Thursday, 13th April 2017

Last week I went to Reykjavik to promote The Poetic Edda. The main event was an interview on the TV Arts programme Kiljan, chaired by the larger-than-life Egill Helgason. I was pretty daunted going into the vast studio with spotlights trained only on the two chairs in the middle, reminiscent of Mastermind. But it seemed to go well, as you can judge for yourself by clicking here (don’t worry, it’s not all in Icelandic, and only lasts five minutes).

Everyone who saw the book responded with tremendous warmth and enthusiasm – they were thrilled that a foreign publisher had gone to such trouble to make a truly special edition of their ‘national book’. I even made it onto the back page of the national daily Morgunbla∂i∂:

Joe Whitlock Blundell pictured on the Morgunbladid
When you have studied the main feature, take a look at see the weather forecast on the lower right corner of the page: it was a truthful one, as you can see from this photo, taken the next day in a howling gale as we set out for the coast:

Icelandic weather was blowing a gale
Our destination was the Westman Islands, which were a little warmer than Reykjavik, and full of out-of-season charm and delicious fish. Opposite our hotel, an old fish-processing factory was being demolished; it had some rather stylish modernist features, which I recorded for posterity. Here is one of them:

Sign from the old fish market in Iceland
I note with some embarrassment that this is my first blog post for six months. The hiatus is due to an extraordinarily busy period in my life, a period of transition to semi-retirement. In future I will be working mainly from home, so I have transferred a large number of type manuals, art reference books etc and set up my office here. Here is a photo of the desk at which I am writing this; note the barograph (important for making sailing plans) and the snow-storm globe containing Michelangelo’s Pietà, without which no home is complete.

Joe Whitlock Blundell's desk
In pride of place above the desk is a framed letter sent to me by Charles van Sandwyk on receipt of his early copy of The Blue Fairy Book, our first collaboration; it is so charmingly and beautifully written I have also taken a close-up so it can be read more easily. Also, the Meiji period woodblock print I bought at a market in Japan a few years ago is obscured by reflection, so here is a close-up of that too.

Charles van Sandwyk letter
Meiji-era print

 

We went down to Devon for Christmas, and I took the opportunity to visit Alan Lee to discuss the book of Anglo-Saxon poetry he is illustrating for us. Here is Alan in his studio, and here is his work in progress for the binding design.

Artist Alan Lee in his studio
Rough binding design for The Wanderer and Other Poems

 

 

The Wanderer and Other Poems will be published some time next year. More imminent, however, is Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, illustrated by Quentin Blake, the mailing for which will be going out later this month. Early copies are in: here are the very last pages of the book, with Riddley striding off into the sunset. It took some juggling to make the text fall naturally, with just the last line – and no more – appearing on the page.

A double page spread of the Folio limited edition Riddley Walker

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