An occasional newsletter

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

 November 2006


a projected new title
Palladio's Homes

Andrea Palladio on the perfect house - and what the English thought of it


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This is very much an early warning of a project that has been in prospect for some time but which does seem to be taking real shape, and this newsletter is the place to make some early announcements. I don't expect to list it on my website until further down the line, but progress will be reported in future newsletters.

I have had a keenness for the domestic architecture of Andrea Palladio for some time - if one can refer to the villas he built for, say, the Venetian nobility as just 'domestic'. Anyway, we can say that he designed houses for people to live in as well as civic buildings. His influence on subsequent architecture in the UK and USA was considerable and remains to this day, and 'Palladianism' entered the vocabulary of architects world-wide. A few years back we visited several of his houses on the Brenta Canal near Venice, and earlier this year spent a pleasurable couple of weeks extending out to houses in the Veneto in north-eastern Italy, around the cities of Verona and Venice.

Palladio left not only a legacy of fine buildings, but also a detailed exposition of his ideas in his I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura ('The Four Books of Architecture'), first published in 1570.

Palladio prefaced his descriptions of his villa designs in I Quattro Libri with chapters laying out his general principles for the placing and design of villas. Palladio's Homes will reprint those chapters in the original Italian together with a parallel translation by the English architect Isaac Ware who in 1738 provided, unlike previous translators, a faithful translation as well as accurate reproductions of Palladio's numerous original plates. I Quattro Libri was considered so important by later architects that they would travel to Italy to see Palladio's work for themselves, scribbling their own views in the margins of their copies. Our plan is to include these reflections - not always complimentary - in the book alongside Palladio's descriptions of his work. Amongst those quoted will be architects Inigo Jones and Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, and the sixteenth-century power-walker Thomas Coryat (of Coryat's Crudities fame).

Not surprisingly, we shall of course make use of illustrations - final choices have yet to be made. And of course a book with such different elements - Italian text, English translation, annotations, and illustrations - creates an opportunity to design a book structure just a little out of the ordinary. More anon.


progress on
Oxford's Ornaments

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

Early 2007

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

Work has been proceeding at a pace since we announced this new title on our list. In particular, it has meant a degree of sleuthing.

Our original intention was simple: to prepare a display of the typographical ornaments from Oxford University Press that still exist in type. When the Press closed its printing House and became just a publisher in 1989, there was something of a scramble to save some of the printing artefacts from his most prestigious of English printing houses with its roots firmly in the 1600s. Amongst the materials saved were seventy-seven packeted founts of a range of flowers, the majority with a history at least 250 years old. Many of them appear in the Press's type specimens from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and in most cases original matrices for them still exist at the Press.

It would have been a relatively simple matter to just print samples of each one and leave it at that. But of course one wants to know how that extant type relates to the extant matrices, to the original materials in the old type Specimens, not to mention Stanley Morison's coverage of them in his great book on John Fell and the types he purchased for the Press in the seventeenth century. Suddenly that simple intention explodes into a detective hunt. We now have five different lists of Oxford's ornaments at different times in history, all prepared for different reasons ... and all different. Throw in the fact that both Horace Hart and Stanley Morison made errors in their accountings and a simple list is clearly not enough. What was expected to be perhaps a 32pp book has almost certainly doubled in size already and we have now included detailed coverage of the different lists from the past and correlated them so that it becomes possible to relate type to descriptions and appearances.

Another original intention - which assumed a small book - was that hand-setting would be practical. Unfortunately it is now somewhat beyond our means and we shall have it machine-set, still in Van Dijck and of course still printed letterpress. We have a quantity of Van Gelder hand-made which we shall use for the main text. We also have a few small lots of other English hand-made papers which we shall use to print some typographic arrangements taken from OUP's own pattern books. We shall also print samples of each of the extant ornaments on a smooth paper to show its detailed shape as clearly as possible without losing the detail as one does to a degree when pressing type into hand-made paper. We also have plans to include photographs of some of the original materials which are rarely accessible: copies of the seventeenth century Oxford Specimens, the type itself, and of course the original matrices at OUP.

One of the trickier features in the production of this book arises because Oxford University Press had its own type height. Standard 'trade height' in England and North America is 0.918 inches. 'Oxford height' is 0.9395 in. That one-fiftieth of an inch (or so) is more than enough to cause problems: it becomes impractical/impossible to print type from Oxford with standard printing type at the same time in the same forme. Indeed not all printing presses can handle type that is that little bit taller anyway. As I print on a proof press I can make suitable adjustments to print with Oxford-height type, but I still have to plan the book and the printing to deal with the fact that I cannot mix different height types.
(In fact OUP once had two different type heights in use at the same time in the Printing House: 'Bible Side' type was one height (largely owing to the fact that it was sourced in Scotland), and 'Learned Side' type another (having its origins in type from the Continent which was always and remains higher than English and American type). The two 'Sides' represented the two halves of the Printing House that were separate until 1906. But that's another story.)

The book will be case-bound and uniform in size with our previous books on OUP (282mm high by 225mm wide). A number of people who have bought the de luxe versions of those earlier books have asked about the possibility of a de luxe edition here. The plan is to publish the book on a subscription basis. In other words, we shall print as many copies as we have orders for (possibly with a few over to satisfy late-comers), and that way we can offer both standard and de luxe bindings as people require. Each subscriber will receive an ad personam copy. To register interest, get in touch with us using the contact form at our website or reply to this email. (If we have already heard from you, 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 still expected (but not promised) to be around £120 (€200/US$230) for the standard edition plus shipping at cost.


a note about

where The Old School Press appears or will appear

'Unregulated Printing'
Cambridge University Library, Cambridge, England
until 16 December 2006

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

Country Caterpillar Contemporary Arts Fair
near Gloucester, England
4-12 November 2006

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

The exhibition Unregulated Printing puts on display items published in the last sixty years, selected from the work of the hundreds of private presses represented in the Library’s collections. It features items from around the English-speaking world. The Old School Press's Venice Visited is one of the featured books.

Once again we visited the delightful historic town of New Castle, Delaware for this, the 13th, Oak Knoll Book Fest. Always an excellent social occasion and a place for inspiration.

Country Caterpillar is held at Yew Tree Farmhouse, May Hill, Glos, GL17 0NP. A proportion of receipts go to Muscular Dystrophy Research and the Gloucestershire Family Haven. Open 1030 to 1700 daily.

The newly-formed CODEX Foundation is holding an ambitious Book Fair  and Symposium in Berkeley, California in February 2007 and we shall be making the trip. For more details visit their website.


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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2006.