressida (and family) in Glasgow!

We also went down to the river and stood in the silence of our own Meeting for Worship . . . and thought of our fifty years together. We may not get 'the same again' but we look forward keenly to whatever comes in the future.

For some reason, as we stood there, some of the words of River Man by Nick Drake (cousin by marriage, I am proud to say) ran through my mind . . . 

Gonna see the river man
Gonna tell him all I can
About the plan
For lilac time

If he tells me all he knows
About the way his river flows
And all night shows
In summertime

Betty said she prayed today
For the sky to blow away
Or maybe stay
She wasn’t sure

22 August, 2013

Mighty teazel!

Ever since my Grandmother called me (a teenager) to see the miracle that had been wrought in her tiny garden in Winchester . . . a self-seeded teazel in all its glory . . . this plant has been one of my  absolute favourites.

This year the same miracle has happened to us. This plant grew up among the grasses and wild flowers on a bank. All but it have been scythed and now it stands alone in all its architectural and sculptural wonder!

As I was investigating a particular head with my camera's lens, the bumble bee just came into the shot and began to pose!

29 July, 2013

Edinburgh Festival dates with Angela Lemaire

 Two years ago McNaughtan's bookshop in Edinburgh showed some of Angela's work  in their gallery upstairs during the Festival and this year they have again given over their gallery to her work but especially to celebrate her new book with us - Jubilate AgnoWe hope there will be some reading this blog who may have the opportunity to visit and see more of Angela's work as a painter and printmaker.  The book itself is described in detail on our website

McNaughtan's would be delighted to see you in their gallery and/or at the poetry readings. They have sent out a notice which gives the details of the event.

  Angela Lemaire: Alpha & Omega

An exhibition in celebration of the publication of Jubilate Agno by Christopher Smart (1722-1771), published by The Old Stile Press in 2012. On show will be some of the images made for this book by Angela Lemaire, as well as her other, related works and artist’s books. There will be woodcuts, linocuts, drawings, paintings and special books.
(All works for sale)

Private View: Monday 5th August 6-8pm

Poetry Readings

Angela Lemaire and Nicky Toneri will give readings from Christopher Smart's at McNaughtan's Bookshop on Wednesday 14th August at 2 p.m, 3 p.m and 4 p.m.

Exhibition continues until 31st August
Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 11.00 am to 5.00 pm

McNaughtan’s Bookshop, 3A & 4A Haddington Place, (Leith Walk), Edinburgh, EH7 4AE
Tel: 0131 556 5897 Email: mcnbooks@btconnect.com
Web: www.mcnaughtansbookshop.com

21 July, 2013

DO try this at home! . . .

 . . . if you have half a chance, and before the nannies start to twitter.
Surely, this is what childhood is all about!


Agility, coupled with a bit of brotherly co-operation,
leads to

satisfaction, and a

great bowl of cherries!

18 July, 2013

Black spots on a peacock's tail.

There are many logistical imperatives that determine the order in which these pages return to the press for another printing. The need to change the colour of the ink on the press as seldom as possible is one obvious one and the fact that the effect of green on grey can be very different from grey on green.

It is, therefore, the result of an entirely logical sequence (and yet totally unplanned) that yesterday saw me printing the final colour on the final image on the final side of the final sheet of this mightily laborious - but fabulous - book, The Third Thing . . . and that this last thing should be the finishing touch to one of the most beautiful images in the book . . . black spots on the peacock's tail . . . together with some 'drawing' on the legs and head and a cloud!

Below are the sheets before the black spots. This side of this sheet has been printed on four times already. To say nothing, of course, of the fact that the other side has also gone through the press four or five times as well.

Below that, we have Ralph Kiggell's wood block for the 'black' printing . . .

N.B. It will invite you to click to 'read more'. PLEASE DO THAT.
I did something by mistake and cannot reverse it. If anyone out there can help . . . HELP!

13 July, 2013

A Cool Printing for a Hot Day

 I can hardly believe it but I am really coming to the end of printing these images for Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing.

My printing office is cruelly cold during the winter but deliciously cool in summer. Added to that I was printing the final, 'black' (actually a very dark green) block on this wonderful image - which happens to be very 'close to home'.

When Ralph was staying with us last year, we showed him the place where we had seen our own otters on the icefloes on Christmas day. He made some sketches and the next we knew was that he had placed this wonderful otter image at Catchmays Court.

Anyway, that is Frances and me up there at top left!

26 May, 2013

"Gone Fising"

Well, we did not do any fishing as such but we have eaten enough of the stuff! And wonderful it was too.

Frances and I decided a few weeks ago that we needed to get away for a few days (three nights to be exact) and one particular hotel seemed to jump out of the internet, so we booked it. The moment we mentioned to friends that we were going to Hope Cove in South Devon, many said that they had been there as children or for some other reason knew it well, but it was completely unknown to us. Now, I have to say, it is simply top of our list.

We left home reasonably early and ate up the motorway as far as Exeter. Thereafter we turned left so we could dawdle past some of the well-known features of The English Riviera. We started off with Dawlish where we had a sandwich and I took a lot of photographs, including the one at the head of this post!

We really liked this place. It was delightfully old-fashioned but exciting - with big trains running right along the beach and disappearing into five tunnels blasted through bright rusty-purple cliffs by friends of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

We spent more time than we thought we should in that friendly place but it did not matter because one glance at Torquay and Paignton showed that we did not want to spend more time in either than was needed to find a way out.

That left Brixham. I have known about this place all my life but I don’t think I have actually been there before. My parents knew it well and a painting by Arthur Briscoe hung above the mantlepiece at home which I loved. It was of boats (of course, knowing my parents) and it was of Brixham Harbour but, as there was a thick fog (beautifully painted) I never gained any knowledge as to what the place looked like.

At first glance, Brixham seemed to have gone the way of everything else . . . with thousands of smart and expensive yachts in place of the few fog-bound old-timers of my youth. Then, in the distance, we suddenly saw a small brown mainsail at an angle and and a tiny foresail and slowly there came into sight exactly the sort of boat that I believe my parents owned when they were young. The boat’s name was Pobble and I have always had the romantic notion that I was conceived on board one day in late August 1936!

We eventually reached Hope Cove and our hotel and it immediately became clear that we had made a good decision! I will not give a blow by blow account of our stay, let alone of the wonderful food that we were given (too cruel!) but suffice it to say that everything went our way - especially the weather for we had loads of sun when most of the country had none. I will leave it to the inevitable photographs to tell the story or at least to give the atmosphere.

If you are the sort of person who likes holiday photographs to be straightforward shots of places and people you will, I fear, be frustrated by many of these but I have to say that I was rather pleased with a number of these, especially this one. It is amazing how many straight line and interesting containments of space are to be found at the seaside!


Finally, here is one of Frances, in Edith Sitwell mode. Any of our gentle readers who know what she had been putting up with during this last year, will be happy to know that she is in very good form and full of the joys of early summer.