13 March, 2015

"Exquisite Editions" at The National Print Museum, Dublin

Over in Dublin there is a very lively print museum where there are inspirational workshops for children and adults to learn about the creative processes involved in the making of a book surrounded by the type and presses collected together from letterpress print shops.

At present there is an exhibition which runs round the gallery above this active print shop entitled Exquisite Editions. Around thirty books are displayed which have come from active presses around the world who continue to use presses such as those on show in the museum striving for the highest possible standards and using high quality materials.

The books have been selected by a Dublin printer, Jamie Murphy, who has his own press The Salvage Press where he creates  his own very finely printed editions.  This is a version of The Battle of Maldon with wood engravings by Simon Brett.

There are showcases for the display and hanging above each is a description of the press involved in the making of the book on show and the details of the book itself. It has been curated with great care and obvious love for the many ways in which books can come into being.

We were delighted that Jamie Murphy chose Angela Lemaire's A Christmas Sequence which was photographed at the show and put on Facebook so that we may share it with you here.

05 February, 2015

enfolding . . .

 During much of 1997, a 'studio' was formed from a sheet of plastic lashed to a number of trees in a birch grove surrounded by fields at Catchmays Court and the sculptor, Matt Baker, could be found carving away for hours a day at a sizeable chunk of reddish 'forest stone' which had been chosen and imported from a nearby quarry that has been in operation since Roman times.

The figure that eventually emerged from this stone can be seen in all these photographs. All the stones that surround him had been there for probably hundreds of years. Some were left just as they were but many others were moved, by Matt and various helpers, so as to form the low walls of an enclosure with the figure more or less in its centre.

 The figure can be interpreted in numerous ways. He is clearly emerging from the ground itself and the element that partly envelops his naked body can be read, depending on the angle of your vision, as a piece of material, a hollow tree or a solid rock.

 In the words of the sculptor, While in the the process of becoming and emerging from its surroundings, a figure is seen in the process of beginning a gesture. The weight of the body is focussed behind the right hand, as the hand intends a sweep outwards and around to echo the shape of the enclosure.

 Just as the figure is becoming, from out of the folds of the place, so he is conjuring the folding from the outset.

 The sheep may or may not have a sense of all this but what they DO know is that 'creative' hand is absolutely fantastic for rubbing the part of their back that they simply cannot reach!

For that was the starting point of this post for me. It was agreed with Matt, from the very beginning, that the sheep who roam these fields should be very much part of the sculpture . . . hence its name. The fact is that cohorts of the creatures come and go as the seasons go by and they all seem to develop different behaviour patterns . . . particularly as to where they go to get out of the wind. Some cluster around the base of a Western Red Cedar, and some in the corner at the foot of a large Pin Oak.

This morning, however, blisteringly cold in the wind but with bright sun, the whole troop was using the sculpture's area in just the way that had been planned for. I just had to go for my camera!

30 January, 2015

Iconic French poem translated with stunning images

New Publication
At the beginning of January 2015 we sent out a notice to those who have opted into our mailing list about this exciting book which brings the ground-breaking French poem by Blaise Cendrars to English readers in a translation by Dick Jones together with stunning imagery by Natalie d'Arbeloff. Almost within the first day all the copies of the special edition were spoken for and the main edition is being sent off to some very prestigious libraries. We repeat that newsletter for those who may have missed it or not opened their email that day!

 poem by Blaise Cendrars
translated into English by Dick Jones
with imagery by Natalie d’Arbeloff

This extraordinary epic poem - known for short as the Trans-Sib, given its deliberately awkward and cumbersome title - was written by Blaise Cendrars in 1913. It is a compound of the literal and the surreal, a breathless travelogue, historical commentary and dreamscape narrative.

His daughter, Miriam Gilou Cendrars, writes for this edition a note about the importance of Cendrars’ work to modern poetry of the twentieth century. She has enthusiastically praised this translation and has encouraged us throughout in our labours toward the realization of our dreams and hopes for this edition.

 The poet had been in Russia in 1905 at the time of unrest followed by the Sino-Russian war and the dramatic incidents which occur on the journey he makes (in the company of his lover, Jeanne) may well have happened to him. As an impressionable young man he imparts a sense of vivid truth, writing of these historical events in minute detail.  

  This vivid truth is also powerful in Dick Jones’ translation into English of the poet’s original text in French. As he writes of the poem - ‘the narrative itself is presented in a refreshingly direct and simple style, breaking entirely with the traditional conventions of verse form and its graphic literality is punctuated by passages of lambent and dreamlike imagery, prefiguring by 40 years the experimentation of the Beat poets in Cendrars’ beloved United States.

 Dick Jones and Natalie d’Arbeloff were both equally excited by Cendrars' writing and together created a rhythmic, pounding fusion of image and words retelling this journey across Russia on the famous Trans-Siberian railway. Cendrars' account of this journey has been immensely influential on the literature of the twentieth century especially in Europe. It deserves to be better known beyond the French-speaking world.

  The translator continues to work on other poems by Cendrars and for those unfamiliar with the work he has created a Facebook page for Blaise Cendrars which is well worth exploration.

2015 48pp. 335 x 355mm

Main Edition: ISBN 978-0-907664-92-5   150 copies numbered and signed by artist and translator    £295 (plus p&p) 

Special Edition:  ten copies for sale  The book is placed in a drop-back box together with a portfolio containing four images printed and hand coloured by the artist.Two are taken from the book and two were made especially for this Special Edition (see below). Each is individually signed and numbered by the artist.            £1350 (plus p&p) 

The paper is Canaletto Liscio 160gsm. Typeface is Storm Sans. In the printing of the text, twenty-four different colours of ink were chosen, employed at random. The suite of vinyl cut images are printed directly from Natalie d’Arbeloff’s original blocks. The book was case-bound at The Fine Book Bindery with papers designed by the artist and the lined slipcase and the Box containing the Special Edition is blocked with an image of Cendrars. 

22 August, 2014

Shortlisted among the Glitterati Goliaths

Surprises sometimes come in the daily welter of email - although  most is unwanted.
Recently an email arrived telling us of the British Book Design and Production Awards 2014 - only a few days left to enter it said. Among the fifteen categories of different aspects of design and production it seemed there is one for Limited Editions and Private Presses.

Why not! We produce books that fulfil all their criteria and so, although we have never been much excited by competitions and the like, we submitted Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing.

Given the standing of the country's great publishing and printing houses we would be a veritable David among the Goliaths but it is a beautiful book and perhaps there would be appreciative judges who would recognise its worth.


So - we are more than happy so be able to say that it has been shortlisted in the category . . . along with Phaidon, Canongate and Northend (who printed our second Bibliography).

There was a form to fill in listing every possible stage of a book’s production and they needed to know the names of all those by which these were performed. In our case, of course, there were only two names to fill in . . .  Nicolas and Ralph Kiggell . . . until it came to binding and then, of course, The Fine Bookbindery was inserted.

November 20th is the day when there is a ‘glittering event for all those involved in the industry, bringing printer, designers and their clients together to celebrate the best of British book design and production work’. More than possibly David will have succumbed beneath the combined weight of so many greats but it is good to know that some significant judges from among the higher reaches of design and book publishing have enjoyed The Old Stile Press’s entry sufficiently to shortlist it.

28 July, 2014

Keats and calligraphy

Although we are extremely pleased with how our recent publications have turned out and proud of our involvement with the projects and their artists, one could say that they have been weighty in content and spirit . . . as well as in their physical manifestation!

A bit of a change, therefore . . . and (at least, for now!) a lightening-up at The Old Stile Press.

This all started when we first had the pleasure of meeting the calligrapher, Andy Moore, at a book fair. I have always been much taken with the craft but much prefer the work to be colourful and loose rather than perfect and po-faced. I have also long had a wish lodged in my mind that I might one day discuss with an amenable practitioner the possibility of 'editioning' calligraphy work in some way through the medium of letterpress printing.

The work that surrounded Andy on his stall was very skilfully made but full of wit and almost reckless invention. Pious saws and holy quotes were thin on the ground in favour of writings about artists and fascinating places, quotes from tombstones and collaged photographs taking their place alongside deliciously free and swoopy lettering - not minding the flicks of ink that seemed the entirely appropriate byproduct of the energy with which he had worked.

I was enchanted and over-joyed, when we got together later, that Andy was as keen as I was to experiment into means of bringing us together on a project.

Some experiments followed and soon the search was on for a text. I cannot remember, as usual, quite where this idea came from but it has turned out to be just perfect for our happy jaunt . . . alongside the youthful John Keats and his "A Song About Myself", sent with a letter to his young sister during a homesickness-ruined stay in Edinburgh.

 So . . . we have made the book and it is, at present, with the binder. I have been able to photograph a first copy and here are some shots.


The Main Edition of the book consists of 150 copies. There is also a Special Edition of 12 copies - 10 copies for sale. For this, the book is enclosed in a solander box, shown below, which also houses a portfolio in which are to be found all the actual artwork used in the making of a pair of facing pages in the book AND a sheet of original calligraphed work . . . a further piece of Keats created by Andy Moore afresh for each copy of the Special Edition.

The only things I cannot give here are the prices of the two editions. Watch this space!

So . . . thank you Andy. This has been good fun. It has also been a good and successful experiment for me and I hope that it might lead on to future collaborations.

21 July, 2014

Painting the lily . . .

. . . and gilding the burnished gold!

I am always happy when the sweet peas are on the go. This morning, as I approached the sunny wall to relieve the plants of today's crop (pour encourager les autres!) I saw that the flowers (already, in my opinion, one of the most perfect in their simple beauty) were jewelled with water drops, from dew or from last night's thunder storms. 

I was about to post [sorry to have been so quiet for so long] about our exciting up-coming new book, but I could not resist rushing for the camera and heaping upon you an armful of these images. Happy Summer!

14 May, 2014

Olympia here we come

Our prestigious and successful five-week exhibition in the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay is now over but there are other places where we shall be taking books this year. First will be the  London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia from 22 to 24 May.

 Our stand there is in the LIVE! section and during the course of the event we are offering three talks about our work.
On Thursday: How Gutenberg inspired the design of a book; which focuses on Angela Lemaire's Jubilate Agno (around 5pm)
on Friday: Printing letterpress from woodcut and polymer. A discussion of direct 3-dimensional printing of original work by contemporary artists; focusing on Ralph Kiggell's The Third Thing and on the latest book with John Abell -  The Diary of a Dead Officer
on Saturday: Making paper for printing a book which showcases The Affectionate Shepheard with paper handmade by Frances McDowall.

Among the bookbinders

The world of bookbinding has become more and more visible with many wonderful exhibitions in recent times and we were delighted that Dominic Riley won the Paul Getty prize for a binding on a book with a Shakespearean theme with our Pyramus & Thisbe.
In May a tour of the work of designer bookbinders working in the UK and US will begin at St Bride’s in London. Entitled InsideOUT the exhibition will have 65 books produced by private presses on both sides of the Atlantic and promises to be spectacular judging by the splendid catalogue. A number of Old Stile books have been selected and it will be good to see these bindings go off to the USA, starting at:
Houghton Library, Cambridge MA 11 September - 13 December 2014;
Minnesota Center for Book Arts 10 January - 28 March 2015;
Bonhams, New York 10-19 April 2015;
San Francisco Center for the Book 6 June - 5 July 2015

Later, in June, there will be a Society of Bookbinders Training Seminar at Cirencester Agricultural College and we shall be there on Friday 27 June 8.30 am - 7 pm with unbound copies of many of our books for binders to choose from. It is always good to be able to see and feel the physical presence of a book before embarking on a a binding - so much time is invested and choosing from a website (however detailed) is not the same! Hence we have for many years taken copies to such conferences. Do let us know before the event if there is any particular title you know you would like to see.

There will be unbound copies of our latest book The Diary of a Dead Officer available at £200 - from this Fair or from us direct.

01 May, 2014

By popular demand - or something!

If you have been prevented by matters of State from visiting the Old Stile Press' exhibition at Futures Gallery, Pierhead Building, Cardiff Bay at any time during the past month . . . 

. . . we can offer the happy news that the show has been extended for a week. It can indeed be visited at any time until Thursday 8th May 2014.

All welcome!