An occasional newsletter about forthcoming books and events

August 2021

In this newsletter . . .

progress on: Twelve poems from the Manyoshu

progress on: Into the lagoon

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progress on
Twelve poems from the Manyoshu

Woodcuts by Naoko Matsubara, inspired by Japanese poems

planned for late 2021

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Our last posting about this exciting new book was in April. The intervening four months have been very busy.

To recap, compiled during the Nara period, the Manyoshu is one of the most revered of Japan's poetic anthologies. By January this year, Japanese woodcut artist Naoko Matsubara had chosen from the thousands of poems in the collection just fifteen that 'sing aloud about love', and had already responded to two of them with woodcuts. Those fifteen were whittled down to the twelve that will appear in this collection, and by mid-May, after a flurry of creative inspiration, she had completed the woodcuts to accompany them and started on the large double-sized image that will wrap the box containing the collection (which you can see as a dummy below). The sequence of images, along with their translations, was now in place.

Fine art printer Alan Flint printed Naoko's woodcuts for tokonoma which we published back in 1999, and it was to Alan that Naoko has turned again to print this new collection. The action now centres around Toronto, Ontario. Naoko and Alan met to discuss colours and inks and of course papers. Not far away is the Japanese Paper Place and Nancy Jacobi's expertise. After various trials they chose the hand-made paper that will be used for the images - Seichosen Kozo - and an order was placed. This weekend I heard from Alan that the paper was in his studio and he was ready to begin hand-tearing the large sheets down to the required size and to start printing the Frog (see below). The paper sounds delicious: the Japanese Paper Place website tells us that 'Seichosen Kozo is dried on traditional wooden boards and so has a slight woodgrain texture on its surface. Excellent for all media though it's a favorite for woodcut, sumi-e and shodo (brush writing). Sunlight & mountain stream bleached, cooked with lime.' It's made by three generations of just one family in Kochi on Shikoku Island. 

It's exciting to know that things are moving ahead, yet a bit frustrating that it's all happening 3,500 miles away. I must content myself with planning the printing of the texts (I'm currently reckoning on using Optima) and paying the bills.

We can now reveal the twelve images that will appear - Alan has sent this photograph of Naoko's approved proofs for them. The sheet size is 343mm by 254mm (13.5" by 10").

Two other papers remain to be finalised: one for the title page that will sit on top of the collection and another to carry the double woodcut on the outside of the box. For the title page I want a paper that is more opaque that the Seichosen, so Nancy Jacobi is sending me a sample of two possible papers, one of which is a handmade torinoko kozo 'just in case you love it' - my fear is that I will love it, despite its price. Our concern for the paper to cover the box is that it should be strong enough to resist handling as well as binding - for that decision we'll be in the competent hands of Nancy and our binders at Ludlow Bookbinders and samples are being sent out.

I hope that soon we can put up some images and videos of Alan at work printing Naoko's woodcuts.


progress on
Into the lagoon

A collection of images by Leslie Gerry with an early twentieth-century text

planned for late summer 2021

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This is currently with Ludlow Bookbinders and we expect to have copies for sale soon.

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Copyright Martyn Ould 2021