An occasional newsletter
News on progress on forthcoming books from the Press
Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, UK

April 2002

recent progress on
Stanley Morison & John Fell

The writing and printing of Stanley Morison's book John Fell, the University Press and the 'Fell' Types

Autumn 2002

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My research continues on this fascinating story. Stanley Morison's great work John Fell, the University Press and the 'Fell' Types was possibly one of the finest letterpress books from Oxford University Press in the twentieth century. It was intended to provide a 'scientific' account of the origin of the many types (in the form of punches and matrices) that Bishop John Fell bequeathed to the University Press that he helped to found in the 1600s. Those materials remain intact to this day.

When Martyn Thomas and I researched the revival of the use of those types between about 1860 and the closure of the Printing House in 1989, John Fell naturally featured since it was perhaps the most extensive use ever made of the types in one book. As our researches continued, a fascinating story emerged, one that threatened to take up an inordinate amount of the book we were working on (The Fell Revival ). In the event we decided to trim the chapter on the production of John Fell to just the material pertinent to our theme. But this left a story that needed to be told in its entirety. So, I have been back to examine and re-examine the archives at O.U.P., at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and at the University Library at Cambridge where a major set of relevant Morison archives is kept. It has also been a delight interviewing Vivian Ridler who was the University Printer who finally brought the volume into the world, Richard Russell who was General Manager at the Press, and John Simmons - now in his eighties - who was one of Morison's principal collaborators on the book along with Harry Carter (of whom more below).

O.U.P. raised the idea for John Fell with Morison in 1924, but a whole sequence of events and the near-impossibility of deciding when the work was - in some sense at least - finished, meant that it took until 1967 for it to be published, on the very day after Morison died, though he had seen a copy on his death-bed. The story provides insights into Morison's life and the operation of a great Press such as O.U.P.

I am preparing the book electronically as one might expect in 2002, but, in a splendid bridging of technologies, I shall finally e-mail the text to Harry McIntosh in Scotland who is then able to prepare Monotype paper spools directly from the electronic copy, from which Stan Lane at Gloucester Typesetting will in turn cast the type on a conventional Monotype composition caster. This way the text need not be re-keyed, as would have been the case in former days. I plan to print the book letterpress in 14pt Monotype Van Dijck, a typeface that shares its origins with some of Fell's types. If all goes to plan, publication will be in Autumn 2002.

recent progress on
Harry Carter, Typographer

A tribute to an unsung English typographer, by Martyn Thomas and John Lane


Late 2002

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Harry Carter was one of the foremost typographers of the twentieth century, and one of the least celebrated. Sir Francis Meynell described him as 'one of the least-known best-known men in the world of books. He has chosen nearly always to be an accompanist, rather than the soloist he could be.'

This much-needed book will have two parts: a brief conspectus of Carter's life, character and work which is currently being prepared by Martyn Thomas; and a most thorough bibliography of Carter's writings which has been meticulously prepared by John Lane and which is ready for typesetting. The edition will be printed using the same technology as and uniformly with Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' (see above) and I hope that the book will be available in 2002.

recent progress on
Blue Lagoon

A portrait of Venice in words and pictures

Tentatively planned for 2002

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Venice is our favourite city, a place we try to get to every couple of years. The first book from The Old School Press - Venice Approached - was a resetting of John Ruskin's description of approaching Venice by water and of her 'desolation' (he was there at a time when the city was a shuttle-cock between contending nations), taken from his The Stones of Venice. Our tenth book - Venice Visited - reprinted a dozen extracts from the descriptions of the city by that great seventeenth century traveller Thomas Coryat who walked there and back and recorded his travels in Coryat's Crudities.

Work is in hand on our next book on the city: a dozen twenty-first century reflections that we will hope will capture something of its feel, much of it little changed in the four centuries since Coryat was there. The texts are written and ready for typesetting, and the task is now to prepare a set of accompanying images. A trip is planned to Venice in the late summer this year with the aim of capturing a handful of suitably evocative images of this amazing city. I shall be using a large field camera that takes a 10in by 8in negative from which I can contact-print cyanotypes: essentially blue-and-white images whose tonal effect is gorgeous. Each image will be individually printed using a wet emulsion for each copy of the book, and the more I think about it the smaller the edition becomes! The book will also be an excellent opportunity to make use of some gorgeous silk-screened and hand-blocked papers from a little-known Legatoria in Venice. In future newsletters I hope to say some more about the cyanotyping process itself.

recent progress on
Jump of the Manta Ray

A poem in Spanish by Carmen Boullosa, translated by Psiche Hughes, with images by Philip Hughes

Autumn 2002

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Inspired by the sight of a giant manta ray leaving the water, Carmen Boullosa has written an epic and erotic poem for which Psiche Hughes has prepared an English translation. The two texts will run in parallel, interspersed with about twenty striking images by Philip Hughes.

Work is well under way for this important new blending of Boullosa's poetry and Hughes's art. The text and its translation are close to being finalised and work is in hand on the design of the book. Hughes has for some years been collecting photographs in his travels in support of his work of artistic mapping and structuring of landscapes as diverse as Zanskar and Cornwall and most recently Antarctica, where he spent seven weeks recording the continent for the British Antarctic Survey. To echo the imagery of the poem Hughes has selected and digitally processed about twenty large photographic images, taken of seas and sea-shores around the globe. A similar number of smaller images will be dotted through the text. We plan to put several of the planned images on the website to give a feel of the book.

We are currently awaiting proofs of some of the images from our giclee printers who are printing them on a latest-generation Iris digital printer. Iris printers work best on specialist papers, in this case a heavy mould-made from the Somerset mill, which means that the binding must combine these heavy papers with the lighter ones that will carry the printed text. This poses challenges for the binding so, once we have the proofs, we will be able to ask our binders to prepare a dummy that will help us all see how those challenges can be best met.

The book and its illustrations are already planned as the subject of exhibitions in Mexico, Canberra and Melbourne towards the end of 2002.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2002.