It was a pleasure to join Jerry Cinamon, author of E R Weiss : the Typography of an Artist, at the Letter Exchange in London on March 12th. I talked about how the book was put together, and Jerry explained the significance of Weiss’s work and its context. There is an illustrated report of the meeting at http://www.letterexchange.org/
Pulling our annual New Year Book together is never straightforward. We’ve been greeting the New Year this way now for twenty years, and we can safely say that no two have been much alike. From the beginning the plan has been to find interesting content first, and fit it to whatever paper is about the place. So usually they have been printed on carefully stored off-cuts from books, and designed to minimize waste as well as to look nice. When all goes according to plan, they are printed in our break between Christmas and New Year, when we lay aside the current project and devote the week to this jeu d’esprit.
The content came easily this year: we were impressed with Vona Groarke’s poem as soon as we read it – high on the wall in the atrium at John Rylands Library (see the last post for the context), and were pleased to have her permission to publish it. At this time of year when we metaphorically archive the events and achievements of the past year and mentally prepare ourselves for the year to come, it seemed particularly apt.
Although we hope to print a large broadsheet version, printed in 12-point type, the poem makes a handsome 20th New Year Booklet. We found some Wookey Hole mould-made off cuts for the content, hand-set and printed the poem in Lectura type, and sewed the finished sheets into Murillo card covered with a decorated paper designed by Alan Drummond. To complete the whole we also made the envelopes to suit.
Although subscribers and Friends of the Press get copies in January, we do have some copies available for purchase from the website. Booklet and envelope come together in a plain brown wrapper.
It’s a busy time of year in Manchester. The Christmas Fair is in full swing in the increasing number of traffic-free streets in the city centre, its stalls delighting us with prize-winning cheeses from Preston, decorated coffee mugs from the Fire Station in Salford, freshly baked coconut macaroons, and many such earthly delights. In the atrium at the John Rylands Library on Deansgate is more, an exhibition of portraits of recent collaborators and patrons of the library. Portrait of a Living Archive, which runs until 13 January in the New Year, is the work of two of Rylands’ staff photographers, Gwen Jones and James Robinson. This exhibition turns the traditional image of a library as musty shelves and old books on its head, showing instead a few of the people who insure that Rylands continues to develop.
A portrait of Graham is included in the exhibition. Like the others, it aims to show its subject in his working environment. This photo, which perhaps gives a bit too much prominence to our Skipper, was one of the rejected proofs, so we persuaded Jamie to let us have a copy to show here. Although the portrait in the exhibition excludes Skipper, it includes a fair slice the workshop.
Other portraits show bookbinders Dominic Riley and Paul Delrue; Eleanor Crawford and Michael Schmidt of Carcanet Press, Manchester calligrapher Stephen Raw, who designs many of their book covers, and the authors Mary Griffiths and Robyn Marsack. Carcanet’s archive is housed in the Library. Poets Elaine Feinstein and Grevel Lindop, whose archives are also in the Library, are included in the exhibition, as is Vona Groarke. Each of the portraits is accompanied by a short autobiographical statement. Vona, whose archive in the Library is classified as Accession 9, Box 4, offered a poem with that title, which Gwen and James have reproduced to stunning effect high on the atrium wall. It will be published as our twentieth New Year Book early in January.
With everyone from Eye Magazine to Birds of Ohio talking about Enid Marx, her designs, and her prominence in the fabulous exhibition at Compton Verney (through 15 December 2013) we thought it might be fun to show a few of her illustrations from our 1996 chapbook Who Killed Cock Robin. These tiny wood engravings, printed from the wood, re-use the blocks she cut for Nursery Rhymes (Chatto & Windus, 1939). They make a amusing contrast with the large linocuts she produced for Marco’s Animal Alphabet, yet for all the difference in size, they share her trademark energetic cutting and her ability to use simple black and white contrast to good effect.
We printed this at Marco’s request, so that she could give them to her many nieces and nephews. But there are no limits on an edition when you’re doing proper chapbook printing, so we printed LOTS and then bound these baby chapbooks in brightly coloured paper with poor cock robin printed in red on the cover. Graham vividly remembers sewing copies on the train as he made his way back to London to deliver the finished product, trying to keep from stabbing himself with the needle as the train jerked and swayed! Copies are still available on the website; we think they make lovely gifts.
Printing sermons is not usually our sort of lark, but that’s our current project for the Laurence Sterne Trust. Working on it reminds us of our enthusiasm for what Francis Meynell called “allusive typography”, the art of designing a book to recall, or allude to, another typographical era. This is not facsimile printing, the task of slavishly following someone else’s design, but something we think is more fun–using historic typographic conventions as inspiration for a current project. For the printed style of The Case of Hezekiah and the Messengers, one of Laurence Sterne’s last sermons, we’ve drawn on other 18th-century printed sermons, including this small volume of Sterne’s sermons which were published in 1766 under the name of Mr Yorick, Sterne’s clerical alter ego in Tristram Shandy. For this first separate edition of the sermon, we have kept the Caslon type of the original, the sometimes curious punctuation and Sterne’s emphatic dashes, but dispensed with the long s and the catchwords at the foot of each page. As well as this print version of the text, Hezekiah is going to be delivered at York Minster as part of Voice from the Pulpit in celebration of the Laurence Sterne Tercentenary, and is available with other sermons on a CD from Shandy Hall.
The sermon speaks directly to our times – As his monument in Coxwold churchyard reads in part:
Sterne was The Man, who with gigantic stride
Mowed down luxuriant follies far and wide.
This has been a bumper year in the Bow Street Community Garden for pot marigolds, or calendula officinalis to give them their proper name. The bees have been hard at work, so lots of flowers has meant lots of seeds, and we have been harvesting since July, mixing seeds from the orange and the yellow flowers.
Now, as summer draws to a close and the nights draw in, we have turned to an indoor job–printing seed packets ready for sale from our table at the 2013 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair at Oxford Brookes University on 2-3 November. There you will also find our wood-type postcards–if you look closely, one is displayed in the photo–and a fresh harvest of new books, too!
Incline Press dogs Red and Skipper joined in the festivities, or perhaps we should say the ‘presstivities’ at Presstival, the Whittington Press Open Day on Saturday September 8th, when they found themselves ribbon-winners at the annual Village Fete Dog Show. Artist Nick Wonham (illustrator of our latest book Steel Horizon) and his family took Red and Skipper to the Fete Dog Show, where they won two ‘Special Mentions’, the first for ‘best brace’ (that’s a pair), the second another Special for Red who was one of the Dogs the Judges Would Most Like to Take Home. They also vied for the Happiest Dog: Skipper is often morose, but happy-go-lucky Red sulked at being asked to perform his happiness, so no ribbons there. Red received another knock-back in the Most Appealing Eyes competition. The judge informed Petra and Lily that Red had the smallest eyes she had ever seen, ‘even smaller than the small dogs!’ Afterwards we thought up a few cutting responses, but needless to say, Red lost out in that one too.
Still, we think they did quite well in this first attempt at the dog-show circuit. We’ve got our eyes on Crufts. When the next book is finished, maybe?