An occasional newsletter

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

September 2007


progress on
Palladio's Homes

Andrea Palladio on the perfect house - and what visitors have thought of his designs


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In my newsletter in November last year I boldly put '2007' against what I labelled a 'projected new title'. Well, 'projected' has become 'now in planning', but '2007' has become '2008' . . . for now.

To recap, in the sixteenth century Andrea Palladio designed about thirty domestic villas of which seventeen have survived more or less intact (the exact numbers depending on how you count them). His influence on subsequent architecture in the UK and USA was considerable and remains to this day, with the word 'Palladianism' now firmly in the vocabulary of architects world-wide. He 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. This new title, 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, sometimes scribbling their own views in the margins of their copies. Our plan is to include these and other reflections - not always complimentary - alongside Palladio's descriptions of his work. Amongst those quoted will be architects Inigo Jones and Sir Edward Lovett Pearce, Goethe, and the sixteenth-century power-walker Thomas Coryat (of Coryat's Crudities fame). In the twentieth century, Witold Rybczynski made what he described as a 'journey with the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio', visiting the extant villas and recording his journey in his book A Perfect House. I'm pleased to be able to announce that Professor Rybczynski has agreed to write a new essay on Palladio for the book and we shall be presenting that alongside extracts from A Perfect House.

The texts present a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Italian printing as well as its architecture. We plan to print the text on an Amalfi hand-made paper using Giovanni Mardersteig's Dante typeface. We visited Amalfi earlier this year on a walking tour and had the chance of visiting the museum and examining the papers they make. The shop concentrates on selling pads of small sheets to tourists and artists and it took a moment or two to track down 'the biggest sheets you make' in a drawer. I bought some to bring back as samples for tests, size, and so on, and rather alarmed the shop assistant by saying it would be fine if she just folded them up to go in the paper bag - she was having none of that and I had to take them - rolled carefully - back to the hotel and fold them in private to go in our suitcase. Some time soon I hope to place a bulk order.

The texts also suggest a slightly unconventional mise en page. Having two parallel texts (one in Italian and one in English) opens up all sorts of possibilities ... perhaps we shall try some. And there will be news in a future newsletter of the Italian artist who - I hope - will be providing illustrations.


progress on
Oxford's Ornaments

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

October 2007

read the previous news item on this title

All of the main text has now been printed and I have set to work on the supporting material.

One of the things that needs doing is getting the spine labels printed. These pesky things are a nuisance as far as I am concerned though I am now reconciled to having to make them. I printed about 150 on my treadle platen, on thin strips ready for the binder to cut down to size. They will go on the spines of the standard copies and on the slipcases of the de luxe copies. Even though the label is only one line, I set it in Fell Double Pica Italic - a lovely type - which required special setting up on the press: I had to lift the bearers that set the roller heights by gluing 1.5pt leads to their backs, as well as reducing the packing considerably. (Oxford type is 0.9395 in. high, rather than the standard English and American 0.918 in. - a difference of about 1.5pt.)

I have finally increased the number of photographs to fifteen, and given that the edition is of 123 copies I have a massive amount of printing to do on my Epson. But one by one I am working my way down the thirty boxes of 100% rag Hahnemühle paper. The inks drain down as if the cartridges had leaks and I had another delivery the other day! Altogether I shall use about forty cartridges across the seven ink heads. But it will take days of printing and I just hope my A3 printer lasts!

I took a set of materials up to the binder, Brian Settle at Ludlow Bookbinders, a couple of weeks ago. We discussed what was to go where and how in particular the photographs will be incorporated, as well as the fold-out Synopsis which shows all the 'Fell ornaments' that Press Controller Horace Hart believed he had. That allowed me to get to work on the Synopsis which required setting a facsimile of a page from one of Hart's specimens from the early twentieth century. It was not easy. There are over fifty different ornaments in the setting and even though I was setting them in simple rows they are not on the normal point-system of type sizes which meant a lot of fiddling with normal spacing and cutting thin leads and so on. The original Synopsis also has numbers under the ornaments and I decided to set those in the Monotype Van Dijck which I have used for the main text face. This meant setting them quite separately to print on a separate run, with all the problems of alignment that that led to! I have printed the Synopsis on a Van Gelder Simili Japon paper, which has the advantage of being nicely smooth and a little less off-white so that one can see as clearly as possible the detail of the ornaments - when pressed well into the rougher Rives BFK they lose some of the fine detail.

Today, I've printed all the copy numbers and ad personams into the colophons: every copy is numbered 'in the press' (ie the number is printed rather than written), and subscribers have had the option of having their name printed in the colophon. So every sheet was done individually, which sounds like a terrible labour but in fact, with a little organisation, went quite quickly and only took half a day - I had expected to spend a day on it. That meant I could spend the afternoon getting on with printing the 4pp. insert with its arrangements of ornaments taken from Hart's type specimen. Because it's a small sheet and there's not too much type, I've used my 10in. by 15in. treadle platen press, which I generally only use for small items these days - spine labels for instance. It's nice to switch to it now and then, not least because the opening and closing action tends to waft the smell of the ink over you, which is very pleasant.

For a number of books in the past I have put a picture diary on our website, so quite a lot of my printing process can be seen online. With this book I thought that an interesting angle would be what was involved in working with the type from OUP. So if you go to our website and click on the entry for this book in the 'in print' list, and then on the 'the story' button you will find coverage of all the problems mentioned above! (OK, there goes another ink cartridge.)

a note about

where The Old School Press will or will not appear

Oak Knoll Book Fest
New Castle, Delaware, USA
6-7 October 2007

Oxford Fine Press Book Fair
Oxford, England
3-4 November 2007

Unfortunately we shall not be exhibiting at Oak Knoll Book Fest this year. We have had a clutch of exhibitions, including one in California, and the bill for display stands and travel is mounting. But Oxford is only 75 miles away so we shall of course be at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair which promises as ever to be a great occasion. The lecture programme has now been fixed for the Sunday and details are at the FPBA website.

We had another enjoyable day out at the Whittington village Summer Fair at the beginning of the month. John and Rose Randle open the Whittington Press and invite a number of other book-related folk (marblers, binders, booksellers, paper suppliers etc) to come along too.  We were blessed with fine weather and a good crowd. We even sold some books.


a note about
our website

Change is the one constant


We have recently resited our website . . . but that doesn't affect how you get to it: is still the place to go. The purpose of the move was to allow a lot more space - perhaps even for some video and audio recordings - as well as other facilities in the future. As ever we shall concentrate on content rather than flashy form. It was also a great opportunity to clear up the site which has been going for at least a dozen years in one form or another. A certain amount of (invisible) detritus had built up and things had got a little disorganised in some places, which all offended my tidy mind.


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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2007