An occasional newsletter

News on progress on forthcoming books from the Press.
Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, UK

 January 2006


recent progress on
The Stuff of Jane Austen

Extracts from the novels and letters of Jane Austen around the topic of 'stuff'

Expected in 2006

read the previous news item on this title

It was a surprise to find that the last time we reported on this title was back in April 2005 - the universe is not only expanding but speeding up, I'm sure of it. Even by the standards of The Old School Press, our prediction then of  'possibly 2005' was ridiculously optimistic now one looks at it. But I suspect that what looks like constant over-optimism is in fact constant denial of the fact that books also expand, and plans get more involved and elaborate as a project proceeds.

This project has highlighted for us (again) the question of 'texts'. It sounds a simple matter: just assemble some extracts from Jane Austen's novels and letters. But which versions of her novels and letters? In The Fell Revival and Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' we included a great many extracts from correspondence and records in various archives. In some cases it was tempting to borrow a quotation in another book, but we very often found errors in other people's transcriptions when comparing them with the originals. I'm sure that, even though we worked from the original sources, there is the occasional error in our transcriptions too. With Tonge's Travels we faced our own dilemma when editing the writer's manuscript diary: should we correct his spelling, regularise his punctuation, even massage some of his usages? And if we started 'tinkering' in this way where should we stop? In the event we decided to replicate the written text verbatim, leaving the author to speak for himself, verbal warts and all.
The letters and novels of Jane Austen pose a similar problem: which edition shall we use? (And having chosen an edition, what are the copyright implications?) When you start to examine the different editions you realise how much the editors have already tinkered - all for the best possible reasons of course. Early editors made some changes, subsequent editors took those changes, undoing some and adding a few more, and so on. It was at about this point that we came upon Jo Modert's Jane Austen's Manuscript Letters in Facsimile and the question was answered for us: why do anything other than turn to the original and use that? So that is how things stand at the moment: we have chosen twenty-five passages, corresponding to twenty-five different textiles mentioned by Austen, and we aim to render into type her own words and punctuation taken from the facsimiles - I wonder how easy that will be ... and how many mistakes we shall make.

The next question is finding sources of those textiles: cotton will hardly be a problem (though do we want something from 1800 rather than 2006?), but ermine .... We shall see. But the hunt is on and I expect to know more than I ever did about textiles in a few months' time.

So much for that part of the content. What of the form? For type it is easy and appropriate to turn to Caslon Old Face and our modest collection of Stephenson Blake foundry type. 14pt is a nice size for hand-setting and we have enough to make setting a number of small pages a practical proposition. We also have a number of hand-made papers which we've purchased over the years in anticipation of the right project. One such tranche is about 800 half-sheets of an Amalfi hand-made which came from Christopher Skelton's September Press. It's a paper with a wonderful crackle, quite hard, but which I think will make a nice match for the Caslon if printed damp. So, some trial settings on some dampened sheets are the next step here. The sheet size dictates the approximate trim size of the book, making it in effect a smallish octavo - smaller than our usual book. Unsolved problems include how to bind in the textile samples and what to use for the binding - some nice silk perhaps?


recent progress on
Henry James Sat Here

Nine poems by Anne Coon with images by Kurt Feuerherm

Publication planned for May 2006

read the previous news item on this title
read the next news item on this title

If you followed the link on our previous newsletter, you might have reached the picture of a mock-up of this book which we had on our stand at the Oak Knoll Book Fest in October and where the book received a lot of interest. (Go to our site, click on 'plans', then on the link to this book, and then on the thumbnail for the mock-up.)

Since then I have started discussions with binder Simon Haigh about how my idea of a book displayable in the form of a sort of merry-go-round could be made to work. Simon won the Joint First Prize (The Gwasg Gregynog Prize & John Coleman Trophy) at the Society of Bookbinders International Competition in 2005, and he worked for many years as an assistant to the legendary James Brockman in the UK. We have started looking at a number of options, the front-runner of which has led us into investigating the many and varied forms that magnets take these days! We have a another meeting lined up for the coming week in Oxford and I can then get on with printing the text and images. I have already set all of Anne's poems in 14pt Octavian and can start printing them pretty much straight away. The printed sheets can then go through my A3 Epson inkjet printer for Kurt's images - it's safer that way round: I don't mind messing up sheets with letterpress on them but I do mind messing up sheets with images on them - archival inkjet inks are a terrible price!

Meanwhile, if you are interested in the title, do let us know - the edition will be of just ninety-five copies and only sixty of those will be for sale.


a note about
Long-term plans

What's in the air? 

The Fell types


We have a number of other titles in mind on two of our favourite themes, though not yet at the stage where we can describe work on them. As ever, early news will come out through these newsletters.

Oxford University Press and the Fell types will probably produce one more title in the next two years - we shall be offering it on a subscription basis with a small number of extra copies outside those. If you have bought any of our three OUP- and Fell-related titles in the past you should have received information through the post. If you would like to know more please contact us via the contact form on our website.

We have two more texts on Venice planned for illustrated books. One is Charles Dickens's description of the city in his book Pictures from Italy. Our preference is always for new texts but here, as a taster, is his irresistible description of the interior of St Mark's Basilica:

A grand and dreamy structure, of immense proportions; golden with old mosaics, redolent of perfumes; dim with the smoke of incense; costly in treasure of precious stones and metals, glittering through iron bars; holy with the bodies of deceased saints; rainbow-hued with windows of stained glass; dark with carved woods and coloured marbles; obscure in its vast heights, and lengthened distances; shining with silver lamps and winking lights; unreal, fantastic, solemn, inconceivable throughout.



Where to see us in 2006

The Royal Birmingham Society of Arts
Birmingham, England
26 April - 13 May 2006

The Contemporary Craft Fair
Bovey Tracey, England
9-11 June 2006

Oak Knoll Book Fest
New Castle, Delaware
7-8 October 2006

We plan to be at the Oak Knoll Book Fest as usual in October 2006, but we have also booked for an exhibition of fine presses and a major craft fair in the UK. Besides the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair which is held only every two years, there are no other book fairs in the UK, so we are hoping that a more general craft fair such as the one in Bovey Tracey will give us the chance of seeing new people and hence potential new collectors.

The Royal Birmingham Society of Arts is holding an exhibition of six UK fine presses this Spring and we're delighted to be one of them. This sort of event is relatively unusual in the UK so it's good to have this opportunity of reaching a new audience.

The Contemporary Craft Fair includes 160 craftspeople using a wide range of 'media', though the call for entries mysteriously adds 'no musical instruments' - perhaps the organisers are worried about noise? Anyway, with an expected 6,000 visitors we look forward to meeting some new customers. The date also gives us something to aim for for the two books described above.

Finally, a look back at our trip to the Oak Knoll Book Fair back in October, and before that to the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in November. (And just for the record, a sad shot of our stand at the 2001 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair!)

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2006.