Tintern Abbey from inside the nave.
It all started with our trip to England, back in October 2008. Holly and I took a rambling jaunt around the English countryside that took us from Land’s End to Yorkshire. Along the way we dipped into Wales while following the Wye River, stayed in a village called Llandago and visited with Nicolas and Frances McDowall of Old Stile Press who live just up the road from the ruins of Tintern Abbey. About 10 years go they created a simply lovely book of the poem. All their books are stunning – hand printed sometimes on paper made on site. They have an image rich website worth exploring!
The lane way to Old Stile Press, mer-person sculpture at the hairpin.
I liked Nicholas’ idea of being a ‘book builder’, of using letterpress, fine papers and bindings as an elegantly designed platform for presenting art – both in the design of the book, and in the overt and integral use of art as illustration. I think it would be over-wrought to say that the visit changed my life, but it greatly influenced the direction I intended to take Greyweathers Press. The trip to England came at a time when I was doing some heavy thinking about printing, books, writing, art and, not to be ignored, making a living! Not that I was planning to pack it in, but there are many applications for letterpress and I believe it helps to focus. The visit to Old Stile, and three or four other likewise inspirational destinations including Eagle Press, Strawberry Press and St. Bride Library in London, provided the needed inspiration to carry on printing books.
Contemplating books, printing and art amongst the ruins. The scenic Wye River Valley that inspired Wordsworth can be seen beyond the windows.
Unlike Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, Holly and I didn’t walk “the sportive wood run wild.” Rather we stuck mostly to A466, and wandered leisurely through the roofless splendor of Tintern Abbey. The ruins of the Abbey served only to act as part of the title of Wordsworth’s poem, simply to locate him in context for his reader. However, for me they connected influential literary aspects of my distant past with present passions, forming a sort of conduit resulting ultimately in our take on Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey, making it, I suppose, the press’ legacy of our England tour.
The smallest room in Tintern Abbey was the library, about the size of a walk-in closet.