An occasional newsletter about forthcoming books and events

February 2021

In this newsletter . . .

our online shop is now open

now available: Making paper at Abbey Mills

some hints of future plans

our newsletter archive


Our online shop is now
. . . open

And about time too

Our website first saw the light of day in 1995, when it was hosted on my then employer's site (but keep that quiet). It was early days for such things and it looked pretty primitive by today's hip styles. Indeed it stills looks pretty primitive, but I don't apologise for that. It's now so large - nearly two thousand pages - that I can't see a practical way of bringing it into the 21st century.

Besides which, I rather take against the current trend of website design which seems to consist mostly of massive, screen-filling stock images with a handful of empty words, pages that require you to scroll and scroll and scroll to get to anything worth finding. If you've visited our website you'll know it's the polar opposite, packed with solid material and no stock fillers. And you generally only get images when you ask for them. (end of rant)

I say all that as a prelude to introducing our new online shop. Having been crafted using a generic construction facility, it follows today's trope of massive pictures and lots of wasted space. So it might feel perfectly natural! Anyway, take a look and perhaps even buy something. If you don't trust online shops you can still place an order by email of course. We'll still be keeping our main website as the place for detail and background.


progress on
Making paper at Abbey Mills

How paper was made from esparto grass, with sample papers from the mill

copies now available

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Unless you've had a trial copy made up beforehand, it's a moment of revelation when you open the box of freshly bound copies from the binders to discover what you've created. Until that moment it was some plans, and piles of printed sheets and spine labels and tip-ins, . . .

But then you have a pile of books. I think the final result looks well.

We got a bit carried away with typefaces in this book, and distributing the type took quite some time. I generally avoid dissing until all the sheets have made it to the binders and sometimes not before I have the bound books back from the binders. One never knows where something might just go wrong and mean that sheets have to be reprinted. It almost happened with this book: despite what I thought were careful calculations, I managed to print a large pattern of ornaments in the wrong place on the sheet (see below). Our eagle-eyed binders - Ludlow Bookbinders - noticed this when getting the sections ready for binding. Initially I imagined I was going to have to reprint the sheet, and when I checked I naturally found that it was that colour of sheet that had more or less run out. But a careful cut and a guard by the binders solved the problem. But perhaps one shouldn't admit these faults . . .

There are just 60 copies for sale at 85 each, plus p&p at cost as usual. You can buy now from our shop or request a copy by email. (Subscribers will be getting their copies automatically, with the usual 15% discount.)

We are also offering an upgrade! Since the subject of the book is Abbey Mills paper, some might like to see the papers in full sheets as well as in the trimmed and printed leaves of the book. We are therefore offering to sophisticate copies by the addition of folded sheets of all twelve papers to the book, presenting the collection in a simple box-and-lid. If you would like such a sophisticated copy for 120, let us know as soon as possible as we shall be having only as many boxes made as are ordered now.

The main text - the text of the mill's own description of its process for converting esparto grass into a high-quality paper - is set in Monotype Romulus, a favourite face at The Old School Press, with titles in Optima. The paper is Abbey Mill's Basingwerk Parchment.

The ancillary matter - mostly from the 1950s - is printed in a variety of typefaces on one of eleven original coloured laid papers from Abbey Mills. This is the arrangement of Monotype's 'Glint' ornament.


What of the future?

Just some hints . . .

Things are a little quiet here at the Press, but we have a number of long-range plans in place, one or two of which I expect to realise this year.

2021 is the official 1,600th anniversary of the founding of Venice, founded according to tradition on 25 March 421. Many readers will know that Venice is a favourite place of ours and that we have done a handful of books on the subject. The anniversary is a good excuse for another. Provisionally titled Into the lagoon, the planned text will be about the approach to the city by water and features of the lagoon itself, in particular the island of San Lazzaro where monks once printed books in Armenian. Time to use the Hunt Roman type and perhaps a fine illustration.

We had the pleasure of finally meeting Japanese wood-cut artist Naoko Matsubara back in May 2019, when she had a prestigious exhibition of her work at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Our first collaboration was tokonoma, a collection of twenty of her woodcuts accompanying haiku and tanka by the late James Kirkup. She does terrific work and all looks well for another book with her this year. Meantime she has a trade book coming out about now, In praise of hands - check the Ashmolean online shop.

Reminds me of when one could get a haircut . . .

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Copyright Martyn Ould 2021