‘Extracts. Supplied by a sub-sub-librarian.’ The Melville bicentenary commemoration printing

Libraries and literary institutions around the world in 2019 marked 200 years since Herman Melville’s birth with readings and conferences appreciating his work. At Bodleian Special Collections we took the opportunity to call again on letterpress printers around the world, who provided Shakespeare’s Sonnets in 2016, to celebrate Melville in similar fashion.

Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan, in front of the Weston Library display, ‘Very Like a Whale,’ 15 Nov 2019.  The author hosted a screening of the Arena documentary, The Hunt for Moby-Dick, at the Weston Library. Photo: Cyrus Mower

The text was a section of Moby-Dick often overlooked by readers, part of the preliminaries in which Melville introduces the multifarious themes of the work. Eighty extracts are arranged approximately chronologically.  Melville writes of his fictional sub-sub-librarian: ‘this mere painstaking burrower and grubworm … appears to have gone through the long Vaticans and street-stalls of the earth, picking up whatever random allusions to whales he could anyways find in any book.’ And yet, stealthily, these extracts of everything from the Bible to ‘Nantucket songs’ build a dramatic foreshadowing of the destiny of Ishmael and his shipmates.

They bear testimony to the value of collections encompassing a wide variety of texts — devotional works, learned legal treatises, great literature and sea shanties. To join its copy of the first (London) edition published under the title The Whale, the Bodleian now holds a new, collective, version of this section of Melville’s famous novel.

The bulk of the prints received are reproduced here. It is impossible to convey in digital images the quality of the craft and the satisfying variety of the physical items received.  One detail must stand for the excellence of these pieces; it is from Richard Kegler’s Extract 13.

Richard Kegler, P22 Press, Rochester, NY; detail from Extract 13: Tanned fish skin printed in silver ink. “Bubbles” printed with wood type dots and Os from 48pt Zeppelin Type.

In addition to printing using various methods (see No. 49) and materials (see No. 13), the printers have incorporated into their works (sometimes literally, see No. 63) the publishing history of Moby-Dick, the ecological crisis of the oceans, awareness of historical racism and the dangerous pace of human exploitation of natural resources on land and in the oceans. Melville’s choice of sources did not go beyond the publication year of the novel in 1851, but many of the themes remain current. To update the ‘Extracts,’ the Bodleian gladly accepted an offer from the volunteers of The National Museum of Computing, to print additional ‘Extracts’ about whales, using their collection of 20th-century printers.

The first extract, from the St James Park Press, begins the series with the title, ‘Moby Dick Extracts’.

Extract 1 James Freemantle, St. James Park Press, London
1. ‘‘And God created great whales.’ – Genesis. // James Freemantle, St James Park Press, London. Wood-engraving by Garrick Palmer.
2. ‘Leviathan maketh a path to shine after him; One would think the deep to be hoary.’ – Job.  //Samantha King, Red Eel Press, Leeds. ‘Letterpress printed on a Farley No.11 proofing press; Kitakata Natural made in Japan, 33gsm; Centaur, 12pt. Stock: Canson Mi-Tientese, slate grey, 160gsm; Ornamental border: Monotype 319/320, 24pt. This border is not only the pressmark of the Red Eel Press but if you look closely … it is full of Leviathan/whales’
5. ‘In that day, the Lord with his sore, and great, and strong sword, shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.’ – Isaiah.  //  Peter Cartwright and Ann Pillar, The Lock-up Press, Walsall. Letterpress on 100gsm orange cartridge using a variety of wood and metal type. On a Farley proofing press (c. 1955)
6. ‘The Indian Sea breedeth the most and the biggest fishes that are: among which the Whales and Whirlpooles called Balæne, take up as much in length as four acres or arpens of land.’ – Holland’s Pliny. // Rosie Fairfax-Cholmeley, The Wytham Studio, Oxford
9. ‘He visited this country also with a view of catching horse-whales, which had bones of very great value for their teeth, of which he brought some to the king.  *  *  *  The best whales were catched in his own country, of which some were forty-eight, some fifty yards long. He said that he was one of six who had killed sixty in two days.’ – Other or Octher’s verbal narrative taken down from his mouth by King Alfred, A.D. 890.  //  Iain Potter, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative. Linocut; Pfeffer Mediaeval; 1828 Albion Relief Press. Extract in Anglo-Saxon, image incorporating the Alfred Jewel.
10. ‘And whereas all the other things, whether beast or vessel, that enter into the dreadful gulf of this monster’s (whale’s) mouth, are immediately lost and swallowed up, the sea-gudgeon retires into it in great security, and there sleeps.’ – Montaigne’s Apology for Raimond Sebond.  // Emily Martin, Iowa. Letterpress and pastepaint; Type: Baskerville; Paper: Johannot paper
11. ‘Let us fly, let us fly! Old Nick take me if is not Leviathan described by the noble prophet Moses in the life of patient Job.’ – Rabelais. // photo from Michael Simons, Devil’s Pi Press
12. ‘This whale’s liver was two cart-loads.’ – Stowe’s Annals. // Brian Wood, Dogs and Stars Press
13. ‘The great Leviathan that maketh the seas to seethe like boiling pan.’ – Lord Bacon’s Version of the Psalms. // Richard Kegler, P22 Press, Rochester, NY. Letterpress printed on Curious Cosmic Pulsar Red stock with a Vandercook Universal III. Tanned fish skin printed in silver ink. “Bubbles” printed with wood type dots and Os from 48pt Zeppelin Type. Quote hand-set in 14pt American Uncial. Colophon printed in 8pt Oldstyle Extended.
14. ‘Touching that monstrous bulk of the whale or ork we have received nothing certain. They grow exceeding fat, insomuch that an incredible quantity of oil will be extracted out of one whale.’ – Lord Bacon, History of Life and Death. // Robert Rowe, Gold Quoin Press, Peoria, Illinois. Linoleum Cut, Hand-set lead type, photopolymer plate, and drypoint engraving; Typeface: Goudy Oldstyle, Printed on a Vandercook #4. Drypoint was included in this piece as a reference to scrimshaw, a traditional art form among the whalers.
15. ‘The sovereignest thing on earth is parmacetti for an inward bruise.’ – King Henry. // Jessica Spring, Springtide Press, Tacoma
16. ‘Very like a whale.’ – Hamlet.  // Adam Smyth, The 39 Step Press, Elsfield. Read about the process here. https://www.39steppress.co.uk/very-like-a-whale
18. ‘Immense as whales, the motion of whose vast bodies can in a peaceful calm trouble the ocean till it boil.’ – Sir William Davenant’s Preface to Gondibert.  //  Alexandra Chappell and Jeff Groves, The First-floor Press, Claremont Colleges Library, California. Printed on a cast-iron hand press from hand-set metal type. Columbian hand-press, manufactured by R Ritchie & Son, Edinburgh, c. 1850. 1/2 of the edition printed on Somerset Satin White and 1/2 printed on Stonehenge Grey. Extract and colophon types: 48, 24, 14 10 point Baskerville. Whalestrom types: 72pt Baskerville lower case; 48pt Baskerville lower case; 48pt Alt Gothic caps; 36pt Cloister Text caps; 36pt Cheltenham Condensed caps; 30pt Lydian caps; 24pt Thompson Quill Script caps; 24pt Caslon 540 caps; 24pt Bodoni Book italic lower case; 18pt unlabeled gothic; 18pt Shaded Scroll; 18pt Goudy modern lower case; 18pt Banker Gothic; 14pt Cloister Text caps; 14pt Bodoni italic caps; 14pt Baskerville caps; 12tp Lydian caps; 12pt Large Comstock; 12pt Gothic Outlline; 10pt Typewriter caps; 8pt Baskerville small cap.
Printing of Extract 18: detail of the ‘whalestrom’ on the press.
19. ‘What spermacetti is, men might justly doubt, since the learned Hosmannus in his work of thirty years, saith plainly, Nescio quid sit.’ – Sir T. Browne’s Of Sperma Ceti and the Sperma Ceti Whale. Vide his V. E.  // Michael and Tia Hurley, Titivilus Press, Memphis, Tennessee. Designed in InDesign CS6 and typeset in Igino Marini’s Fell Great Primer, Fell English and Fell Flowers 1. The illustration is adapted from Andre Thevet’s “Cosmographie Universelle” of 1574. The page was laid out according to Tschichold’s “Golden Canons of Page Construction”. Letterpress printed by hand on a 1915 Golding Jobber No. 7 from photopolymer plates on Neenah Environment Quest Ivory 80# Cover in Opaque White, PMS 485 Red and Black inks. The plates were manufactured by Concord Engraving, Concord, New Hampshire.
20. ‘Like Spencer’s Talus with his modern flail /He threatens ruin with his ponderous tail. … Their fixed jav’lins in his side he wears, / And on his back a grove of pikes appears.’ – Waller’s Battle of the Summer Islands.  //  Robin Wilson, The Wytham Studio, Oxford
21. ‘By art is created that great Leviathan, called a Common-wealth or State—(in Latin, Civitas) which is but an artificial man.’ – Opening sentence of Hobbes’s Leviathan.    //   Matt Kelsey, Camino Press. Letterpress printed using Caslon wood type, and Cooper Black and Bold Antique metal type, engraving reprinted via polymer on Ingres Bluestone paper, using a Challenge proof press
22. ‘Silly Mansoul swallowed it without chewing, as if it had been a sprat in the mouth of a whale.’ – Pilgrim’s Progress. // Erik Spiekermann, p98a, Berlin. Letterpress on a KORREX proof press. Large type laser-cut plywood. Metal type cast on a Ludlow caster in Tempo Bold. Metapaper Warm White 150g
23. ‘That sea beast /Leviathan, which God of all his works / Created hugest that swim the ocean stream.’ – Paradise Lost. // Elizabeth Adams, Juxon Press, Oxfordshire
24. ‘There Leviathan, /Hugest of living creatures, in the deep / Stretched like a promontory sleeps or swims, /And seems a moving land; and at his gills /Draws in, and at his breath spouts out a sea.’ – Paradise Lost. // The MIT Beaver Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
25. ‘The mighty whales which swim in a sea of water, and have a sea of oil swimming in them.’ – Fuller’s Profane and Holy State. //  Brittany Starr and Mallory Haselberger, BookLab at University of Maryland. Mixed media (collage and letterpress). Printed on a Line-O-Scribe, Model 1411 on Strathmore printmaking paper using rubber and oil-based ink; includes Jenson, News Gothic and Bookman typefaces with Hamilton wood type
26. ‘So close behind some promontory lie /  The huge Leviathan to attend their prey,/ And give no chance, but swallow in the fry, /  Which through their gaping jaws mistake the way.’ – Dryden’s Annus Mirabilis. // Michael Daniell, Atlantis Press, Oxford. Letterpress. Caslon and Monotype Glint. Printed on a Furnival Express treadle platen press
27. ‘While the whale is floating at the stern of the ship, they cut off his head, and tow it with a boat as near the shore as it will come; but it will be aground in twelve or thirteen feet water.’ – Thomas Edge’s Ten Voyages to Spitzbergen, in Purchas. // Daisy Davis, Ashvale Press, Isles of Scilly; printed at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press. Letterpress and linocut.
28. ‘In their way they saw many whales sporting in the ocean, and in wantonness fuzzing up the water through their pipes and vents, which nature has placed on their shoulders.’ – Sir T. Herbert’s Voyages into Asia and Africa. Harris Coll. // Frazil Press. Letterpress and linocut; Gill Sans 8pt, 12pt, Gill Sans Italic 12pt; Neenah paper: Classic Linen Bare White 80lb Text Adana 8 x 5.
29. ‘Here they saw such huge troops of whales, that they were forced to proceed with a great deal of caution for fear they should run their ship upon them.’ – Schouten’s Sixth Circumnavigation.  // Richard Cappuccio, Center for the Book, University of Virginia. Wood type, metal type (32pt Lydian), printed on a Vandercook proof press.

Students from the University of Arkansas answered the ‘Extracts’ call as a class project at the Underground Ink Press, the letterpress and book arts workshop at the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

32. ‘Myself have agreed to try whether I can master and kill this Sperma-ceti whale, for I could never hear of any of that sort that was killed by any man, such is his fierceness and swiftness.’ – Richard Strafford’s Letter from the Bermudas. Phil. Trans. A.D. 1668. // Emily Carrington-Freeman, Oxford. Lino cut & oil-based ink (1/4 with gold leaf)
33. ‘Whales in the sea / God’s voice obey.’ – N.E. Primer. // Jonathan Senchyne, Easy Hill Press, University of Wisconsin. Letterpress, Optima Italic metal type, 8 line wood type. Engraving and copy of the original by Reynolds Stone. Printed on a Vandercook 325G
34. ‘We saw also abundance of large whales, there being more in those southern seas, as I may say, by a hundred to one; than we have to the northward of us.’ – Captain Cowley’s Voyage round the Globe, A.D. 1729. //  Larry Hale, Glasgow Press. Letterpress print; Paper: Wild 450gsm; Vandercook Proof Press
35.  ‘… and the breath of the whale is frequently attended with such an insupportable smell, as to bring on a disorder of the brain.’ – Ulloa’s South America.  // Elizabeth Fraser, Frauhaus Press, Cambridge. Handset letterpress. Blind deboss using wood and metal type. Whale created from face and back of woodtype with ornaments for eye and spout. Text 12pt & 6pt Baskerville italic. Whale breath 12pt glint (Monotype B1309 & B1310). Printed on Somerset Velvet 300gsm soft white paper with a tabletop flatbed proofing press
36. ‘To fifty chosen sylphs of special note, / We trust the important charge, the petticoat. / Oft have we known that seven-fold fence to fail, / Tho’ stuffed with hoops and armed with ribs of whale.’ – Rape of the Lock. // Roy Watkins, Embers Handpress. Small letterpress (Adana flatbed 9×7); linocuts with Garamond; Japanese Gampi vellum
38. ‘If you should write a fable for little fishes, you would make them speak like great whales.’ – Goldsmith to Johnson. // Angie Butler, ABPress. Letterpress and pochoir printed on 280gsm (size: 21″ x 15″; 53.5 x 38 cms); Somerset Newsprint Grey. Caslon 72pt wood-letter. Printed on a Vandercook No. 4
39. ‘In the afternoon we saw what was supposed to be a rock, but it was found to be a dead whale, which some Asiatics had killed, and were then towing ashore. They seemed to endeavour to conceal themselves behind the whale, in order to avoid being seen by us.’ – Cook’s Voyages. // Andrea Hewes, Oxford Printmakers Co-operative
41a. ‘The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.’ – Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French Minister in 1778. // Emeline Marcelin, Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Oxford
41b. ‘The Spermacetti Whale found by the Nantuckois, is an active, fierce animal, and requires vast address and boldness in the fishermen.’ – Thomas Jefferson’s Whale Memorial to the French Minister in 1778. // John Benson, Ormpress. Letterpress and linocut printed on a 5″ x 8″ Excelsior Kelsey Press. Type: Bodoni Bold 18pt; Bodoni Bold Italic 18pt. Paper: Fabriano Tiziano 160gsm
42. ‘And pray, sir, what in the world is equal to it?’ – Edmund Burke’s Reference in Parliament to the Nantucket Whale Fishery.  // Stephanie Newman, Faux Pas Press, Bozeman, Montana. Letterpress: photopolymer plates, Vandercook No. 3 proof press; Crane Lettra paper, Kozo chine colle, rubber base ink
43. ‘Spain—a great whale stranded on the shores of Europe.’ – Edmund Burke. (Somewhere.)  //  Miles Wigfield, Reading Room Press, Gloucestershire. Letterpress: Albion; Type: Goudy Cloister Initials and Imprint Shadow on Zerkall Ingres paper. Commemorates the centenary of the Society of Wood Engravers.
44. ‘A tenth branch of the king’s ordinary revenue, said to be grounded on the consideration of his guarding and protecting the seas from pirates and robbers, is the right to royal fish, which are whale and sturgeon. And these, when either thrown ashore or caught near the coast, are the property of the king.’ – Blackstone.   // Olivia Lefley, Northamptonshire. Letterpress, linocut. Printed on a Westen proofing press. Modern 20 typeface. Paper provided by G F Smith
46. ‘Bright shone the roofs, the domes, the spires, /  And rockets blew self driven, / To hang their momentary fire /  Around the vault of heaven. // ‘So fire with water to compare, /  The ocean serves on high, / Up-spouted by a whale in air, /   To express unwieldy joy.’ – Cowper, On the Queen’s Visit to London.  // John G Henry, Cedar Creek Press. Letterpress (2 colours) & embossing; Reeves Heavyweigh Gray Paper; printed on a Vandercook Universal III press
47. ‘Ten or fifteen gallons of blood are thrown out of the heart at a stroke, with immense velocity.’ – John Hunter’s Account of the Dissection of a Whale. (A small-sized one.) // Elpitha Tsoutsounakis, Salt Lake City, Utah. Letterpress on Savoy/Vandercook III; watercolour with ochre from the San Rafael Swell
49. ‘The whale is a mammiferous animal without hind feet.’ – Baron Cuvier. // Arcangela Regis, Lauren Press, Barcelona, Spain. Monoprint (footprints in acrylic); Letterpress printing with woodtype on an Albion Press; Invercote Creato 290gr 64x92cm
50. ‘In the free element beneath me swam, /Floundered and dived, in play, in chace, in battle, / Fishes of every colour, form, and kind; / Which language cannot paint, and mariner / Had never seen; from dread Leviathan / To insect millions peopling every wave: / Gather’d in shoals immense, like floating islands, / Led by mysterious instincts through that waste /And trackless region, though on every side / Assaulted by voracious enemies, / Whales, sharks, and monsters, arm’d in front or jaw, /With swords, saws, spiral horns, or hooked fangs.’ – Montgomery’s World Before the Flood. // Randolph Chilton, In Which Press, Nevada City, California. Letterpress: Chandler and Price Old Style 10×15; typefaces mainly 14pt Caslon Old Style 337, 36pt Huxley Vertical, six-line 19th century English and-carved wood block (colophon mainly 12pt Caslon); paper #110 Rives BFK
52. ‘Io! Pæan! Io! sing, / To the finny people’s king. / Not a mightier whale than this / In the vast Atlantic is; / Not a fatter fish than he, / Flounders round the Polar Sea.’ – Charles Lamb’s Triumph of the Whale. // Lauren Williams, Book Arts Lab, McGill University Library, Montreal. Letterpress; printed on a Farley Proofing Press, in 18pt Bembo, on Canson paper
53. ‘In the year 1690 some persons were on a high hill observing the whales spouting and sporting with each other, when one observed; there—pointing to the sea—is a green pasture where our children’s grand-children will go for bread.’ – Obed Macy’s History of Nantucket.  // Bob Oldham, Ad Lib Press, Turrialba, Costa Rica. Handset type on poured pulp paper, printed on home-made Medhurst press
54. ‘I built a cottage for Susan and myself and made a gateway in the form of a Gothic Arch, by setting up a whale’s jaw bones.’ – Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales.  //  Sarah Teppen, Bone Earring Press, East Lansing, Michigan. Letterpress, linocut (original); Stonehenge warm white paper, C&P 8×12, Type: Berhardt Gothic Medium
55. ‘She came to bespeak a monument for her first love, who had been killed by a whale in the Pacific ocean, no less than forty years ago.’ – Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales. // Chloe Foster, Chloe Arielle Studio, Clarkson, Michigan. Printed on a Kelsey 3×5 press.
56. ‘“No, Sir, ’tis a Right Whale,” answered Tom; “I saw his spout; he threw up a pair of as pretty rainbows as a Christian would wish to look at. He ’s a raal oil-butt, that fellow!” – Cooper’s Pilot.  // Charlie Davies, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative, Oxford. Etching on Fabriano Paper

57. ‘The papers were brought in, and we saw in the Berlin Gazette that whales had been introduced on the stage there.’ – Eckermann’s Conversations with Goethe. // Patrick Goossens, Letter-kunde , Antwerp.

58. ‘“My God! Mr. Chace, what is the matter?” I answered, “We have been stove by a whale.”’- Narrative of the Shipwreck of the Whale Ship Essex of Nantucket, which was attacked and finally destroyed by a large Sperm Whale in the Pacific Ocean. By Owen Chace of Nantucket, first mate of said vessel. New York, 1821. // Andrew Rippeon, The Davidson College Letterpress Lab, North Carolina. Printed using wood and metal type in a variety of sizes and faces (extract: Gothic wood type in various sizes, large metal type from 72pt to 60pt; attribution: from 30pt to 10pt Craw Clarendon; colophon: 10pt Venus Light: magnesium printing die, (review material from The Literacy World); and laser-cut plexiglass plate (whale and pressure-printed ‘waves’). Printed on dampened Stonehenge (Polar White), using a Vandercook #4 (ser. #13096), rescued from a barn in central New York and restored by Andrew Rippeon
59. ‘A mariner sat in the shrouds one night, / The wind was piping free;/ Now bright, now dimmed, was the moonlight pale,/And the phospher gleamed in the wake of the whale,/ As it floundered in the sea.’ – Elizabeth Oakes Smith. // Ryan Cordell, Huskiana Letterpress Studio, Boston. Letterpress with 2 woodcuts, Caslon type (mostly), Golding Pearl #14
60. ‘The quantity of line withdrawn from the boats engaged in the capture of this one whale, amounted altogether to 10,440 yards or nearly six English miles.   …
‘Sometimes the whale shakes its tremendous tail in the air, which, cracking like a whip, resounds to the distance of three or four miles.’ – Scoresby. // Two moveables, a spool and a whip-crack, by Jonathan Bath, Oxford
61. ‘Mad with the agonies he endures from these fresh attacks, the infuriated Sperm Whale rolls over and over; he rears his enormous head, and with wide expanded jaws snaps at everything around him; he rushes at the boats with his head; they are propelled before him with vast swiftness, and sometimes utterly destroyed. …  It is a matter of great astonishment that the consideration of the habits of so interesting, and, in a commercial point of view, so important an animal (as the Sperm Whale) should have been so entirely neglected, or should have excited so little curiosity among the numerous, and many of them competent observers, that of late years, must have possessed the most abundant and the most convenient opportunities of witnessing their habitudes.’ – Thomas Beale’s History of the Sperm Whale. 1839.  //  Martyn Ould, The Old School Press, Seaton. Letterpress text in Hunt Roman on Somerset. Linocuts by John Watson. Printed on a 30-inch Western Proof Press
63. ‘October 13. “There she blows,” was sung out from the mast-head.
  “Where away?” demanded the captain.
  “Three points off the lee bow, sir.”
  “Raise up your wheel. Steady!”
  “Steady, sir.”
  “Mast-head ahoy! Do you see that whale now?”
  “Ay ay, sir! A shoal of Sperm Whales! There she blows! There she breaches!”
  “Sing out! sing out every time!”
  “Ay, ay, sir! There she blows! there—there—thar she blows—bowes—bo-o-o-s!”
  “How far off?”
  “Two miles and a half.”
  “Thunder and lightning! so near! Call all hands.”’ – J. Ross Browne’s Etchings of a Whaling Cruise. 1846. // Paul Hatcher, Allamanda Press, Woodley. Hand-set letterpress and original linocuts. Typeface is Verona. The substrate is hand-cast board made at the press from pulped copies of the 1950s bowdlerised and abridged edition of Moby Dick, published by Collins. Printed using an Adana QH horizontal platen (the poor man’s Albion). There are eight copies in total on this board.
64. ‘The Whale-ship Globe, on board of which vessel occurred the horrid transactions we are about to relate, belonged to the island of Nantucket.’ – Narrative of the Globe Mutiny, by Lay and Hussey, Survivors. A.D. 1828. // Isobel Lewis, The Kelpie Press,  in collaboration with Richard Reitz Smith, Maine, USA; with Marbled paper, Letterpress, collage. Set in Caslon, printed on a Vandercook Universal III.
65. ‘Being once pursued by a whale which he had wounded, he parried the assault for some time with a lance; but the furious monster at length rushed on the boat; himself and comrades only being preserved by leaping into the water when they saw the onset was inevitable.’ – Missionary Journal of Tyerman and Bennett.  // William Rowsell, Oxford Printmakers Cooperative, Oxford. Linocut.
66. ‘Nantucket itself,’ said Mr. Webster, ‘is a very striking and peculiar portion of the National interest. There is a population of eight or nine thousand persons living here in the sea, adding largely every year to the National wealth by the boldest and most persevering industry.’ – Report of Daniel Webster’s Speech in the U.S. Senate, on the Application for the Erection of a Breakwater at Nantucket. 1828.  // Martha Chiplis, Berwyn, Illinois. Letterpress printed from wood type, linoleum, and photopolymer plate. Handmade paper, LTC Cloister (digital type), Vandercook Universal I. Drawing of map based on 1869 historical map of Nantucket.
67. ‘The whale fell directly over him, and probably killed him in a moment.’ – The Whale and his Captors, or the Whaleman’s Adventures and the Whale’s Biography, gathered on the Homeward Cruise of the Commodore Preble. By Rev. Henry T. Cheever. // Elizabeth Moriarty. Linocut.
68. ‘“If you make the least damn bit of noise,” replied Samuel, “I will send you to hell.”’ – Life of Samuel Comstock (the Mutineer), by his Brother, William Comstock. Another Version of the Whale-ship Globe Narrative.  // Christopher Barker, The Smallprint Company, Derby.
69. ‘The voyages of the Dutch and English to the Northern Ocean, in order, if possible, to discover a passage through it to India, though they failed of their main object, laid open the haunts of the whale.’- McCulloch’s Commercial Dictionary.  // Linda Stinchfield, Turtlesilk Press, Los Gatos, California. Letterpress, handset and photopolymer; paper: Flurry Cotton, Boxcar; Typeface: Centaur & Arrighi (italic); Press: Vandercook SP15
70. ‘These things are reciprocal; the ball rebounds, only to bound forward again; for now in laying open the haunts of the whale, the whalemen seem to have indirectly hit upon new clews to that same mystic North-West Passage.’ – From ‘Something’ unpublished.  // James Bradley, Book Arts Collaborative, Indiana. Linocut and letterpress. Printed in Franklin Gothic and Playbill typeface on a Vandercook SP15 press. Reverse side printed in Universe 12pt type on a a Chandler & Price 12×18 press. Mohawk Superfine Ultra-white 65lb cardstock
71. ‘It is impossible to meet a whale-ship on the ocean without being struck by her near appearance. The vessel under short sail, with look-outs at the mast-heads, eagerly scanning the wide expanse around them, has a totally different air from those engaged in regular voyage.’ – Currents and Whaling. U.S. Ex. Ex.  //  Jennifer Farrell, Starshaped Press, Chicago. Letterpress: metal type + rule, linocut. Paper: Fabriano Tiziano. Printed on a Vandercook SP15
72. ‘Pedestrians in the vicinity of London and elsewhere may recollect having seen large curved bones set upright in the earth, either to form arches over gateways, or entrances to alcoves, and they may perhaps have been told that these were the ribs of whales.’ – Tales of a Whale Voyager to the Arctic Ocean.  // Hugh Macfarlane, Tudor Black Press, Marnes, France. Printed on a Cropper treadle press.
73. ‘It was not till the boats returned from the pursuit of these whales, that the whites saw their ship in bloody possession of the savages enrolled among the crew.’ – Newspaper Account of the Taking and Retaking of the Whale-ship Hobomack.   // Rosemary Everett, Gifford, Scotland. ‘Wood engraving. Letterpress, Collage; Lemonwood block; Tosa Washi paper. Printed with a burnisher (wood engraving) and a book press (letterpress). The Extract is cut up and collaged onto the print. This is intended to emphasise the “savagery” of whaling theme. Also the words are jumbled, to reflect the theme of confusion and lack of knowledge and understanding.’
75. ‘Suddenly a mighty mass emerged from the water, and shot up perpendicularly into the air. It was the whale.’ – Miriam Coffin or the Whale Fisherman. // Alexandra Chappell, Pasadena, California. Printed on a cast-iron hand press from hand-set metal and wood types. Press: Columbian hand-press, manufatured by R Ritchie & Son, Edinburgh. Type: 24 line gothic condensed wood type; 48, 30 and 14 point Liberty foundry type. Paper: Somerset Book.
76.  ‘The Whale is harpooned to be sure; but bethink you, how you would manage a powerful unbroken colt, with the mere appliance of a rope tied to the root of his tail.’ – A Chapter on Whaling in Ribs and Trucks. // Armina Ghazaryan, Type & Press, Ghent. Letterpress printed from wood/metal type on FAG TP-510, paper Wild 150gm
77.  ‘On one occasion I saw two of these monsters (whales) probably male and female, slowly swimming, one after the other, within less than a stone’s throw of the shore’ (Terra del Fuego), ‘over which the beech tree extended its branches.’ –  Darwin’s Voyage of a Naturalist.   // Li Jiang, Lemoncheese Press, Berkeley, California. Letterpress, polymer plate. Digital type: Geographica; Paper: Stonehenge White 250gsm; Press: Vandercook SP15 10″ x 15″, 3 colours
78. ‘“Stern all!” exclaimed the mate, as upon turning his head, he saw the distended jaws of a large Sperm Whale close to the head of the boat, threatening it with instant destruction;—“Stern all, for your lives!”’ – Wharton the Whale-Killer. // Kimball Hamilton, Two Left Hands Press, Los Gatos, California. Printed letterpress from photopolymer plates and hand set 12pt Weiss type, on Flurry 1-ply cotton cover, using a 1896 Chandler & Price Old Series 10×15 plated press

79. ‘So be cheery, my lads, let your hearts never fail, / While the bold harpooneer is striking the whale!’ – Nantucket Song. // Arie Koelewyn, The Paper Airplane Press, East Lansing, MI. One version of the verse is here: http://ballads.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/view/edition/24312 

80. ‘Oh, the rare old Whale, mid storm and gale,
  In his ocean home will be
A giant in might, where might is right,
  And King of the boundless sea.’
– Whale song. // Joe Swift, Distant Press. Printed Letterpress from wood and metal type on a Columbian hand press

Post-1851 ‘Extracts’  An exciting offer came from the volunteers at the National Museum of Computing, offering prints from a variety of newer machines:  a 1940s German Lorenz teleprinter, a 1980s ICL computer line printer, and a Braille printer. This offer inspired the library to bring the extracts up to date in 2019, with additional quotations from Rachel Carson’s book, The Sea Around Us (1951), and from  M.P. Simmonds, “Evaluating the Welfare Implications of Climate Change for Cetaceans,” in A. Butterworth (ed.), 2017, Marine Mammal Welfare (17th edition).

Additional Extract: ‘The sperm whale is often marked with long stripes, which consist of a great number of circular scars made by the suckers of the squid. From this evidence we can imagine the battles that go on, in the darkness of the deep water, between these two huge creatures – the sperm whale with its 70-ton bulk, the squid with a body as long as 30 feet, and writhing, grasping arms extending the total length of the animal to perhaps 50 feet.’ – Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us (1951) // Vickie Heaney, Isles of Scilly. Linocut.

Film of Vtek MBoss-1 Braille Printer/Embosser, from The National Museum of Computing.

A Braille whale – or Whaille.

Braille whale; image courtesy of The National Museum of Computing
‘When it comes to cetaceans, despite their somewhat fishy forms and great variety, it should be easier for us to conceptualise suffering in these intelligent and typically highly social marine mammals. This should enable us to evaluate with more empathy how their welfare is being impacted by human actions and to strive to respond appropriately and compassionately. Climate change gives us an enormous challenge in this (and for human kind more generally), but we are big-brained too, and, hopefully, wisdom and compassion will prevail.’ – M.P. Simmonds // Steve Kay and the Volunteer Supporters’ Association of the National Museum of Computing; on a 1940s German Lorenz teleprinter
M.P. Simmonds // Steve Kay and the Volunteer Supporters’ Association of the National Museum of Computing; on a 1980s ICL line printer

Film of the 1980s ICL Line Printer, from The National Museum of Computing

A display at the Bodleian’s Weston Library for Special Collections in November 2019 marked the arrival of this new collection to the Bodleian.

Printing a leaf at the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press

Printing a leaf at the Bodleian Libraries Bibliographical Press

The Victorians used a technique called ‘nature printing’ to reproduce the details of leaves, plants, and other flat things like lace. This relies on pressing the specimen into soft metal (lead) to make an impression like a footprint of the item, and then making an electrotype of that impression in a harder metal, such as copper. The prints are produced with the intaglio method, in which the ink sits in the impressed areas and is forced into contact with the paper by the high pressure of the rolling press. This contrasts with relief printing, in which ink sits on top of raised lines. Here we have printed directly from the soft lead plate into which the leaf was impressed; the fine details on this lead plate will only last for a couple of impressions, though, before becoming smoothed down by the pressure as it goes through the press.

Learn more about nature printing.

Some examples of nature printing in Bodleian Libraries collections:

Henry Smith, supt. of the government press, Madras, Specimens of nature printing from unprepared plants (1857)

Thomas Moore, The ferns of Great Britain and Ireland (1855) [i.e. 1856]

The Bodleian Quarterly Record, Vol. II (1917-19); and the Legacy of a Printing Press

Corrected proof of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children (detail)
Corrected proof of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children (detail)

In 1919, the Bodleian Quarterly Record printed the following notice on the death of Charles Henry Olive Daniel, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford:
‘We regret most deeply the loss of Dr. Daniel, as a good friend of the Library. For many years (though not lately) he occupied his leisure with printing as a fine art, and the beautiful productions of the Daniel Press are well known to all lovers of books. Mrs. Daniel recently offered to present to the Library the hand-press and type used by him, and the offer was very gratefully accepted. Through the kindness of the Controller, the press has now been set up by experts from the Clarendon Press, at the farther end of the Picture Gallery, with the chase, containing the last pages set up, still in place. A small collection of some of the more interesting books printed on it has been arranged on an adjacent table. Though we have plenty of books to show, this is the first time we have been able to exhibit to visitors the means whereby they are produced.’

Portrait of Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919), Provost of Worcester College (1903–1919), by Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904). Photo credit: Worcester College, University of Oxford. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/charles-henry-olive-daniel-18361919-provost-of-worcester-college-19031919-224101#
Portrait of Charles Henry Olive Daniel (1836–1919), Provost of Worcester College (1903–1919), by Charles Wellington Furse (1868–1904). Photo credit: Worcester College, University of Oxford. https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/charles-henry-olive-daniel-18361919-provost-of-worcester-college-19031919-224101#

The author of a recent book on Daniel and his printing, Martyn Ould, offers this assessment of his printing origins and experience:

‘Charles Daniel learned to print in the family home in Frome, Somerset, where his father Henry was perpetual curate of Holy Trinity. All the family were involved in printing a vast number of ephemeral items: bookplates, printed items for the church, tickets for tea parties, tiny books, programmes for plays, . . . – items that his bibliographer Falconer Madan referred to as ‘minima’. [He added, “Unfortunately there seems to be no dignified and yet suitable term for these waifs and strays, here termed minor pieces. They are what remains when the majestic car of the professional cataloguer has passed by and left them strewn on the wayside. The occupant of the car calls them succinctly and comprehensively trash.”]

‘They printed on a ‘Ruthven’, a parlour press ideal for a Victorian family, but a press that could manage only small items (many of which are pasted into three volumes in the Bodleian: MSS Don. d.94 and d.95 and MS Don. e.227). Nevertheless when Charles left Frome to go up to Oxford the press went with him and it was on that press that he printed one of his rarest items, The Garland of Rachel, in just thirty-six copies. Difficulties with the printing of The Garland led him to replace the Ruthven with the Albion; this had a much larger platen which would have made it very much easier to manage the larger books and pamphlets that were to come from the Daniel Press in Oxford.

‘Daniel was not a great technical printer, but his books have great charm. He printed on hand-made papers, setting his texts – mostly poetry – from founts of some of the famous seventeenth-century ‘Fell types’ which he persuaded Press Controller Horace Hart at the University Press to sell him. He first used Fell type in A New Sermon of the Newest Fashion (1876), the second book he printed at Oxford. He also used a black letter, of which the first example entirely in black letter is The Growth of Love (1890) by his friend Robert Bridges.’

This large Albion was the printing press which was given to the Bodleian. As reported by Philip Gaskell in the Journal of the Printing Historical Society no. 1, 1965, it is an ‘Albion (demy), serial number 539, (1835)’. The maker’s names, Jonathan and Jeremiah Barrett, executors of R.W. Cope, are cast into the staple. Cope was the originator of the Albion press in the 1820s. This cast-iron, lever-operated press was praised by commentators of the time as being simple in construction and durable.

Bodley’s Librarian in 1919, Falconer Madan, had visions beyond a static display of the press. ‘[I]t is in contemplation to print on it a Bibliography of the Daniel Press, with a Memoir of its “only begetter”, and some poems by friends. This will be the first book ever printed within the walls of the Bodleian.’ The catalogue record of this work is in the University of Oxford’s online catalogue, SOLO.

Martyn Ould writes:
‘As well as his books – over fifty in total – we’re fortunate in that two collections of proofs survive from his waste bin. Like early versions of a poet’s final polished verse, they tell us something of his printing practice. They are generally on sheets of newsprint – a suitably cheaper alternative to the expensive hand-made paper of the final book.

A corrected proof from the Daniel Press of the title page of Three Japanese Plays for Children

‘In the proof of a title page shown here he has marked several ‘typos’. The Y for an R in ‘Oxford’ is easily explained: the boxes for those two letters are next to each other in the typecase and no doubt the Y was returned to the wrong box when some other text was distributed. The missing i in ‘Children’ is less easily forgiven.

‘In three further proofs Daniel corrected some errors and toyed with the text; all was well in the published book. The proofs tell us that Daniel did not have a firm habit of reading a completed line in the composing stick before moving on to the next: what must be a first of several proofs of a forme for Three Japanese Plays for Children shows a great many errors, some of which made it through to the final book. Nonetheless, his books are today highly collectable.’

In 1949, library staff and members of the English Faculty established the Bibliography Room in the New Bodleian Library. Practical printing became a regular offering for postgraduate students, just at the time when mechanical processes of type-setting were replacing the hand-composition of type. The enthusiasts from library and faculty supported teaching and demonstration of practical printing, joined by J.R.R. Tolkien and others.

The Daniel Press Albion at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Old Bodleian Library
The Daniel Press Albion at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Old Bodleian Library

The Bodleian workshop now holds several other hand-operated printing presses, Albions and other makes, acquired from private presses and individuals. Some of the latest acquisitions were an Albion press owned by Leonard Baskin, whose archive came to the Bodleian in 2009, a proofing press owned and used by Vivian Ridler, Printer to the University, and a rolling press for printing intaglio.

Publications mentioned:
Printing at the Daniel Press (Hinton Charterhouse: The Old School Press, 2011) and The Daniel Press in Frome (Hinton Charterhouse: The Old School Press, 2011). Contact The Old School Press.

Thomas Gravemaker, Bodleian Printer in Residence 2020-21

Thomas M. Gravemaker
Thomas M. Gravemaker

We are delighted to announce that Thomas Gravemaker, of LetterpressAmsterdam, will be Printer in Residence at the Bodleian in 2020-21. Gravemaker worked for many years in publishing in the UK – at the Bodley Head and as a senior designer at Thames & Hudson – and in France, first as a studio manager in a design group, before setting up his own studio.

FindyourType_LetterpressAmsterdam

The Printer in Residence programme at the Bodleian brings a guest printer for one month each year, whose project draws together community and University members with an interest in printing and the book arts, to use the Bibliographical Press workshop in the Old Bodleian Library and the press in Blackwell Hall, at the Weston Library.

It is Gravemaker’s experience with book design, and the connection with John Ryder (1923–2001) at the Bodley Head, which provides the inspiration for the project that he will undertake during the one-month residency at the Bodleian: to set and print a small book in the spirit of Ryder’s Flowers and Flourishes (Bodley Head, 1976).  During his residency at the Bibliographical Press early in 2021, Gravemaker will also offer a workshop on using ornament, and will present a public lecture.

As a teacher, Thomas Gravemaker regularly works with students from Northumbria University (UK), Kalamazoo Book Arts Center (USA) and the RMIT University (Australia) and others. He also devotes his expertise to ensuring that there are active workshops available for students, having advised, trained and assisted – among several others – Letterpress House in Finland, the Royal Library in Belgium and the Hochschule in Karlsruhe (Germany) in finding equipment and type in order to set up their own print studios.

Thomas is a board member of the Stichting Drukwerk in de Marge (Small Press Association) in the Netherlands and a member of the AEPM (Association of European Printing Museums), of which the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is also a member.

The Ryder Archive at the Bodleian is ‘a major resource for the history of the book in the twentieth century.’ [Clive Hurst, ‘The Ryder Archive,’ Bodleian Library Record, Vol. XVII No. 5, April 2002, p. 353] It contains both archival material and printed books. John Ryder bequeathed to the Bodleian his private papers, including correspondence with designers and artists, and much private press material, notably from the Officina Bodoni, and original sketches for book designs. The Archive includes John Ryder’s remarkable collection of editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Previous Printers in Residence at the Bodleian have been Russell Maret, Emily Martin, and David Armes.

Watch:

Russell Maret, ‘Making third-stream books in the post-digital age’ (2017)

Emily Martin, ‘Visual metre and rhythm: the function of movable devices in books’ (2018)

David Armes, ‘Accumulating narrative: Meaning and mutation in letterpress printing’ (2019)

Between Sun Turns: David Armes, Bodleian Printer in Residence, 2019-20

Between Sun Turns in progress. Photo credit: David Armes
Between Sun Turns in progress. Photo credit: David Armes

The Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press hosted David Armes (Red Plate Press) as resident printer for one month at the end of 2019. A picture diary of his residency in Oxford provides the context for his publication, Between Sun Turns, part of Armes’s ‘text landscape’ series, responding to sights and sounds of Oxford. Armes used the equipment in the Bibliographical Press, including a Western-model proofing press (‘Vandercook’), and the more recently-acquired Inksquasher circular chase. The images detail some of the 15 passes through the press that this print, now also an accordion book, required.

Watch David Armes’s lecture, ‘Accumulating Narrative,’ from December 2019, hosted by the Centre for the Study of the Book and the Oxford Bibliographical Society

David Armes
David Armes

Each year the Bodleian hosts a visiting printer who produces a work on-site, and shares their printing experience and artistic vision with students and the public. The library invites applications from printers who can bring the Bodleian’s workshop and equipment into fruitful dialogue with some of the outstanding special collections of the library. Previous Printers in Residence have been Russell Maret in 2017, who printed with a new typeface of his own design, Hungry Dutch , an echo of the type-founding in the 1670s century, near to the Bodleian site, introduced for the use of the University press under the direction of John Fell. In the following year Emily Martin, Resident Printer in 2018, produced a book, ‘Order of Appearance: Disorder of Disappearance,’ that re-imagines stage directions in a book like the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, cross-cutting the meetings of characters on a stage through a slice-book format, and handing the playwright’s control over to the reader.

From research to craft: printing Luther’s theses and teaching letterpress

Type set in 2016 for printing Martin Luther's 95 theses; Thesis 88
Type set in 2016 for printing Martin Luther’s 95 theses; Theses 88 and 89 (roman numerals) Photo: Charlotte Hartmann

The letterpress workshop housed at the Bodleian Library has long been used for experimentation and practical teaching to academic learners at all levels. It’s now equally a site for engaging the public and schools in activities that increase their understanding of, and appreciation for, the Bodleian Libraries’ unique collections. Participatory workshops are the key method that the Bodleian Bibliographical Press uses for helping visitors to feel a connection with ‘old books’, and, through that connection, to engage with research at the University. The workshop offers public courses for adults throughout the year, and offers workshops through the library’s Education team, to schools and adult SEND learners. Planning and teaching these workshops and courses requires an understanding of how the techniques of hand-press printing can be demonstrated and also a facility for tailoring tasks to the abilities of the participants of all ages and abilities.

While teaching to academic students and teaching to the public might be regarded by some as two separate functions of the workshop, it is useful to see how academic research projects can enrich the practice of the workshop for all learners. In our experience of working with one academic project, this yielded two unexpected aspects which influenced the course that the workshop has taken over recent years. Luther’s 95 Theses, earth-shaking in terms of religious history in 1517, proved to be influential again 500 years later in our own small corner of Thomas Bodley’s ‘public library’ at Oxford. We made a re-evaluation of the type of learning that takes place, for all users of the workshop, and expanded the audiences for the workshop by connecting with special interest groups in the community around a topic of current interest.

Undertaking an exercise for Professor Henrike Laehnemann and postgraduate students from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, in printing Luther’s 95 theses as a broadside, (described in this blogpost by Charlotte Hartmann), we were challenged to extend the ambitions of the press technically. The length of Luther’s text nearly exhausted the Bodleian’s relatively generous supply of type, and in the end the single side of the broadside was printed in two parts, which needed to be printed to very exacting standards to appear in four parallel columns.

A challenge was posed by the 16th-century printer’s expedients to make Luther’s words fit into the original pamphlet length; having carefully divided the text from the pamphlet version into two halves, it became clear that the second half of the pamphlet contained more abbreviations. The 16th-century printer of the pamphlet had been trying to save space as he approached the end of the setting, to make it fit within 8 pages on a single sheet of paper. The print run of the Bodleian’s broadside version was much longer than usually attempted for any publications at the workshop – 200 – making 400 passes of the sheets through the press, as two halves of the text were set and printed in sequence.

Richard Lawrence is an Oxford printer with his own workshop, who teaches printing at the Bodleian to students and the public. He oversaw the type-setting and printing of the Luther Theses broadside, and comments,

The Luther Theses broadside is the largest text printed on the Bodleian’s hand-operated presses, and having copies of this broadside in the workshop has set an important standard for the kind of work that can be undertaken, and a model for collective contribution to a larger project.

We learned from this that a technical challenge is a key factor in encouraging learning. This project required a large amount of type-setting by untrained type-setters. Contrary to an idea that the role of a class might be to deliver the theory of type-setting in a lecture, and participants might learn from just a small amount of practice, the Luther Theses project showed that only added practice enabled participants to use their new skills more fully, to recognize and correct errors, and to become competent and creative. For learners with the stamina and ability to undertake a lot of type-setting, this is a key factor in their development, and is now something we look out for and encourage in the public classes.

The 2017 Luther anniversary, focussed around Luther’s use of the printing press to get his message across, also encouraged us to get the presses moving out of the workshop on several occasions; for a re-enactment of Luther’s famous fixing of the theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg; a ‘Print your own Theses’ open event at the workshop in May 2017; for the book launch of a Reformation pamphlet reprint by the Taylorian Library (Oxford’s library for Modern Languages); and by lending presses to St Edmund’s Hall, one of Oxford’s colleges, for a Research Day open to the public. This approach, seeing the presses as mobile, has encouraged further use of the presses in the public areas of the Bodleian’s Weston Library, and a small press has been refitted with a mobile stand to enable its use at different venues. The Reformation projects as a whole drew new audiences to the printing press – English and German community members celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Bonn-Oxford town twinning, and postal requests for copies of the 95 theses after images had been posted on social media.

David Armes (Red Plate Press) Bodleian Printer in Residence 2019

David Armes, Red Plate Press
David Armes, Red Plate Press

The Bodleian Bibliographical Press is delighted to welcome David Armes (Red Plate Press) as printer in residence during four weeks in November-December 2019.

During the residency, Armes will work at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press on an addition to his series, ‘Text Landscapes,’ site-specific works made with letterpress printing on paper.

Armes is a visual artist working with print, language and geography. His work is frequently site-specific and considers how sense and experience of place can be represented, with source material including automatic writing, anonymous conversations and oral history. He works primarily with letterpress printing on paper and the final forms can vary in shape and size from large scroll installations to broadside prints to artists’ books and chapbooks. Through using what was once an industrial print process, he is interested in where the multiple meets the unique, where the ephemeral meets the archival.

Based in West Yorkshire, Armes has held artistic residencies at Zygote Press fine art print studio (Cleveland, USA; 2018), Wells Book Arts Center (New York, USA; 2017), BBC Radio Lancashire (Blackburn, UK; 2017) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (West Yorkshire, UK; 2016)

While he is in residence, David Armes will lead a public workshop and give a public lecture.

25 November & 28 November Public workshop: ‘Wood type: pattern, colour and language’
5:30 – 8:30pm
Bodleian Bibliographical Press, Schola Musicae, Old Bodleian Library
Registration fee: £30 (+ £1 booking fee)
This is a hands-on workshop using the wood type collection and iron hand presses. Participants learn the basics of letterpressprinting, use wood type in an expressive and creative manner, and learn to see type as image. Participants will complete a small edition of prints.
To register: https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/events-exhibitions

5 December Lecture: ‘Accumulating Narrative – meaning and mutation in letterpress printing’
co-presented by the Bodleian Libraries Centre for the Study of the Book and the Oxford Bibliographical Society.

This lecture will be delivered from an artist research perspective, drawing on David Armes’s own practice and that of the artists whose work he will explore. It looks at the links between the 1960s concrete poetry work of Hansjörg Mayer and the graphic typographical works of Wolfgang Weingart, drawing a line through the later 20th century work of Ken Campbell to reach the 21st century work of contemporary artists Vida Sačić, Aaron Cohick, Marianne Dages and Dimitri Runkkari.

The lecture will pose questions on subjects such as how meaning can mutate through the process of production, what impact the physicality of materials has and how we can read narratives created through improvisational production techniques.

Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, Broad Street, Oxford, 5:15 pm
Free admission. No booking required.
For information on attending the lecture, please see the event listing at https://visit.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/event/accumulating-narrative

 

 

Bodleian printer in residence 2019-20: David Armes

David Armes
David Armes

We are pleased to announce that David Armes will be Printer in Residence at the Bodleian Bibliographical Press for one month during the coming academic year 2019-20.

David Armes is a visual artist working with print, language and geography. His work is frequently site-specific and considers how sense and experience of place can be represented, with source material including automatic writing, anonymous conversations and oral history. He works primarily with letterpress printing on paper and the final forms can vary in shape and size from large scroll installations to broadside prints to artists’ books and chapbooks. Through using what was once an industrial print process, he is interested in where the multiple meets the unique, where the ephemeral meets the archival. Recent residencies have been at Zygote Press fine art print studio (Cleveland, USA; 2018), Wells Book Arts Center (New York, USA; 2017), BBC Radio Lancashire (Blackburn, UK; 2017) and Huddersfield Art Gallery (West Yorkshire, UK; 2016)

See the Red Plate Press webpage.

David Armes, 'rights of way' (book)
David Armes, ‘rights of way’

The Printer in Residence programme draws together community and University members with an interest in printing and the book arts, to use the Bibliographical Press workshop at the Bodleian Library. During the residency in October-November 2019, David Armes will work on a new iteration of his ‘text landscape’ series, present a lecture and lead a public workshop, to be advertised on the Bodleian Libraries website.

The residency programme is supported by a private donation to the Bibliographical Press.

New sonnets and old Shakespeare: Russell Maret printer-in-residence at the Bodleian Libraries, 2017

Russell Maret, 2017 printer-in-residence at the Bodleian, led a seminar looking at old and new printings of Shakespeare. Participating were some of the printers who had contributed to the Bodleian’s new collection of Shakespeare’s sonnets printed in 2016. The group discussed questions of fidelity to the early printed texts, artistic interpretation, and personal responses to the poems.

The seminar examined new and old: the earliest edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609) and the First Folio edition of his plays (1623), and a selection of the 2016-printed sonnets, each presenting one 14-line poem in a different format including:

  • Number 99: a library catalogue card drawer, with each word of the sonnet on a separate file card
  • Number 114: ‘Vibrate-lances Zone 114’, a poster-size Dadaist interpretation with the text printed in two colours
  • Number 112: containing a facsimile of the 1609 printing and a facsimile of a portion of the Droeshout engraved portrait from the First Folio
  • Number 110: a movable with winking eye and disappearing lines
  • Number 81: with a delicate decoration of gothic arches
  • Number 74: resembling an obituary broadside, aptly commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death
  • Number 62: alternating lines of black and red giving original and modernized spelling
  • Number 50: in a wooden Old West wrapper
  • Number 25: on coloured paper with a calligraphic Spanish translation curving around the printed English
  • Number 15: on red paper, text set in Perpetua, with lines 6 and 7 picked out in Mila Script, and a flower-seed illustration
  • Number 3: fully linocut, with the last two lines depicted as a reflection in water
  • Number 27: in old style; type-written; and in binary code
  • Numbers 5&6: using a facsimile of the Doves Press type, referencing the Doves Press 1909 edition of the Sonnets
  • Number 28: several copies on beer-mats in two colours

This last sparked thoughts of adjourning the seminar, but there was some work to do first.  The printers’ expertise was put to work at the Bodleian’s Bibliographical Press to make a keepsake of the occasion;  lines from King Lear in three colours, with unlocked type interpreting loosening coherence.

A film of Russell Maret’s lecture, ‘Making third stream books in the post-digital age’,  is here: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/making-third-stream-books-post-digital-age

Hogarth Press Centenary: Print-a-thon at the Bodleian

from Dennis Duncan:

Early in 1917, Virginia and Leonard Woolf walked into the Excelsior Printing Supply Co on Farringdon Road and bought themselves a printing press. The press, a small handpress which they installed on a table in their dining room in Richmond, came with instructions and some cases of type. The whole lot came to £19.5s.5d. That May they began work on their first publication, Two Stories (one by Leonard, one by Virginia), with Virginia setting the type and Leonard operating the press. Twenty-one years later, when Virginia finally withdrew from the company, the Hogarth Press had published 440 titles, including work by T. S. Eliot, E. M. Forster, Katherine Mansfield, Vita Sackville-West, Freud, and H. G. Wells, not to mention much of Virginia’s own most significant writing.

“Books are not turned out of moulds like bricks. Books are made of tiny little words, which a writer shapes, often with great difficulty, into sentences of different lengths, placing one on top of another, never taking his eye off them, sometimes building them quite quickly, at other times knocking them down in despair, and beginning all over again.”
-Virginia Woolf, “How Should One Read a Book?” (1925)

To celebrate the centenary of the Hogarth Press, then, it seemed like a good idea to think about the role that printing played in shaping Woolf’s writing. And since the Bodleian Bibliographical Press is equipped not only with the kind of handpress the Woolfs used for their first publications, but also with the same typeface, we had an ideal opportunity to put ourselves into Virginia’s shoes for a day.

One of the earliest Hogarth publications was Hope Mirrlees’s Paris: A Poem, dated 1919 (or rather 1916: Virginia placed the final ‘9’ upside-down and didn’t catch the error until after printing, correcting it in pen in all copies). It is a wonderful and unjustly overlooked piece of modernism, and with its wild typography – different alignments, passages in caps and italics, a block of music inserted into the text – posed a considerable challenge to Virginia’s recently-acquired skills as a typesetter. Just the thing then for a public print-a-thon.Working in half-hour shifts, our team of printers – from absolute beginners to advanced setters – set out to print as much of Mirrlees’s poem as we could in a single day. Breaking for lectures by Dr Nicola Wilson (Reading) and Dame Hermione Lee (Oxford) about the Woolfs and the Hogarth Press, we ended up with a respectable eight pages, about a third of the poem.

“I’m the only woman in England free to write what I like. The others must be thinking of series’ & editors”
(Diary of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3, September 1925)

“So,” I asked one of our volunteers, “now that you’ve set a page of type, how do you think the experience of being a printer might have influenced Virginia as a writer?”
“Write fewer words!”
A useful and hard-won insight.