22 August, 2014

Shortlisted among the Glitterati Goliaths

Surprises sometimes come in the daily welter of email - although  most is unwanted.
Recently an email arrived telling us of the British Book Design and Production Awards 2014 - only a few days left to enter it said. Among the fifteen categories of different aspects of design and production it seemed there is one for Limited Editions and Private Presses.

Why not! We produce books that fulfil all their criteria and so, although we have never been much excited by competitions and the like, we submitted Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing.

Given the standing of the country's great publishing and printing houses we would be a veritable David among the Goliaths but it is a beautiful book and perhaps there would be appreciative judges who would recognise its worth.


So - we are more than happy so be able to say that it has been shortlisted in the category . . . along with Phaidon, Canongate and Northend (who printed our second Bibliography).

There was a form to fill in listing every possible stage of a book’s production and they needed to know the names of all those by which these were performed. In our case, of course, there were only two names to fill in . . .  Nicolas and Ralph Kiggell . . . until it came to binding and then, of course, The Fine Bookbindery was inserted.

November 20th is the day when there is a ‘glittering event for all those involved in the industry, bringing printer, designers and their clients together to celebrate the best of British book design and production work’. More than possibly David will have succumbed beneath the combined weight of so many greats but it is good to know that some significant judges from among the higher reaches of design and book publishing have enjoyed The Old Stile Press’s entry sufficiently to shortlist it.

28 July, 2014

Keats and calligraphy

Although we are extremely pleased with how our recent publications have turned out and proud of our involvement with the projects and their artists, one could say that they have been weighty in content and spirit . . . as well as in their physical manifestation!

A bit of a change, therefore . . . and (at least, for now!) a lightening-up at The Old Stile Press.

This all started when we first had the pleasure of meeting the calligrapher, Andy Moore, at a book fair. I have always been much taken with the craft but much prefer the work to be colourful and loose rather than perfect and po-faced. I have also long had a wish lodged in my mind that I might one day discuss with an amenable practitioner the possibility of 'editioning' calligraphy work in some way through the medium of letterpress printing.

The work that surrounded Andy on his stall was very skilfully made but full of wit and almost reckless invention. Pious saws and holy quotes were thin on the ground in favour of writings about artists and fascinating places, quotes from tombstones and collaged photographs taking their place alongside deliciously free and swoopy lettering - not minding the flicks of ink that seemed the entirely appropriate byproduct of the energy with which he had worked.

I was enchanted and over-joyed, when we got together later, that Andy was as keen as I was to experiment into means of bringing us together on a project.

Some experiments followed and soon the search was on for a text. I cannot remember, as usual, quite where this idea came from but it has turned out to be just perfect for our happy jaunt . . . alongside the youthful John Keats and his "A Song About Myself", sent with a letter to his young sister during a homesickness-ruined stay in Edinburgh.

 So . . . we have made the book and it is, at present, with the binder. I have been able to photograph a first copy and here are some shots.


The Main Edition of the book consists of 150 copies. There is also a Special Edition of 12 copies - 10 copies for sale. For this, the book is enclosed in a solander box, shown below, which also houses a portfolio in which are to be found all the actual artwork used in the making of a pair of facing pages in the book AND a sheet of original calligraphed work . . . a further piece of Keats created by Andy Moore afresh for each copy of the Special Edition.

The only things I cannot give here are the prices of the two editions. Watch this space!

So . . . thank you Andy. This has been good fun. It has also been a good and successful experiment for me and I hope that it might lead on to future collaborations.

21 July, 2014

Painting the lily . . .

. . . and gilding the burnished gold!

I am always happy when the sweet peas are on the go. This morning, as I approached the sunny wall to relieve the plants of today's crop (pour encourager les autres!) I saw that the flowers (already, in my opinion, one of the most perfect in their simple beauty) were jewelled with water drops, from dew or from last night's thunder storms. 

I was about to post [sorry to have been so quiet for so long] about our exciting up-coming new book, but I could not resist rushing for the camera and heaping upon you an armful of these images. Happy Summer!

14 May, 2014

Olympia here we come

Our prestigious and successful five-week exhibition in the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay is now over but there are other places where we shall be taking books this year. First will be the  London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia from 22 to 24 May.

 Our stand there is in the LIVE! section and during the course of the event we are offering three talks about our work.
On Thursday: How Gutenberg inspired the design of a book; which focuses on Angela Lemaire's Jubilate Agno (around 5pm)
on Friday: Printing letterpress from woodcut and polymer. A discussion of direct 3-dimensional printing of original work by contemporary artists; focusing on Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing and on the latest book with John Abell -  The Diary of a Dead Officer
on Saturday: Making paper for printing a book which showcases The Affectionate Shepheard with paper handmade by Frances McDowall.

Among the bookbinders

The world of bookbinding has become more and more visible with many wonderful exhibitions in recent times and we were delighted that Dominic Riley won the Paul Getty prize for a binding on a book with a Shakespearean theme with our Pyramus & Thisbe.
In May a tour of the work of designer bookbinders working in the UK and US will begin at St Bride’s in London. Entitled InsideOUT the exhibition will have 65 books produced by private presses on both sides of the Atlantic and promises to be spectacular judging by the splendid catalogue. A number of Old Stile books have been selected and it will be good to see these bindings go off to the USA, starting at:
Houghton Library, Cambridge MA 11 September - 13 December 2014;
Minnesota Center for Book Arts 10 January - 28 March 2015;
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015;
San Francisco Center for the Book 6 June - 5 July 2015

Later, in June, there will be a Society of Bookbinders Training Seminar at Cirencester Agricultural College and we shall be there on Friday 27 June 8.30 am - 7 pm with unbound copies of many of our books for binders to choose from. It is always good to be able to see and feel the physical presence of a book before embarking on a a binding - so much time is invested and choosing from a website (however detailed) is not the same! Hence we have for many years taken copies to such conferences. Do let us know before the event if there is any particular title you know you would like to see.

There will be unbound copies of our latest book The Diary of a Dead Officer available at £200 - from this Fair or from us direct.

01 May, 2014

By popular demand - or something!

If you have been prevented by matters of State from visiting the Old Stile Press' exhibition at Futures Gallery, Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay at any time during the past month . . . 

. . . we can offer the happy news that the show has been extended for a week. It can indeed be visited at any time until Thursday 8th May 2014.

All welcome!

04 April, 2014

Dame Rosemary visits the exhibition

 Yesterday afternoon, Dame Rosemary Butler, the Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly, kindly paid a visit to the exhibition which she was entirely responsible for making possible. We must again say how enormously grateful we are for bringing all this about - and for her enthusiastic appreciation of the results.

Above, she is talking with Frances and Robert Macdonald (Where Many Shipwrack) and below she examines his new book, The Diary of a Dead Officer, with John Abell.

In the photograph below, she is discussing his book, The Abstract Garden, with the poet, Philip Gross.

02 April, 2014

The Old Stile Press on exhibition in Cardiff Bay

This remarkable (if slightly over-dressed!) edifice is the Pierhead Building, the historic centre of Cardiff Bay, which used to be the office of the Harbour Master when the Welsh capital still had its docks. It  now stands next to the Senedd - the home of the Welsh Assembly - and houses historic exhibits, conferences and other events . . . including, throughout the month of April, an exhibition describing the activities past and present of The Old Stile Press. The poster to be seen by the main door at the extreme left of the photo below advertizes this fact!

We were invited to stage the show when we had the pleasure of meeting the Presiding Officer of the Senedd, Dame Rosemary Butler, a year or so. She was kind enough to think that Wales should know more about our activities.

 The Futures Gallery is housed in a beautifully spacious and airy room on the first floor and we managed to erect our carefully planned show quite painlessly - with the help of our son Daniel with his picture-hanging skills and after penetrating the most efficient-seeming security procedures.

I hope that the following photographs will give some idea of what visitors will see . . . but, best of all would be if you could visit in person! From 10.30 - 4.30 every day for the rest of April.

PLEASE DO follow the instruction below the next photo (which I do not know how to countermand!) bacause there are LOTS and LOTS more good things to look at!

11 March, 2014

John Abell's "Book Day"

For John, his "Book Day" was when he came to Catchmays Court to see, and handle, the sample copy of the Main and Special editions of his great work, hot from the binders. 
I had previously printed small editions of some of the mighty woodcuts from the book and John signed and annotated this (one of my great favourites) to remember the occasion.


 The group from the previous post had reconvened, with the addition of Beith, an artist friend of John's, and a fine time we had admiring the binder's workmanship and, above all, the magnificence of John's images. 

 We were seeing the cover for the first time -

 and elements of the Special Edition, such as the portfolio of superb images that do not appear in the book

 and the recess in the bottom of the box that fits, for each of the fortunate owners of the Special Edition, one of the actual linocut blocks used in the printing of the book

When the party had left, I was able to set about the necessary photography of the book and the results can now be seen on our website - with full details.

As the double-page spread is so wide, only a general idea can be given of the full sweep of the great images on the usual 'slideshow' so I have taken a number of photographs of 'details'. Some were posted earlier and a couple are given here. 

I could not resist including a good number more on the webpage as I was fascinated to find how powerful an experience it was to look at a large woodcut and then to zoom in on just the expression of a face or the brilliantly effective woodcutting to depict a coil of barbed wire.


So, now I will leave you with yet another photograph of John Abell being justly proud of his handiwork

and, finally, one of Bill Garnett . . . also studying John's book but, for some reason, looking like a Renaissance saint!