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

July 2003

a new title on our list

The Bricks of Venice

written and illustrated with watercolours by Peter Harris

Another book on a favourite theme.

to be published in Autumn 2004

read the previous news item on this title

Our first book, Venice Approached, was an excerpt from John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, in particular the passage where he describes arriving in Venice from Padua, taking a gondola from the Brenta.

Peter Harris was Professor of Cardiology at the National Heart Hospital. When he retired he was asked to edit an international journal of cardiology, Cardioscience. The journal was published in Italy, which resulted in his being invited to live in Venice in an apartment overlooking the Grand Canal, near the Ca d'Oro. He lived there for seven years, with enough leisure to study in real depth the architecture of Venice and to read extensively about the city. The Bricks of Venice was years in writing and in research, and is a memorial to his great love of Venice. In his own words 'My title is no parody of Ruskin's masterpiece, The Stones of Venice, but offered in homage.'

Harris achieves a pleasing balance between contemporary observation and historical context and the 72 delightful watercolours fill out the story perfectly. We plan to publish the book later next year in an edition of 250. It will be a significant text, running to about 128 pages.

Here is Peter Harris's own introduction to his book:

'Scattered among the hidden corners of Venice, in private houses, on bell towers and under the eaves of churches, is a group of brick and tile designs dating back to the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. It needs the single-mindedness of a ferret to find many of them, hidden in the gloom of a narrow calle or secret courtyard. Ruskin knew and admired them; but even that indefatigable researcher did not find them all, and the breathtaking vision of The Stones of Venice is, naturally for the most part focused on Gothic stonework. It is surprising that here, in the most researched city in the world, such a treasury of medieval architecture could have been so ignored. The present book is the first to draw attention to the diversity and charm of this neglected side of Venice.

Publication may be timely. Apart from their intrinsic artistic and architectural interest, these unconsidered fragments are at danger from neglect, insensitive repair, even vandalism. Windows in the Campielo S Rocco that Ruskin described as 'amongst the most ancient efforts of Gothic art in Venice' have completely disappeared. Awareness of their value may help draw the attention of the charitable organisations such as Venice in Peril to the possibility of preserving a unique heritage at a relatively low cost.

I have tried to keep my writing hand free from the cobwebs and dry brick dust that the title might lead one to expect, enlivening the text with many vignettes of personalities and life in medieval Venice. In addition, these little brick relics are part of the changing face of a living city that expresses its underlying economic and religious forces. To this end, many chapters are centred around mini-essays: brick making, the bricklayers, pavements, bell towers; but also the social hierarchy, a fashion in women's footwear, the mendicant friars, defence architecture, air pollution.

Illustrations and text bear equal responsibilities, the two having been conceived together and fused from the beginning, text drawing the eye to relevant details and providing a background. The illustrations are designed both for accuracy and for aesthetic presentation. I have used a limited palette of earth colours to give cohesion and reinforce the sense of a work designed as a whole. Those water colours also bring out the character of brick better than photos can.'

recent progress on

Fedor Tiutchev

Fourteen poems by the reticent Russian poet Fedor Tiutchev, translated by Avril Pyman, with engravings on vinyl by Kirill Sokolov.

to be published in late 2003

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Having corresponded with the translator and artist for this book over some months, it was a pleasure to meet them here in early May. Kirill brought the blocks and we had a useful discussion about how he liked to see his work printed. It was also a chance to discuss some points in the text with Avril before starting to think about the design of the book. I must say that when we met I had absolutely no idea what I would do with their work !

There is a natural first impulse with a set of poem/image pairs to think in terms of poem and image facing each other on the opening. The moment I realise this is my first impulse I try to put it aside and think what my second might be! The poems vary considerably in length - this sort of thing can be a major test of a design. To cut a long story short I decided that image and poem would appear together on the same page ... but on a large page that would take all of the text of the longest poem, and with the image close to the poem. The 14pt Octavian that I am using for the text is a strong, self-assertive face, matching the images which are boldly chiselled in perspex - the two stand well shoulder to shoulder. I decided to use the heavy Somerset mould-made that the Octavian had worked so well on in Jump of the Manta Ray.

The shape turned out to be landscape - a format I am rather fond of, even if it is a complete menace for the average bookshelf. But I found out when we met that Kirill also shares my love of lots of white space. The sheets are folded on the fore-edge and I plan to sew them with broad tapes of two colours between similarly folded sheets of Fabriano.

The edition will be small - just 100 copies - and only 60 will be for sale. I have decided to keep the price as low as I could and I reckon it will not exceed £20 (US$35, Euro35). Contact us now to reserve a copy.

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 October 2003

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Stanley Morison's great work John Fell, the University Press and the 'Fell' Types took over four decades from the moment of its conception in 1925 to its final publication in 1967. It is not surprising therefore that a strong theme running through Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' is the occasional exasperation and even desperation of those involved to get John Fell finished. At one point Vivian Ridler, Printer to the University and the man who finally had the task of getting it through the Press, wrote plaintively to Morison 'Do you think that . . . some way might be found of moving the Fell opus again? . . . even if I am spared, I have only another 19 years to go.' Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' will, by contrast, only have been about four years in the making but I felt much the same earlier this year, really wanting to draw a line under the text and say 'that will do'. New leads would constantly emerge from the woodwork, questions unresolved would find an answer, the text would always benefit from one more read through. But finally I did call it a day, with the book now running to 144 pages.

I prepared a set of Word documents - one per chapter - and e-mailed them to Harry McIntosh at SpeedSpools. Harry has a wonderful facility for casting metal type on a Monotype composition caster directly from digital copy. (You can read about it at his Mactronic website.) In this instance however, he is punching the Monotype spools for me from my digital copy, and then sending them to Stan Lane at Gloucester Typesetting. Stan has the necessary diecase for 12pt Van Dijck, which is the typeface I shall be using for the book. Stan loads up the spools on his caster, puts a 14pt mould in (to give me 2pt of leading) and the Van Dijck diecase, and away it goes casting galley after galley for me.

One great advantage of Harry's Mactronic system is that he can produce and e-mail back to me PDF files that show the text as it will appear in metal, most importantly with all the lines exactly as they will be. This means that I can produce a full page-by-page paste-up of the book before a single sort has been cast. This allowed me to prepare an index (which I then e-mailed to him etc etc), sort out where tip-ins and photographs will go, and generally get the whole thing planned. In particular I have an accurate figure for the amount of paper I shall need, and that has all been ordered. It's very daunting when 7,000 sheets of paper arrive and one realises that each has to be wound through the press by hand - twice!

There will be a dozen photographs covering all the characters who played a significant part. These have all been scanned and are ready for printing by off-set litho. There will be four tip-ins of leaves printed in four sizes of Fell type. I have also started work preparing the materials that will go with the fifty de luxe copies. I should be able to finalise the price soon and, if you have placed a reservation, I shall to confirm it with you.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2003.