THE OLD SCHOOL PRESS

An occasional newsletter

News on progress on forthcoming books and events.
Hinton Charterhouse, Bath, UK

July 2009

 

a new title:
Winter Light

watercolours by Hugh Buchanan and texts by Peter Davidson
 

Autumn 2009

Being published in collaboration with Francis Kyle Gallery


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With Palladio's Homes now bound and ready for purchase, it's a good moment to announce two further titles for 2009. Our first is Winter Light, an opportunity to do a big book with plenty of paper!

Hugh Buchanan has developed a major reputation as a water-colourist with a special interest in interiors, his most recent exhibition at the Francis Kyle Gallery focussing on libraries. In this new title we'll be reproducing fourteen of his water-colours of interiors, ranging in temperature from the autumnal glow of a silent room to a chill and airless corridor in winter.

Buchanan has collaborated before with poet Peter Davidson: their 1985 The Eloquence of Shadows was a volume of architectural meditations in which Davidson provided the text.


Winter Light will present three sets of four of Buchanan's atmospheric watercolours, each with its accompanying text. Each set will appear on four A3 pages that open out from the book as a four-panel spread. The three sets together provide one visual and textual narrative, while a second, purely text, narrative runs on its own through the backs of the folded-in outer pages. It's hard to describe the structure in words but it will be slightly unusual and we hope give a different experience from the conventional codex.

Hugh and I spent a very valuable day last week going through all the images, assessing them on prints from our recently acquired A2 Epson 3800 and making final adjustments for the book. It seemed almost by chance that the final order of the images created the perfect effect of seasonal change: the first set of four images glowing with a late autumnal light, the second four hardening and losing that burnished quality with the onset of winter and more blues coming into play, and the final four almost merging into a January mist. Even the rhythm of portrait/landscape images sorted itself out. So at the end of the day's work we felt things must be right!

We shall be printing the watercolours on a heavy (330gsm) Somerset cotton paper, and using Stephenson Blake's Caslon Old Face - printed letterpress of course - for Peter Davidson's evocative texts. I have already set and proofed a sample page of the outer, text-only narrative and it looks lovely pressed onto the Somerset. I used the 14pt which looks right given the quantity of text, even on the relatively large A3 page; the texts that accompany the watercolours on the 'inner' pages are short and I might just move up to the 18pt to give them the weight they need to balance the watercolours. It seems ages since I have got out my cases of Caslon. There will also be a chance to use a big italic for the title too - if you've got it, flaunt it. I have yet to finalise the binding: given that there is so much colour inside the book it is always dangerous to use (too much) colour on the outside, and yet I hate beige/boring cloths! We shall see . . . 

We expect the edition to be 100 copies with a further 25 not for sale, and there will probably be a pre-publication price for those who would like to be sure of a copy. Do let us know if you think this title might interest you. Subscribers to the Press will receive their usual 15% discount.

 

a new title:
Printing at the Daniel Press

proof sheets from Daniel's press in Oxford tell us about his printing practices
 

November 2009

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Our second new title for this newsletter is one for the train-spotters.


During our researches for The Daniel Press in Frome, David Chambers and I were presented with a paper bag of mostly crumbling newsprint. On inspection it proved to be fifty-three proof sheets from the Daniel Press in Oxford, dating from 1883 to 1897, complete with the Reverend Henry Daniel's pencil corrections. How this gathering of wastepaper-bin contents came to survive is a mystery, but I have not been able to resist examining them in detail and making some observations about the printing practices of that authentic and original amateur private press printer. Comparison of the proof sheets with the books as finally issued tells us quite a lot about what he spotted and what he did not!

My last foray into the dusty corners of printing history was with Oxford's Ornaments, which covered the typographical ornaments that have come down to Oxford University Press, in particular from John Fell's time in the seventeenth century. Cautiously I printed 123 copies, and they all went pretty much before publication. This corner of printing history feels even dustier so I plan no more than 100 copies. If you are interested, do let me know. It will not be a large book - perhaps 24pp - but I shall have it case-bound, probably with a couple of photographs of some of the materials concerned. I hope to have it at least on display at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in November. The text is, as I type, with a couple of readers, so I am hoping to get the copy away to Stan Lane at Gloucester Typesetting shortly.

The text will be in 12pt Spectrum, and I shall use the Hunt Roman (recently inherited from the Rampant Lions Press) for display. When I acquired the Hunt in its three sizes (14, 18, and 24pt) I read the designer Hermann Zapf's words about it and discovered that the brief from the Hunt Botanical Library for whom it was designed was that it should be usable as a display face for their house-face, Monotype Spectrum, as well as function on its own for text. So here is an opportunity to use it as intended. As for paper, I have a small stock of an antique Turkey Mill wove which will suit it well.

Part of the book will be a listing of the proof sheets and something about each, in particular which errors Daniel marked on the sheets, which he missed, and so on. The best way to present this is as a table, which means tabular setting on the Monotype. Stan Lane is looking forward to it! I finally returned the type for Palladio's Homes to him this week and took the opportunity to talk through the setting with him - I always set up a version on my PC to look much as it will in type. He delights in anything out of the ordinary: our book Harry Carter, Typographer contained a considerable bibliography, with all the detailed complexity that that entails, not least a variety of foreign languages - this was nothing to Stan who once set dictionaries for a living. His accuracy when setting the Italian in Palladio's Homes was also extraordinary - when you are keying a text on the Monotype all that happens is that a spool of punched blue paper tape emerges - no feedback on a screen in front of you so that you can see what you have keyed! You don't know that until the metal is cast.

   

Miscellany

including: bargains, tables, and beasts in the pressroom
 

This newsletter is already too long but I'll try your patience with just a handful of notes.
 


We recently sold the last copy of The Bricks of Venice. A number of our past titles are out of print, but we have bought in copies of a couple (Punting to Islip and The Fruits of Jane Austen) which are for sale, and we also have some out-of-series copies of The Bricks of Venice at a reduced price.

5 September sees the annual Whittington Press Open Day and we shall be there with our table selling not only books but also some ephemera, some type, and other odds and ends.


And finally, following my note about mice lodging in over winter our typecases here, I received the following from Crispin Elsted who, with wife Jan, operates the Barbarian Press in the wilds of British Columbia: 'We live virtually in the woods, so we do have visitors frequently, especially in the winter when they come in for warmth. They are remarkably adroit at finding ways into type frames, and I've become adept myself at foiling them, but they do manage it still. On one occasion I opened a case to discover a mouse's nest in the 'h' box with several little pink babies in it. I closed the case gently and a couple of weeks later, when I opened it again, they were gone -- presumably at college by that time. Another time, in our old press room (which was prone to flooding) I pulled out a case near the floor and a small bright green frog jumped out (scaring the bejeezus out of me, I might add) and bounded indignantly toward the door, which I courteously opened for him (or her). . . . And just last week, using the Hammond saw in front of the big windows which look into the woods at the back of the present shop, I had a strange feeling of being watched: when I looked up, there was a black bear looking inquisitively through the window at me, about five feet away.'


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Copyright Martyn Ould 2009