A title from The Old School Press 

Lowlands Away

An oratorio in ten parts by Adrian Henri with pastel images by Adrian Henri

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About the book

In print

To provide an early focus for its work in printing poetry, The Old School Press published a series of five books, each consisting of new work by a contemporary British poet, accompanied by illustrations by British artists.

Adrian Henri wrote ten poems as texts for an oratorio by Richard Gordon-Smith for soloists, chorus and orchestra, which has recently been recorded on CD by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. It tells the story of the loss at sea of the Thames and Medway barge Cynthia, commanded by the composer's great-grandfather, a century before in 1896, and of his last words to his wife, cast into the sea in a bottle and subsequently forwarded to her.

In 2000, at the Six Chapel Row contemporary art gallery in Bath, I discovered that Adrian was also an artist and indeed had trained as one, and it seemed an ideal opportunity to have a poet's work in two forms in the same book. To that end there are eight images, reproduced by four-colour litho at the Senecio Press from Adrian's vibrant pastels. These drawings were the last that Adrian made, in hospital, before his death at the beginning of 2001 - sadly, he never saw the book in its final form, and indeed a couple of the images were unfinished. Yet they are full of life and vigour.

About the edition

The book follows the binding style of the series: quarter-bound with yellow cloth on the spine, with a hand-made paper from the Larroque mill covering the boards, this time a mottled celadon colour, black Canson end-papers, and the title embossed in gold on the front cover. The text has been printed in 14pt Monotype Gill Sans on Rivoli paper. 32pp. There are 410 copies, 64. (There were forty sets of sheets for binders (all sold).)

In 2022 the Hand Bookbinders of California chose Lowlands Away as the set book for their 50th anniversary. The fabulous work of seventeen binders can be viewed here, and there was an online presentation of the bindings by the binders on YouTube. Some bindings are featured here through the button below.

Find out more about the book

View one of Adrian Henri's images

View designer bindings of this book

Find out about other titles in the series - click on the green blobs

Desmond Post (out of print)

David Burnett

James Kirkup

Adrian Henri

Andrew Motion


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Copyright Martyn Ould 2023