Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Next year is a big year for centenaries, several of which we are commemorating with new books. Rupert Brooke died in 1915, on a troopship in the Mediterranean, and we are marking the occasion with a letterpress volume of his poetry, illustrated with real lithographs by Ed Kluz, printed at The Curwen Studio. We have become so used to digital technology these days that it requires quite a mental shift to adapt to the hands-on nature of traditional lithography. Here is Ed drawing some additional detail onto a piece of film: although he is working in black, the result will be printed in red. I find it mind-boggling that he can envisage the effect of every mark, especially when the colours are overlaid. And here is the hand of Andrew the printer, developing a printing plate: this too is a process requiring considerable skill and experience, to judge when the lines have reached the perfect strength. These photos were taken during the proofing process – I hope to report on the actual printing very soon.
As any fule kno, 2015 is also the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta by bad King John. Personally, I feel that history has been harsh in its judgement of this monarch, particularly since he had the good taste to make a grant of land to my ancestor Robert of Ainsdale (whose grandson was the first in the family to take the name Blundell). This deed is the oldest in our archive, and bears the seal which, though badly worn, is recognisably the same as that on Magna Carta. Among the witnesses were the improbably named Walter Maltravers Ingelard de Pratel and the even more outrageous Fulk de Cantelo duke de Trubblevill.
A couple of weeks ago we held a launch for The Herefordshire Pomona in the delightful rural setting of Dewsall Court near Hereford. The cider and perry makers were out in force, some of them bringing boxes of fruit to decorate the room. I concluded the event by presenting a copy of our edition to Mrs Jean O’Donnell MBE, the president of The Woolhope Club – the institution who had put such effort and expense into the original edition back in the 1880s. On the left of the photo is James Crowden, poet and cidermaker, who made a brilliant speech, and on the right is Major Patrick Darling High Sheriff of Herefordshire, who introduced the event.
Finally, here is an astonishing piece of book-art by Brian Dettmer. Brian spent a week as artist-in-residence at Shandy Hall, and his project was to transform copies of Tristram Shandy into a new artwork. He chose The Folio Society edition for this enterprise, perhaps because of John Lawrence’s marvellous engravings, and the carefully crafted randomness of the result is absolutely in the spirit of the book. Like all the best book art it provokes, intrigues and encourages one back to the book itself.
PS – for those of you not already aware of The Gentle Author, here is a link to an entertaining and extremely useful list of printing terminology he posted recently. Next time you are speculating on the difference between bottle-necked and bottle-arsed, or wonder what are the ingredients of floor pie, you’ll find the answer here!