An occasional newsletter

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

 July 2006


recent progress on
Henry James Sat Here

Nine poems on Siena by Anne Coon with images by Kurt Feuerherm

Now available

read the previous news item on this title

It is almost precisely three years ago that Anne Coon got in touch by e-mail asking whether I would be interested in taking on a book of her poems and Kurt Feuerherm's images. I dithered for some time about the idea. Although I liked the work, reproducing colour images, especially those as intense as Kurt's, presented a real problem. I had had two books done with offset-litho and the costs were impossible to absorb and, although the work was well done, the results lacked the edge I wanted.

Anne had been prompted to get in touch having seen Jump of the Manta Ray at the New York Public Library, where Carmen Boullosa, whose poetry it publishes, gave a public reading and the book was on display. We had used (at terrible expense) an Iris printer for the twenty large and thirty-or so small images in that book. The results were indeed excellent but the logistics and the costs made it something to think carefully about before taking committing to it. I was also at the time struggling to see how I would deal with the seventy-two illustrations (mostly watercolours) in The Bricks of Venice which I had agreed to take on. I was looking very carefully at the state of ink-jet technology, swotting up on digital colour management, and reading reviews on the internet of the alternative equipment that was available to the studio printer, as opposed to the large commercial establishment. Anyway, to cut a long story short, as soon as I discovered that mid-price inkjet printers were able to offer brilliant quality, and archival quality at that, I took the project on and agreed to do nine poems from Anne's longer cycle Via del Paradiso together with the accompanying images by Kurt.

So here we are three years later. About average really. The book had its first 'outing' at the Contemporary Craft Fair in Devon in June (see below) in the form of a single display copy, and it took a great many people's fancy. We sold the first copy (whilst it was still at the binders) at the private view, so it was a good start. At the time, the colophon sheets were still on their way back from New York to the binders here in the UK, having been signed by Anne and Kurt.

The zig-zag clearly needed a secure home, so I turned to Kojiro Ikegami's book on Japanese bookbinding that I bought a few years ago, and decided that his 'four-sided case' would fit the bill. As you will see from the pictures at our website (see below), the zig-zag nature of the binding means that the traditional title page and colophon need to find a new home. Rather than being at the ends of the book itself, here they are within the binding and are revealed when the case is opened. Ikegami shows the case covered with some wonderful-looking Japanese pattern papers, but in this instance I had to resist the temptation to use something decorated so that the binding didn't have a different 'voice' from Kurt's images, and we settled on a green cloth throughout. The design also called for two bone clasps and for the edition I needed 200. There seemed to be only a handful available in the UK, and I tracked down a supplier in California who could send 180 immediately and the balance after they had reordered from the Japanese makers. For a moment it felt as though I had the entire world supply of kohase!

Full details are now available at our website, and if you would like to go straight to some pictures of the book just click here.

Now that the binding has been done I can fix the price: £150 (Euro240, US$300). Of the edition of 95 copies, only sixty are for sale and early orders have spoken for half of those. In fact I have just had to send the sheets for the rest of the edition to the binders (Brian Settle and his team at Woolnough Bookbinding) so orders placed immediately will be delayed for a few weeks, but I shall deal with orders in strict order of receipt.


a note about
Housekeeping at the Press

Founts, lost and found

Summer spring cleaning

With Henry James Sat Here at the binders and other plans very much at the early stages of design etc, it's a good moment to take stock in the press shop and get a little order into things.

This was very much prompted when I recently succumbed to the temptation to acquire some more type. I have always sworn not to collect type, but only to acquire what I could reasonably expect to use. The space that serves as my print-shop is full. If I acquire ten cases of type, ten other cases have to leave . . . one way or another. Hard decisions must be made. A small press was closing, its owner no longer able to do the heavy lifting that letterpress printing calls for. On the return journey of the 280-mile round-trip, my car - recently upgraded to an estate - groaned a little under a nice range of Optima (I have a liking for humanistic sans faces), some foundry Caslon Old Face from Stephenson Blake, and a handful of other small founts of display faces. The Optima is a new departure and I look forward to doing some small pieces in it.

Two of the cases of Caslon were sizes I did not have. Several cases of Caslon duplicated my existing holding, but my intention was to boost the founts that I already held. But I wanted to check an important assumption: that different castings of foundry type would mix and in particular be on the same same 'alignment'. Alignment refers to the vertical position of the letters on the body of the type: they can be higher or lower. If two castings are on even slightly different alignments the result of mixing them will be lines of type that wave up and down all too noticeably. It is always a terrible mistake to mix two different castings of Monotype-cast type, unless they have definitely been cast on the same alignment. But with foundry type there should not be that variation. The acid test is of course to set and print a line of the two castings together and look for the slightest variation in alignment - a line of Ms is a good test. All was well.

Whilst going through the stacks of typecases as well as those in frames, I came across quite a few founts that I had not 'processed' since acquiring them some time ago. Now was the moment. The contents of several found their way into the hell box for smelting and re-use, being quite past their useful lives. Other were cleaned and rehoused. I came across six (!) sizes of Plantin Open italic. They were very dusty and in battered type cases. Having cleaned the type up I felt inclined to move the founts into newer typecases . . . but the old typecases were original Caslon and it's not inconceivable that they were the cases the type originally came in. They had some nice if battered labels identifying the type. It seemed right to keep them together, so a stiff brushing, some powerful vacuuming, and a little cleaning and they were back in place waiting for use. They are little bit of history themselves. (Really, I'm not a collector.)

It's also time to move out the type that I really am not going to use. Putting it in the sack or the hell box ready for smelting is one option, but I have some perfectly usable founts that someone might use, and fortunately the Oxford Guild of Printers held a Wayzgoose on 15 July in Woodstock Town Hall, near Oxford (10am to 4pm) and thanks to some sensible pricing all but two found a new home. (Anything not to have to take them home afterwards.) Rockwell is hard to shift and I suspect that a couple of founts are headed for recycling.

There has also been a little spring-cleaning in my own book and poster collection. In particular, I have about a dozen posters from Whittington Press for sale - I have a habit of seeing one, liking it, and buying it . . . having forgotten I have already seen it, liked it, and added it to the 120 or so in my collection. Anyway, they are up for sale at my website, along with a few books: click on the button on the introductory page for a listing - they are all 'priced to clear'.


a new title
Oxford's Ornaments

A survey and display of the typographical ornaments at Oxford University Press

Late 2006 or early 2007

read the next news item on this title

This is a very exciting new plan for us. It promises to be a difficult book to produce (for reasons that we'll go into in subsequent newsletters) as well as a real pleasure.

John Fell's text faces have always had a special attraction for typophiles and, over the decades, have had their due attention. By contrast, the ornaments and flowers that Fell and others collected for use at Oxford University Press have received relatively little coverage. Together with Solitaire Books we're in the process of cataloguing the remaining Fell type held by Oxford and St Bride; the majority of the type that survived the smelter at the closure of the Printing House in 1989 was for setting text, but there are in fact nearly a hundred founts of ornaments still in packets. We're delighted to have been given permission by OUP to prepare a small edition showing the remaining ornaments.

We expect to provide a simple showing of each of the extant ornaments with a number of arrangements of them (probably drawn from OUPís own designs), notes on each ornament drawn from Stanley Morisonís coverage in his John Fell, the University Press and the ĎFellí types and recent research, together with an index relating each ornament back to Horace Hartís catalogue in his A Century of Typography and to John Fell. We anticipate a number of other items and tip-ins finding their way in as plans develop.

The book will probably be hand-set in 12/15pt Van Dijck and printed letterpress on a demy quarto page of a quantity of hand-made paper which we have ear-marked for it, and which we might print damp, as OUP would have done. The book will be case-bound in quarter cloth with an appropriate paper on the boards, and will probably be uniform in size with our previous titles on OUP (282mm high by 225mm wide). All of this is subject to change of course.

We anticipate a small edition, with three-quarters going to subscribers, each of whom will receive an ad personam copy. If you would like to subscribe, get in touch with us using the contact form at our website, letting us know that you intend taking a copy when it is published. (We have already sounded out a number of people and if you have replied to that first call, there is no need to contact us again.) When production starts in earnest and we have a date for publication, we'll announce the final price and contact you to confirm that you still wish to take a copy and to request payment if you do. The price is expected (but not promised) to be around £120 (Ä200/US$230) plus shipping at cost.



a note about

Some past, some to come

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, USA
7-8 October 2006

CODEX Foundation Book Fair & Symposium
Berkeley, California, USA
13-15 February 2007

The Royal Birmingham Society of Arts held an exhibition of half a dozen contemporary UK presses recently. More an opportunity to introduce more people to the idea of finely-printed books than a sales pitch.

Another 'experiment' for us was exhibiting at our first pure crafts fair. The Third Contemporary Craft Fair was hosted by the Devon Guild of Craftsmen in Bovey Tracey and was an excellent event, well organised, and well attended. Everyone had a booth and the standard of the stands was very high. As the only people making books we were something of a novelty (and had to be in the 'Paper' category), so we were unsure whether we would even sell a single book. In the event it went very well and was definitely worth while. As expected we met a wholly new range of people, in particular those who had never come across contemporary fine printing. Most of the stands were jewellers or potters, so ours proved an eye-opener for many. We made some new customers and had an enjoyable (if hot) three days. It was also surprising how many people came up and said they had printed at school, or been compositors in their early days, or had been apprenticed at a press!

Oak Knoll Books have announced the 13th Book Fest in New Castle, Delaware, and we shall be exhibiting again. For more details visit their website.

The newly-formed CODEX Foundation is holding an ambitious Book Fair & Symposium in Berkeley, California in February next year and we shall be making the trip. For more details visit their website.

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2006.