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

November 2002

recent progress on
Blue Lagoon

A portait of Venice on text and cyanotypes

to be published in 2003

read the previous news item on this title

We have published two very successful books with Venice as their theme: Venice Approached (our first book) and Venice Visited which sold out very quickly and was well received. Blue Lagoon will be the next in what we plan will be a continuing series about a remarkable city.

More words and pictures have probably been published about Venice than any other city - and over many centuries. Yet it continues to exhaust the descriptive powers of those that visit, and the millions who do each year shoot miles of film and gigabytes of RAM making their own record of this extraordinary place. Having been there many times since first going as a schoolboy in the 1960s, I won't be left out and Blue Lagoon will say something of what I feel about the place. But it needed to be something a little different.

The traditional media that accompany letterpress include wood-engraving, copper-engraving, pochoir and line blocks. I have always wanted to try combining the tonal range of the photographic emulsion with the binary tones of ink on paper, but have been put off by the fact that most photographic printing papers seemed a world away from letterpress printing papers, and a mixture of the two felt to me to be an uncomfortable combination.

Until, that is, I remembered having experimented successfully with a photographic printing method called cyanotyping. This involves preparing a rather lethal-sounding emulsion and coating a suitable paper with it. 'Suitable' here means almost any paper that one might consider using for letterpress. The paper is then dried and used immediately by contact printing with the negative. Unused emulsion is washed out, the print dried and – hey presto – one has a print with full tonal range in a splendid blue.

Venice Visited gave extracts from Thomas Coryat's colourful record from his Coryate's Crudities from the seventeenth century, whilst Venice Approached reprinted John Ruskin's rather more lofty words on approaching the city by gondola in the middle of the nineteenth century. In September this year we went for our eighth trip to Venice, this time with my large field camera that takes a 10in by 8in negative. Finding quiet locations for photographs was quite important as the beast tends to draw a crowd especially when one disappears under the black cloth to frame and focus the image. Drunks and fellow photographers always take a special interest in it. In the event I came back with negatives for about eight scenes that I had wanted to complement a set of my own reflections as a twenty-first century visitor another two centuries on.

The book will be in a large landscape format to accommodate the photographs, probably bound in a Japanese style. For the boards I plan to use some striking silk-screened papers from a Venetian maker whom I visited again this visit to check on availability, sheet size etc. Please let me know if you would a printed paper prospectus when it is issued - you can use the contact form on our website.

recent progress on
Stanley Morison
& 'John Fell'


Harry Carter, Typographer

Two important new texts on the history of English printing in the twentieth century

to be published in 2003

Stanley Morison:read the previous news item on this title
read the next news item on this title

Harry Carter:read the previous news item on this title
read the next news item on this title

Work on both of these titles continues apace. We hope to finalise the text for Stanley Morison and 'John Fell' this year and hence to be able to get the typesetting underway for printing in the early part of 2003. The story is a fascinating one spanning over forty years of trials and tribulations, and casts interesting light on Morison and Oxford University Press. Working in Oxford University Press's archives recently, we came across some wonderful photographs of OUP staff casting and hand-setting type for the book, and printing and proof-reading sheets of it, and we hope to feature these in the book.
Harry Carter, Typographer will follow on shortly thereafter. Martyn Thomas has recently been working through Carter-related archives at the St Bride Printing Library in London, turning up excellent material in fact for both books - Carter was Morison's 'slave' on John Fell. Coupled with Thomas's biographical tribute we shall be publishing for the first time John Lane's exhaustive and much-needed bibliography of Carter's writings.

The shared design for the two books is well advanced. In particular I am determined this time that they will be printed letterpress. It had been my original intention to print The Fell Revival letterpress, but it became far longer and more extensive in content than I ever imagined when we started research and in order to make sure it was published in a sensible time I decided to have it done by offset-litho whilst printing the dustjacket and tip-ins by letterpress just so as not to have capitulated entirely! At the time I only had a treadle platen that would print one page at a time to a decent quality. With our big 30 inch cylinder proof press it is now possible to think in terms of printing four pages at a time to a far better quality, so a book of over a hundred pages looks a less awsome prospect.

We are planning to use Monotype Van Dijck for the typeface. Van Dijck would have been a natural choice for The Fell Revival - several Fell faces could trace their origins to Christoffel Van Dijck's hand - but the digital version was regarded by experts we consulted as too thin, so we instead - and not unwillingly - went for Galliard, doubly appropriate in that it shared its model with some of Fell's types and, moreover, was designed by the son of one of the collaborators in Morison's book John Fell! This time however, we have no such problems and look forward to pressing some clean Van Dijck into some Mohawk Superfine.

Both books will be the same generous size as The Fell Revival (demy quarto). And I expect to prepare dustjackets for both, again to fit the pattern set by The Fell Revival. The plan currently is to have some specially designed and printed papers for the boards on the binding - more news anon. The decision about doing a de luxe edition is always a hard one - the extra effort is considerable to add real value rather than just offering a fancy binding - but there is a strong chance that we shall do a handful which will have extra materials relevant to the book concerned. There will be a paper prospectus as the time approaches and as usual, if you do not having a standing order for our prospectuses, you can make sure you get them in future by simply asking for them; you can use our contact form on our website for convenience.

At some point in the near future we shall be posting excerpts from the two books on our website as 'tasters' for the real thing. Our e-newsletter recipients will be the first to hear about it.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2002.