25 July, 2007

The early camera catches the light!

If The Old Stile Press was looking for a design for a new flag, this would be rather jolly!

Having had to get out of bed a bit earlier than usual in order to provide a cup of coffee to staying friends with a plane to catch, I realized that the rising sun was further to the north than I usually get to see. It was a gloriously gold and blue day (all the more wonderful after weeks of eternal rain - although we have been spared the horrors that have befallen the wretchedly flooded folk near the Severn and the Thames) and this sculpture was showing itself off to perfection.

It is by our friend Nigel Cann who also did the calligraphy for

Be Still
twelve haiku from the valley of the Wye

It is made of limestone and glass and looks very fine even when the sun is not shining. The only problem has been that there is nowhere that the sculpture can be sited where it can be seen from the house AND shone through by mid-morning sun, for that Chartres experience . . .

. . . unless you have to make early-morning coffee for departing visitors on a glorious day!

21 July, 2007

"The Fine Bindery" is dead. Long live "The Fine Book Bindery"!

For most of our books, we at The Old Stile Press are responsible for every aspect of their making except for the paper and the binding . . . and sometimes Frances even makes the paper.

For very many years the physical aspects of our bindings have been dealt with by our friends at The Fine Bindery at Wellingborough . . . as our colophon pages testify. There will be problems from time to time with any relationship like this but, all in all, the folk there have been wonderful to us . . . responsible for beautifully formed bindings at reasonable cost, imaginative and patient responses to my more wacky ideas and creative suggestions as to how they might be made possible to realize.

In recent months we have known there to have been problems but we are thrilled and relieved to hear that a phoenix has risen from the ashes and that, given a following wind, and all the support that can be given them, the slightly renamed ship is again on the high seas with most of its original crew still at their posts . . . eg Kevin!

We are happy to say that Black Marigolds was one of the first books to be bound by the new outfit and the new 'knights in shining armour', Patrick and Frances (or 'Hickey'), were kind enough to drive the books over themselves. We do wish them luck.

NB. I must reassure you that the jokey graffito you see on the side of the van was added by me with my new tablet rather than for real!

06 July, 2007

How I wish this book was one of ours! . . . 5

Although the majority of the books we have discovered over the years and now treasure were published in the UK, there have always been some (from the US or from Europe, say) that have caught our attention and have made sure that the rule was broken.

One such is Macao et Cosmage which I have long thought one of the most special and entirely delightful books that we have come across. Edy Legrand, who wrote and illustrated the book, enjoyed a long and full career as an artist and illustrator but this book, published in 1919 (when Legrand was hardly out of his teens) seems to me to be a simply staggering achievement.

Consulting Google to find his birthdate (1892), I find that I am by no means alone in my admiration! Lower down this post, I shamelessly steal the description of the book from one bookseller and, having taken photos of lots of pages to share with you, the first thing I come upon is a site where one devotee has posted THE ENTIRE BOOK!

Everything about the book is joyous but it is the style of drawing and, above all, the colour that raise it to such a high level - for what was apparently a cheap childrens' book. Much of the colour printing at that time was pretty pale and insipid so this must have been a great excitement. In case any readers are unfamiliar with the word 'pochoir', this was a colouring method where any number of colours were added to a black (or whatever) printed base BY HAND, using watercolour-charged brushes guided by stencils usually cut by the artist. The technique enjoyed various high points through the 20th century and is still occasionally used nowadays but usually (in my jaundiced opinion) in a pale, safe and decorative way which is nothing like the glory to be found on the pages in Macao and Cosmage!

DO, by the way, click on the pages to enlarge. You can see the images better and, especially, the wonderful hand lettering.

EDY-LEGRAND, [Edouard-Leon-Louis].

Macao et Cosmage ou L'Experience de Bonheur.
Square folio, pictorial boards coloured by pochoir. [54 pp. (including pastedowns).] Each page extravagantly illustrated and coloured by pochoir.
First Edition of the first book by the young artist whose illustrations, paintings, and decorations for cruise ships and Parisian boutiques had a great influence on the development of Art Deco. Appearing shortly after the end of the Great War, this satiric parable concerns the two title characters who live in idyllic bliss on a lush island that is abruptly discovered and despoiled by the forces of modern civilization. The large plates are colored by luscious pochoir in a range from monochrome to rainbows of bright colors. Printed on the rear cover, the colophon reads: "Acheve d'imprimer le 30 novembre 1919 sur papier Lafuma bar Bellenand, Fontenay-aux-Roses. Colorie a la main par [Jean] Saude - Paris."

01 July, 2007

Benjamin Britten's "A Christmas Sequence"

One of the most exciting and yet daunting stages in the process of our book building is when we take over from an artist the blocks which we know have taken months if not years for him or her complete.

Recently, on the way to Glasgow for an all too rare visit to our four vivacious grandchildren (and their parents!) we drove through the beautiful Border country to see and and take some photographs of Angela Lemaire and eventually to take over from her three huge boxes of woodblocks.

These cannot be worked on for some time because of other books in the queue but I cannot resist posting one or two proofs because I think they are absolutely fine and I cannot wait to start work!

The book is . . .

A Christmas Sequence: chosen by Benjamin Britten from the Chester Mystery Cycle. With an Introduction by Dr. Andrew Plant and Woodcuts by Angela Lemaire.

[one of the woodblocks and the print that comes from it]

In 1974, Britten worked on this powerful and finely structured text, designed to be the basis of a dramatic production along the lines of Noye's Fludde. Sadly his ill-health prevented all but a tiny amount of musical composition for the project and the composer died in 1976. His 'second draft' will be printed here for the first time.