An occasional newsletter about forthcoming books and events

August 2017

In this newsletter:

news of the third of four new titles that we are announcing this year

some copies of O/P titles for sale

a reminder about the Whittington Press Open Day.


a new project
Aubrey's Villa

A new contribution to the literature on English antiquarian John Aubrey

by Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams,
Professor Peter Davidson,
and Dr Kate Bennett

planned for late 2017

In August last year I made contact again with Professor Peter Davidson who wrote the text for our very successful Winter Light, published in 2010. He proposed a book on the English antiquarian and biographer John Aubrey (1626-1697) in collaboration with Aubrey scholar Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams, based around a manuscript in the Bodleian Library. I was intrigued. Here's the story ...

John Aubrey (1626–1697) was born in a house built by his grandfather, Isaac Lyte, at Lower Easton Pierse near the Wiltshire village of Kington St Michael, a house he always knew he would inherit. When it came to him after his father’s death, while he was still in his twenties, he began signing himself ‘John Aubrey of Easton Pierse, Esq.’, a connection with his land in Wiltshire that became essential to his identity. But inherited debts and bad luck eventually caught up with him in his forties, and he found himself having to sell not just the lands and house but nearly everything he owned including some of his books. It was at this time that he prepared a collection of drawings, half of them a record of what he was leaving behind at Easton Pierse, but the other half, more spectacular, drawings of an Easton Pierse that had never existed. As he completed the final drawings in 1669–70, he went into hiding from the bailiffs, concealed his identity, and gave out rumours that he had gone abroad. His drawings now form a manuscript in the Bodleian Library: Aubrey 17.

From being a country gentleman with a very public sense of place he became a completely displaced figure taking his identity from the newly-founded Royal Society. His drawings are a record of the emotional cost of that shift, a farewell in pencil, ink, and watercolour to a place and a way of life that had defined him until that point. Yet the drawings are more than a simple record. For whatever reason, at the moment of losing it entirely Aubrey decided to show what he had wanted his estate to become: a neo-classical villa set amongst Italianate gardens and terraces. He was in the first generation of theorists and architects who developed the concept of a neo-classical country house, and his plans record debts to and conversations with John Evelyn, Roger Pratt, and Christopher Wren.

On a national level his drawings are an important record of a sea-change in English architecture that came about in the middle of the seventeenth century as vehemently neo-classical designs began to replace the more rambling, hybrid buildings of an earlier era, and both architects and scholars began to distance themselves from Gothic ‘barbarity’ in favour of a return to Rome. When read through the lens of Aubrey's other writings about architectural style we can see both the radical nature of what he was proposing and the extent to which he believed he was genuinely recreating a kind of ancient Roman villa.

Aubrey’s drawings of Easton Pierse—as it was and as it might have been—now rest in that bound volume in the Bodleian, and The Old School Press has been given permission to reproduce it in its entirety for the first time. To bring alive both the personal and the architectural story alluded to above, Dr Kelsey Jackson Williams has written an extended essay to accompany the reproductions of Aubrey’s drawings, and Professor Peter Davidson and Dr Kate Bennett have contributed introductory essays and commentary on the drawings. Oxford Fellow Dr Bennett is the leading authority on Aubrey and has written the first annotated critical edition of his best-known work, Brief Lives, published in 2015; Dr Williams is the author of The Antiquary: John Aubrey’s Historical Scholarship. It is hard to imagine a more knowledgeable team of experts for this book.

This new title continues The Old School Press’s interest in matters architectural and our aim to publish new and authoritative texts. Interest in Aubrey has been much revived in both academic and general readership circles following two major publications in the last two years: Dr Bennett’s own edition of Aubrey’s Brief Lives, and a fictional autobiography of Aubrey, John Aubrey: My Own Life by Cambridge Fellow Dr Ruth Scurr.

Aubrey’s manuscript volume is landscape in format and we will be retaining that.  Our book will be bound between boards covered with a paper specially hand-marbled to replicate that chosen by Aubrey for his own binding of his manuscript. The book will be slightly larger than A3 (about 17in wide and 12in deep) and run to 72pp, so it will make a handsome volume.

There is one important difference with this title: it will be printed entirely digitally, rather than letterpress. Much as we would have loved to do it letterpress our calculations suggested it would not work financially. However, our customers need have no fear that this is the thin end of a wedge between us and letterpress! Indeed, you can expect an announcement for a further title to be printed in hand-set type later his year and we are about to take possession of a range of Monotype Van Dijck!

We welcome expressions of interest now. Further details and prices will be announced in a future newsletter.


Copies of O/S titles for sale

I have a number of copies of past books for sale. If any of these are of interest please contact us as soon as possible.

  • The last bound copy of Harry Carter, Typographer. I thought these had all gone but one has surfaced (how does that happen?) - still at the original price.
  • Two of the lettered copies of Venice Visited. These were bound in paper hand-blocked by Albert Valese in Venice. £95 each plus shipping at cost.
  • One of the contributor's lettered copies of Winter Light which I am selling privately for a contributor. £400 plus shipping.

we shall be at
Whittington Press Open Day

We will be taking ephemera, books, some type to sell, and paper off-cuts, all at bargain prices.

from 2pm
2 September 2017

Was it last year that it rained and rained and rained? Hoping for glorious weather this year to make up for it!


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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2017