Posted tagged ‘Romantic poets’

Remembering Tintern Abbey

May 5, 2012

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.

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Typesetting Begins on Tintern Abbey

January 29, 2012

I cleaned up the press room and then got out the lead to begin setting type on the next book, a fine press version of Tintern Abbey. In spite of having already played with some ideas on the computer, I still changed the size and style of the introduction title (10 pt italic caps from 14 pt roman small caps), and had already consulted the the bible (Robert Bringhurst’s Elements of Typographic Style) for some guiding doctrine. And that’s just one line into it!

The letters ‘INTERN ABBEY’ are set in 12 pt small caps, and you guessed it, the missing “T” will show up curing another printing in red (or green) as a raised capital, probably 18 pt. The third word in (first) brought me quickly to another quandry: to use dipthongs, or not to use dipthongs, that is the question. And Hamlet thought he had it bad. The dipthongs in my font of Italian Oldstyle include fused versions of “st”, “ct” “oe” and “ae”. Ligatures (ffi, fi, ffl, fl, ff) are standard in the font and in common use, but dipthongs can be consider a bit twee, if not downright pretentious. Since the poem is getting on over two hundred years old, I think I can get away with dipthongs, so the word “first” is made up of just three pieces of lead, the “r” being the only single character.

My original plan was to fully justify the text, but when I examined my reasons for doing so it came pretty much down to “cuz I want to” which is not necessarily acceptable. I took some time earlier today and flipped though my own small collection of finely printed books, and noticed that in most of these (but not all) designers fully justified the text block when the block was quite large, perhaps as wide as 6″. Most of the smaller books had flush left, or jagged right if you will. It looks better in these books, so I’m fairly certain it will in Tintern Abbey. I’ll know when I proof the first spread of type. These other fine presses were using smaller type, which may be a factor. (Note to self: pick up a truck load of 10 pt type in next type order!)

The introduction is written by Queen’s University Professor Mark Jones, and I expect it may be the first time his words have ever been set in metal.

Wordsworth for Wayzgoose

March 20, 2011

This year, and as per tradition, at the last moment, I set about to design and print our modest submission to the annual Grimsby Wayzgoose Anthology.

I wanted to try a few ideas around the upcoming Wordsworth book, and a designer title page done in multiple passes using lead type, not magnesium plates.

So here’s the result of the first pass:

And lined up on the press for the second pass:

And after the second pass, including the back page colophon:

Then the third pass, in red:

And then the fourth pass in red to finish the cover:

A fifth and sixth pass for the inside spread, one for the illustration, the other for the text:

It gives Tintern Abbey a rather spooky feel, does it not! I like it. Holly’s design, my cutting work.

But not done yet! Holly insisted I print the Greyweathers Press logo on the back between the colophon and the copyright line. So a seventh pull, at 150 copies made for 1,050 impressions, not including proofs and test runs.

That’s just four pages. Just wait until I print the entire book!

Tintern Abbey

February 25, 2011

Planning has begun on our next book, Tintern Abbey, the celebrated poem by a celebrated poet, William Wordsworth.

Wordsworth is not my favourite Romantic poet. In fact, Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and Byron all line up ahead, but he was probably more important than the others to the whole notion of Romanticism in the early 19th century.

In October of 2008, Holly and I saw the ruins of the abbey, and they are indeed wonderful, but they do not warrant even a mention in the poem. However, many critics believe the meaning-laden layers of the poem conceal the spirit of the place.

I hope to have the book finished by June, for the Ottawa Book Arts Show. Here’s a sneak peak at the progress so far:

Hey, ya gotta start somewhere!


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