Friday, 24 May 2013

Went to Oxford to brief the Bodleian photographer for our facsimile edition of William Morris’s manuscript of the Odes of Horace. The biggest difficulty in reproducing this particular work is that Morris employed so many different shades of gold and silver leaf. Horace Odes samplesThe photographer has to capture both the reflectivity of the gold and these different shades. As these samples demonstrate, his solution is ingenious. The first shot in each case (shot with a ring flash) highlights the metallic areas very clearly, and will be used by the repro house to identify the areas where foil is required – but is inaccurate for colour (gold shades imprecise, paper turned an interesting green). The second shot uses standard lighting and is accurate for colour, but gives no reflection from the gold leaf – this shot will form the basis of the colour printing. The final image is a combination of the other two and gives an idea of the effect we hope finally to achieve.

Morris SpineWe have also been investigating the best way to replicate the attractive binding. The book was bound by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson at the Doves Bindery and has stylish leather and vellum doublures. The spine lettering was made with hand tools cut in a typeface characteristic of binders tools of the period, but hard to match from fonts available today. I discussed it with Mark Winstanley at the Wyvern Bindery who sought in vain for a match in his extensive tool collection. If anyone can shed light on where the original tools may have ended up I would be most grateful! (Cobden-Sanderson’s notorious final act at the Doves Press was to throw all the printing type into the Thames, but I have not heard that the binder’s tools suffered the same fate.)

Copies of The Poems of Thomas Gray, illustrated with watercolours by William Blake, have now arrived at Folio. I sent one to Scott Wilcox at the Yale Center for British Art (who hold the originals) and he was suitably impressed, pronouncing it ‘absolutely gorgeous’.Van Gogh at the Embassy

We have also received delivery of the Van Gogh Sketchbooks, and the Dutch Embassy very kindly put on a launch event. Advance orders for the books had been so strong that we were virtually sold out already, making the event even more of a celebration. Marije Vellekoop (from the Van Gogh Museum) and I made speeches – here we are exchanging meaningful glances, and here’s another of Marije with Kate, who did the lion’s share of the work on this challenging facsimile.

There was more celebration at the Trollope SocietyTrollope Society annual dinner at the House of Lords. The two main speakers were Lord Cormack and Bishop Rowell. Patrick Cormack is a distinguished politician and long-time Folio member, who also contributed introductions to our Sybil in 1983 and The Book of Common Prayer in 2004. Geoffrey Rowell, who has the resonant title of Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, is very widely travelled and told me some fascinating stories about Ethiopian Christianity. Our plan to publish the first complete edition of Anthony Trollope’s The Duke’s Children was greeted most enthusiastically, not least by his descendant Joanna Trollope (seated to Lord Cormack’s left).

Arabia Deserta indexFinally, a word about Arabia Deserta. While we at Folio are rarely shrinking violets when it comes to extolling the virtues of our books, I don’t think we’ve properly drawn attention to Doughty’s extraordinary index. Not only is it more than 100 pages long, but it contains hundreds of definitions of Arabic words (set in Arabic script which is a major typesetting, and proof-reading challenge) and even contains helpful illustrations. It forms a suitable conclusion to this monumental and idiosyncratic book.

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