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

April 2003

update on
Jump of the Manta Ray

Our most recent publication is on display in New York in April

A reading and display at the New York Public Library

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The poet Carmen Boullosa will be reading her extraordinary poem Jump of the Manta Ray at New York Public Library on 23 April. Artist Philip Hughes, whose bold photographic images enrich the book, will also be at the event, and it will be a great opportunity to meet the two collaborators and see the book itself. Images from and about the book will be projected during the reading.

Early sales of Jump of the Manta Ray have been good - especially for the cash-flow: it was an immensely expensive book to prepare! An early buyer has been the New York Public Library. If you followed its progress you will know that the illustrations in it - about fifty digitally prepared photographs by Philip Hughes - are printed using the giclée printing technology. This produces beautifully intense images on 'real' paper - in this case Somerset mould-made. The results are excellent but the costs daunting. However, an advantage is that we can have the images printed on demand, and hence do not need to print (and pay for) them all up front. Instead we are having them printed in batches of six. Of course, all the letterpress was done in one go, and all the sheets are folded and collated ready for the binder. So, when we need six more we order the images, and all the materials go off to The Fine Bindery for completion of those copies. The agony is further extended because we also need to get the image index opening (of which you can view a pdf at our website) printed and then signed by the collaborators - one of whom is in New York. When the image index openings come back from the giclée printer, I have to print the colophon carefully onto each, numbering each in the press, and then pack and send them to New York for signing by Carmen Boullosa, who returns them to be added to the portfolio of prints, for signature by artist, translator and printer in the UK. The logistics of this are frightful but I'm gradually getting into a routine now!

I have added a fuller set of images to the website so you can get a much better feel for the construction of the book and its contents. There are also several of the images from the book as well as a snippet from Carmen's poem, set in the Octavian in which it is printed in the book.

Amongst the images in Jump of the Manta Ray are some from Antarctica, taken when Philip was there as an official artist. His major one-man exhibition In Antarctica is being held from 24 September to 23 October 2003 at Francis Kyle Gallery in London. Philip is also participating in the current exhibition Roma between 18 March and 24 April 2003 at Francis Kyle Gallery. You can see and purchase Jump of the Manta Ray at the gallery. Follow the links at our website.

recent progress on
Stanley Morison
& 'John Fell'

The story of the writing and printing of a masterpiece of printing in the 'Fell types' in the twentieth century: Stanley Morison's John Fell, the University Press and the 'Fell' Types published by Oxford University Press in 1967

to be published Autumn 2003

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Work on the text of Stanley Morison and 'John Fell' nears completion. I have a little more work to complete at Cambridge University Library, in the Stanley Morison archives there, but the text is written and then only needs final copy-editing.

Over the last three months I have continued my conversations with several of the people involved in the production of the book. Vivian Ridler was Printer to the University and the man who finally saw the book onto the press - he was the third Printer involved in its production - it took over 40 years from conception to publication! He celebrates his 90th birthday this year and I have had the pleasure of prompting and recording his reminiscences of the book and the others involved, not least Morison and his assistants Harry Carter and John Simmons. John Simmons has also found a microphone in front of him at our recent conversations - he did a great deal of the ground work for Morison's research, in particular cataloguing the Fell materials and books printed in Fell in Fell's time. It has also been a delight to talk to John Bowley who was a compositor in the Top Composing Room at the time of the book's printing and who set the specimen settings of the Exotics in the book.

The book gets bigger by the day - as such things do - currently running to about twice the original 60pp estimate, and it will contain sample pages of Oxford books printed in Fell at important moments in the story, together with about a dozen photographs of those involved, many previously unpublished, from the archives of Oxford University Press. The de luxe copies will contain a portfolio of additional material.

I shall be using Harry McIntosh's services once again to get the text machine-set. On this occasion I shall probably have him use his Mactronic system to prepare Monotype spools from my digital copy, from which I shall have the text machine-set in Monotype Van Dijck. It is a remarkable combination of modern computer technology and hot-metal technology - a perfect match in my opinion. If you would like to know more about Harry's system and the services he offers, visit his Mactronic site.

Fine printing 1890-1960

A projected series of books on letterpress printing.

The success of The Fell Revival, and the promising number of reservations we have had for Stanley Morison and 'John Fell' and Harry Carter, Typographer, have encouraged us to think in terms of a major series of books on aspects of British letterpress printing in the twentieth century. As a result, we now have two further titles in the early stage of planning.

An important venture will be a history of letterpress printing and typography running from around 1890 through to the demise of letterpress. The research that Martyn Thomas and I have been doing on the three titles mentioned above has highlighted how a small number of personalities formed a nucleus around which organisations and minor major personalities revolved, and currently we expect the book to take the form of a 'group biography', showing how the weave and weft of their lives produced the tapestry that was letterpress printing in the early part of the century in particular. The names of Morison, Meynell, Warde, Morris, various Carters, and Simons, for instance, feature frequently in the literature, but generally as individuals, or perhaps in pairs in the form of published correspondence. We see this new book as a splendid opportunity to bring perhaps a dozen lifelines together and show how they influenced not only a nation's books but beyond. Perhaps the most intriguing feature of that landscape is the network of relationships that wove its way from the advent of the 'private press' to the end of metal type.

Another important venture will be a new work on Beatrice Warde - an influential women in a world dominated by men.

As plans develop we shall write more about them in future newsletters.

The Oxford Fine Press Book Fair

The biggest fine press book fair in the world - not to be missed!

1st-2nd of November 2003

This is just a preliminary announcement to ensure that you put the 1st and 2nd of November 2003 in your diary, as on that weekend there will be the ever-unmissable Oxford Fine Press Fair. Bigger and better than ever: sixty fine presses from around the world, twenty-five specialist dealers, ten trade suppliers, and related societies, plus a full programme of lectures on the Sunday, ...

It will be held once more at Oxford Brookes University in the suburbs of Oxford, England. We will be keeping our e-newsletter subscribers up to date as details develop over the coming months. Full details are posted at the FPBA website.

And, of course, The Old School Press will have a number of new publications on show since the last Oxford Fair in 2001.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2003.