An occasional newsletter about forthcoming books and events

June 2019

In this newsletter . . .

a forthcoming book: Printing at the University Press, Oxford, 1660-1780
volume III: Process

an event and a poster: A Show of Hands at Bath Spa University



a forthcoming book
Printing at the University Press, Oxford, 1660-1780
 volume III

The third and final volume of this definitive study: 'Process: from author's copy to printed sheets'

to be published Autumn 2019

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Some eleven years after starting work on this topic I'm able to announce the publication, later this year, of the third and final volume of this study of printing at OUP in its formative period.

Volumes I and II covered the three main resources of the Press: its premises, its paper, and its type. Volume III builds on those to describe in detail the process that took an author's copy through to printed sheets ready for sale.

In summary, that process consisted of preparing a specimen, composing the type, proof-reading and correcting, press-work, wood engraving and printing, copper engraving and printing, warehousing, shipping, binding, and advertising. Much detail about pay, productivity, and accounting emerges from the archives at OUP, the University, and the Bodleian. Eleven photographs of contemporary documents from those archives illustrate the text.

As with the previous two volumes, the de luxe edition comes with additional material, in this case an extra volume entitled Learning about Printing. When Bishop John Fell and his three partners took over the University Press in the early 1670s they knew little of the economics or practicalities of printing books and had a steep learning curve to climb. They were helped with advice from their foreman, John Hall, and we are fortunate to find in the Bodleian Library manuscripts by Fell, one of his partners Thomas Yate, and John Hall, in which they explore over several years those commercial and practical lessons. Although they no doubt initially saw themselves as would-be entrepreneurs, in the event they proved no match for the London Stationers who could undercut them and spoil their hopes of financing the publication of short-run learned texts through the bulk sale of text-books to the Stationers. Through the fourteen manuscripts I trace that journey in this additional volume (32pp).

I had started my research on these fourteen documents by transcribing them. Yate's writing is miniscule in places and his scratchy nib on the rough paper made for some tricky reading until I got my eye in. And then I needed some 42pt braces where a transcript was to appear in the printed text - that called for some tricky hand-work in the setting that I'm not used to!

April saw the additional volume being typeset for us in 12pt Van Dijck by Effra Typefoundry and the whole going through the press. Amongst the paper stocks we acquired on the sale of the Parkminster monastery print-shop I had a ream of demy hand-made laid paper that bears no watermark but which, we are advised, could well be from an English mill (although most of the Parkminster stock was either French or Dutch). It's not a great sheet, quite dark in colour for a book paper, and a tad coarse, but all in all it felt entirely appropriate since the text that was going onto it describes the attempts by the nascent OUP to print large editions of school-books on what would have been a cheap paper (albeit imported from the Continent at the time).

It didn't need much to see that it would need damping so we have been working away with damp sheets - tedious but somewhat satisfying, and entirely necessary as, printed dry, this paper renders a very grey result! The specially marbled paper for the de luxe copies has been prepared by Jemma Lewis and the dust-wrappers for the standard edition are all printed, so I expect to send the main text for digital printing in the next few weeks - the 208pp sit waiting on my PC.

If you are interested in more detail, in particular a fuller table of contents, you can find it right here. We expect to have copies for sale later in the autumn this year. As before we shall be offering a pre-publication price - more of that in our next newsletter.


a forthcoming exhibition
A Show of Hands

An exhibition of posters and ephemera inspired by the 'printer's fist' or manicule

Bath Spa University
Corsham Court, Wiltshire
27 September to 13 October, 2019

Bath Spa University has invited contributions from UK printers for this exhibition and The Old School Press could not resist the opportunity to use four massive wood-cut manicules that it acquired some years ago.

I had already been thinking of a poster to celebrate 2019 as it is the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (not many people know that). Since printing metal is an alloy of three metals the connection seemed to invite a poster built around the connection, and when I noticed that one of the quotes I planned to include had the word 'hand' in it I saw the chance of killing two birds with one stone.

Now, if you find you have four very large manicules (24-line and 18-line) cut on wood and want to use them all (as well as smaller ones, down to 8pt), that poster is going to have to be quite large, so here was the opportunity to use some heavy Hahnemühle etching paper I acquired some years back. Even then they were very big sheets but I found that with a little trimming I could get a half-sheet onto our 30-inch proof press (see below). Etching paper expects (and needs) to be damped so it was out with the 300gm blotting and an overnight stacking before printing up just ten copies the following day, each sheet going through the press twice, once for the text in black, and again for the big manicules in grey (I didn't want them to shout too loudly). I'm making five of them for sale on the Posters section of our website. (For the technically inclined, more about our damping technique can be found in this previous newsletter.)

We now look forward to the exhibition in September-October.

We hope you have enjoyed this update on the Press's activities.
You can browse an archive of past newsletters at our website.
If you have comments or questions on the contents of this newsletter just let us know.
You can of course find details of all our plans and books in print at our website.

Copyright © Martyn Ould 2019

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Copyright © Martyn Ould 2019