An occasional newsletter

Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, UK

 May 2007


progress on
Oxford's Ornaments

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

Publication due later in 2007

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Earlier this year I decided that the text of this new study was complete. I have written enough books to know that there comes a moment when one really must stop tinkering and draw a line under the thing.

It was time to take the copy to Stan Lane at Gloucester Typesetting with my specification. Because the book is in series with four other titles on aspects of the history of Oxford University Press, it was a fairly simple matter to decide on the measure (line length) that I wanted the type set on. The choice of type-face was also not a difficult one: Monotype Van Dijck. Besides being an elegant face, it has its roots in the same typographical soil as many of the types brought back from Holland by Bishop John Fell for the new Learned Press at Oxford in the seventeenth century. I used it in Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' in the 12pt size, but decided here that, with a slightly shorter text, 13pt would be better. It is quite small on the body and the 12pt did make for a rather tough read on the long measure (33em in that case, 32em here). So, I had the necessary parameters set: 13pt Van Dijck cast on a 14pt body (to make amendments easier for me as I have no 13pt spacing) and with a 32em measure.

In mid-April I had the call from Stan to say that the type was ready and later that week it was safely in galleys in my print-shop. I had a rough idea of how long the book would be, simply because I have it all set up on my PC in digital Van Dijck from Monotype, but it is only when you have the real metal that you can start in earnest to plan the detailed layout. Choosing the size of the text block and placing it on the page is one of the key things one does. I'm following the same page size as the other books, in particular the Harry Carter book which - I felt - made a good opening. I've followed the same pattern here.

The first thing I set up on the press was the announcement which is 4pp of the same type on the same measure. Doing some tests with this gave me a chance to experiment with the leading (extra spacing between the lines of type). The 13pt type has been cast on a 14pt body so there is already 1pt of leading in there. I can add a further 1pt, 2pt or even 3pt. Finally I decided to give the Van Dijck some air with 3pt of extra leading, so the final specification is 13pt on 17pt. Now I also know I have 31 lines to the page. Printing the announcement is also an opportunity to get the packing right on the press to give the right degree of impression for the paper one is using. Although the final book will be on some Rives BFK, I didn't want to use it for the announcement so turned to some Mohawk Superfine that I had left over from the printing of Tonge's Travels. It's an easy paper to print on, a nice weight (148gsm) for the page size, though some call it dull. It is certainly different from the Rives which is a laid paper with one deckle edge, one torn edge and two cut edges (having been made on a continuous blanket). I'm ashamed to say that I haven't done any serious printing (longish runs on large sheets of paper) for a year or so, so it's a real pleasure to put a stack of 250 sheets on the feed-board of the Western and work my way through it. I set all four pages up on the bed and ran all the sheets through, then turned them and printed the backs the next day. That way I get two copies of the announcement out of each sheet with the minimum amount of handle-cranking. The announcement will be going out in the coming weeks and will be the moment for those who have made reservations (about seventy copies are spoken for) to make a final decision and send money, and the only chance for those who haven't to order a copy. So, if you want a copy and haven't told me so far, do let me know quickly.

Chapter openings are the next thing to be thought about. I had had Stan cast some 36pt Van Dijck italic for the Stanley Morison book and it feels entirely appropriate to use it again, both for the main title and the section titles, in this new book. Given that this is a book about Oxford's ornaments, there are going to be quite a few arrangements, so featuring one in the chapter headings also seems a good idea. I also want one arrangement to go in the announcement. Now I have to start addressing practicalities. OUP's type is higher than normal type. So I cannot mix type cast by Stan with Oxford type in the same forme for printing. If I have Oxford type and Monotype on the same sheet I have to put that sheet through the press twice. I have to print 500 copies of the prospectus, so that would mean doubling the amount of effort and time to produce them. Also I need to give some consideration to the fact that I am printing with irreplaceable materials and I should keep the number of impressions I take from the Oxford type to a minimum. As it is, it looks as though most of the sheets in the book will have to go through the press twice: once with the normal, English height type, and a second time for the Oxford-height type, ie the ornaments. So, to spare the type, and my winding arm, I had a small zinco (photo-engraved block) made from a proof of one of the arrangements and it is this that I used to print the announcement.

When Stan casts the type for me, he also takes a couple of proofs from the type. I start by proof-reading these and also letting the Press Reader - my wife - go to work on them with her eagle's eye and copy editor's brain. Then I can start the construction of a paste-up of the entire book - from dustjacket front to dustjacket rear, via half-title, title page, contents list, text, and colophon. I find this one of the most pleasurable activities in making a book. It's the moment when the thing really takes shape, albeit on folded sheets of A3 made up into signatures of 16pp with bits of proof pasted onto the pages. It's now that I decide what each page will look like, and, with this particular book, where the various patterns of ornaments can be dropped in. I know that I have nineteen lines of text on the first page of a section and thirty-one on others, so I go through Stan's proofs cutting them down and pasting them into the dummy. Once all the text has been disposed in this way (and decisions have been made about widows and orphans) I can get back out to the workshop to paginate from the continuous galleys that Stan has cast. The type for each page is separated out, any corrections or alterations are made to it, and it is tied up and put back onto a galley paired with the page alongside which it appears on the printed sheet. This way, when printing starts, I can pull galley after galley and know that I have the next set of pages ready to impose on the bed.

This should have all gone on uninterrupted and smoothly. However, there was one loose end that had not been tied up, and now - later than ideal - came the moment. I knew from a document that Nigel Roche, Librarian at St Bride Printing Library, had given me, that there were possibly ten further packs of ornaments at St Bride. Unfortunately, on a preliminary visit to the Library I had discovered that they have the better part of a thousand packs of type from OUP and that the ones I was interested in would be amongst them . . . or possibly elsewhere in the store. Fortunately, a volunteer was in the process of reboxing the packets and labelling them, so it was possible to make a fairly quick check for Martyn Thomas (my co-author of The Fell Revival) and me to find the ones I was interested in . . .  but they were not to be found. It was only after further checks that we located six packets, and a small case of type with three of the ornaments. The best part of this discovery was that amongst the packets were three units that were not represented in the type held by OUP so those gaps would be filled. The down side of it was that I would have to make late changes to the type now paged and on galleys to record the new findings. Back to the workshop . . .

I can now announce the final price of the book. It will be 95 (160/US$210) plus shipping at cost. Some customers who have collected the de luxe editions of our earlier books on OUP may also wish to request their copy to be bound in quarter-leather with an Ann Muir marbled paper on the boards and presented in a slipcase (140, 225, US$300). If you would like sheets for binding I can supply them but only if you order before publication (60, 90, US$120). Postage and packing will be charged at cost and are likely to be 5, 8, US$10 for a single copy according to destination.


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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2007.