An occasional newsletter

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

August 2007


progress on
Oxford's Ornaments

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

September 2007

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Printing will soon be finished and the edition is all but sold out as I write.

In my last newsletter I noted that the type was ready and waiting in galleys. The next step was to make the forme on the bed of the Western proof press. The press will happily print four pages at a time, which means I can lay down two openings on a full sheet of the Rives BFK paper that I am using. Part of the design has of course been to decide how the text block will go on the page and where the running heads and folios will be placed, and now it is the arrangement of furniture (which stands for the white space on the page) that makes that design come true. The page size is the same as the four earlier titles in the series. I've kept the same position for the text block - more or less - as for Stanley Morison & 'John Fell' and Harry Carter, Typographer, but I've used a more centred, symmetrical scheme as with the former. I spent perhaps a day just getting the furniture in place for the four pages - this scheme will stay in place for the printing of the entire book, and I have to bear in mind that for about half the book the text is 24em rather than 32em wide, with an 8em column for the displays of the individual type ornaments. I had to design the furniture to allow easy switching between the two page formats, to get things precisely where I wanted them on the sheet, and finally set the lay guide that positions each sheet in exactly the same position relative to the type. This is one of those moments when you realise that it actually was a good idea to buy that huge case of Resalite furniture which at the time seemed an extravagance.

The main part of the book is 64pp, and as I am printing four pages at a time there will in principle be sixteen runs, eight fronts and eight backs. But I have to print the OUP ornaments separately as OUP's type is fractionally (but significantly) higher, so each sheet must go through again twice more, making a total of thirty-two runs. When I printed the prospectus I planned an edition of 100 copies so started printing 130 off each sheet, just to be sure. But by the time the prospectus went out it was clear that demand would be greater so I have stretched the edition to 123, hoping that some extra material (further ornament displays and photographs) will compensate.

Overall, the printing of the main text in 13pt Van Dijck has gone very smoothly, and small piles of sheets have been mounting satisfyingly in the house (you can always tell when a book is going through the press as our dining room floor gets used as an intermediate store in preference to the press shop which has a tendency towards dampness, especially with all the foul weather we have been having recently). The printing of the ornaments has by comparison been a lot trickier. I can handle the greater height-to-paper by reducing the packing and adjusting the roller heights. But anyone reading the book will learn that the making of the matrices for the ornaments has never been quite the precision affair of, say, Monotype. Many of the matrices date back to the eighteenth century, and many more were made in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. As a result the type cast from them can vary slightly in height from one ornament to another (depending on the 'drive' of the matrix), and indeed in some cases the printing surface on an individual piece of type falls away to one side enough to make the printed ornament dark on one side and faint on the other. This can be dealt with to a degree when printing a single ornament on its own, by adjusting the make-ready, but when ornaments are used in combinations it is a great deal harder and one tends to rely on a rather heavier impression than one would like in order to get some sort of evenness of inking. That in turn would be acceptable on a heavy paper but the Rives BFK I am using is relatively light and the result is a slight braille effect. I comfort myself by looking at items that OUP themselves printed in Fell and noting the heavy impression they tended to give it. As Martyn Thomas and I recorded in The Fell Revival, the press-men at OUP always found printing text set in Fell a 'challenge' and costings were invariably increased for working with it.

During my research in OUP's archives I have taken a large number of photographs of the materials for my own reference, and I have chosen fifteen to illustrate points in the book - I feel that being able to see the actual matrices, punches, and type gives a great deal more meaning to the text. This presents the usual problem of how to incorporate that sort of material - colour photographs in this case - into the body of the book. Having used archival inkjet (giclée) with success in the past I decided to use it here. The range of papers suitable for giclée has increased over the past few years and I shall be using a matte 188gsm archival (100% cotton) paper from Hahnemühle. As I type, a stack of thirty boxes of 50 sheets each sits/towers next to me waiting to go through the Epson. Soon I shall have to put in a bulk order for the seven different ink cartridges that it eats.

The 64pp of text and twelve photographs are not the end of the story. As I have been printing the text I have put aside one sort of each ornament for a summary sheet that will fold out from the book - individual ornaments are referred to here and there and it makes it more convenient if the majority are accessible easily. For that sheet I have used yet another paper - Hahnemühle Simili Japon - which is somewhat smoother and has rather less colour than the Rives; I chose this so that the detail of the ornaments would be more easily seen on this summary sheet. There are then the end-papers, which will have large arrangements printed on them, the dust-jacket for the standard copies, and finally labels for spines and slip-cases. This afternoon I printed the title on the title page in a second colour - the fifth time those sheets have been through the press! Ann Muir has just completed the marbling of the paper that will go on the boards of the de luxe copies: she has used the same colour way of the previous titles but this time done them in a French Curl style - suitably whorly/whirly for a book on ornaments. I shall be collecting them later this week as well as visiting Brian Settle who will bind the edition for finalising details. We're nearly there ...


a note about
An exhibition

where The Old School Press will appear

Whittington Summer Show
Whittington, England
1 September 2007

The first Saturday in September invariably means the Whittington Summer Show, as part of which Whittington Press opens its doors to visitors. The Randles also kindly invite a number of other presses and related folks who have tables of wares. Sometimes it rains, but often it's a lovely day and a pleasant way to get a feel for how books are made as well as meeting some of the protagonists. Hours are 2.15pm to 5.00pm.


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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2007