Saturday, November 17, 2007

25 Bookplates completed - and a jaunt to Oxford

Much of the printing of "25 Bookplates" was carried out during a single week of 16 hour days. After drying, I ended up with a pile of folded sheets ready to bind the first 30 copies.

J's help with the binding was invaluable. We sat side by side at the dining table, sewing the signatures onto tapes:

The backs were glued and mull was applied:

Finally, the books were glued into their cases and the label applied to the front.

I was still tipping in the separate bookplates during the late afternoon. After dinner, the car was packed and I drove out into the night to my hotel. This had been a lucky booking on a website. I approached in the dark and the building loomed before me - a rather nice country house:

My luck continued in the form of a nice room on the front facade of the building. In the morning, I arose early to photograph and sketch. Here is the front again:

And here is the terrace from the library:

Lawns to the front:

The hall is surrounded by old parkland with magnificent trees and grazing sheep:

I was in Oxford for the Fine Press Book Fair. I started to set up my table:

Naturally, the book featured prominently:

As did browsers of engravings:

As is usual with these things, I took the opportunity to engrave:

Practicing lettering:

The fair was a success with good sales of books and much interest in commissions. It was also good to see old friends and make new ones. Fine press printers, engravers and book dealers had arrived from many different parts of the world. It was immensely enjoyable.

The last week hasn't been so good and I am behind my schedule, manly through tiredness. It has been good to walk out on cold, crisp, clear mornings to enjoy the local environment and think about work that is forthcoming. Ely cathedral looks particularly good on such mornings:

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

25 Bookplates: Dedication

My book is dedicated to Brian North Lee (1936-2007). Many readers will be familiar with his books; others can find out about this remarkable man from an obituary.

Brian was the first person to write seriously about my bookplates in "Contemporary International Ex-Libris Artists Volume 3", Portugal 2004. He encouraged me to work to improve my lettering which is still the subject of much of my effort. I was gathering together a group of recent work to send to him when I heard about his death. I regret not being able to show him the fruits of my labours.

I had already engraved the lettering on the block but was not sure how to finish the image so I let the block sit on the shelf above my computer for a couple of weeks. In the end, I decided to engrave a single lily, sweeping round under the lettering and emerging from the frame.

Here is the final result as it is printed in "25 Bookplates":

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

25 Bookplates: Title and Text

I covered pages of my sketchbook with possible designs for the title of the book. Finally, I chose a simple layout with decorations relating to the oak tree. The text included a few words in italics;

Clearing away the wood is a very time-consuming affair. There is no satisfactory way to speed this up, in my opinion, but there is good practice: use a round ended scorper, keep it very sharp indeed and only clear for a few minutes at a time. Even with boxwood, a sharp tool will cut through with little effort, especially if one makes small cuts, rather than trying to plough a furrow across a large area of the block.

Again, I decided to have part of the decoration breaking out from the "frame" of the block; this called for more careful clearing.

Finally, I engraved leaves on the sinuous line withing the border of the block:

Before proofing this block, I started to cut another. This one contains three separate texts that will be separated before printing. As usual for black lettering, I marked out the text and engraved round it:

Gradually, I cleared around the text. I spent two full days on this block.

The engraving light show the marks made by the round scorper very clearly. The ridges would pick up ink and show as black lines so I need to lower the whole surface even more:

Finally, the block is ready to proof:

I cut the block into three pieces using a framing saw. Two of the three pieces were combined with the title to make the title page. Here they are on the bed of the small Albion press:

I used my normal arrangement of a clear plastic file fixed to the tympan on top of the make-ready. This holds the paper. You can see the windows cut into the file - the blocks print through these, keeping the surface of the sheet clean.

The final result:

All of the printing is now done. Yesterday, I worked the handpress from before 8am until after 6pm and then engraved through the evening until just before midnight. Today, I trimmed paper and then printed from 9am until 5pm. This evening, I checked and folded yesterdays sheets. I am now going to mark the folded sheets ready to make the sewing holes. I plan to stop at midnight so that I can make an early start tomorrow - sewing day!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

25 Bookplates: Engraving and Printing the Colophon

The colophon says something about the production and limitation of the book. Although I have many cases of type, I have decided that the text of books made by Oak Apple Press should be engraved on wood.

I started by marking out the lettering in Roman capitals on a boxwood block. The next step was to carefully engrave around the letters and then - with equal care - start to clear away the wider parts of the letters:

This is a lengthy process, but it is satisfying when it has been completed. At this point I check the text in a mirror - fingers crossed!

When the text was cut, I drew decorative elements - oak leaves and an acorn - onto the block and started to cut a line around the shapes:

Using a medium sized round scorper, I started to cut away the wood around the decorations:

Again, I cut the wood around the design to a lower level. Finally, I engraved small dots in a regular pattern around the letters. It was time to proof the block which would show any small adjustments that I need to make.

I made a series of small extra cuts, taking the block through four states until I was happy.

In the book, this will be printed on the final page, above the press device already described below.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

25 Bookplates: Engraving the Press Device

Time is really pressing on my book project. I am still engraving various blocks that I need to finish before I can print and bind it. I started with the press device which will be printed on the last page. My press is called Oak Apple Press after oak apples - not a fruit but the result of a gall wasp laying eggs in an oak tree.

I wanted a small device that I could also use in miniature books so I made a design from a few oak leaves, an acorn and an oak apple. I made pages of sketches and chose one to draw onto a small boxwood block:

I engraved around the main shapes and then cut some detail into the different elements of the design. The tool shown is a round scorper; round ended tools are so much better for clearing away areas of wood.

The next photograph shows the cuts made by the scorper. Every cut could potentially ruin the block so time and great care are taken.

Finally, I carried on using the scorper to lower the edge of the block. This is to stop ink catching on any cleared areas and showing up as unsightly marks on the final image. You can see how small this block is:

And here is the final result - a press device for the first book from Oak Apple Press!

Rembrandt Returns

My little Rembrandt self-portrait is home. I collected it from Penny who had, firstly, removed the backing paper and then prepared it for framing. She has done a lovely job:

The etching is presented resting one a small sheet of museum quality conservation paper. Turning the sheet over reveals how it is fixed. Small pieces of conservation paper were pasted to the edge of the etching. These have been threaded through slits made in the new backing paper. All of this work is easily reversible.

I spent a day last week mounting prints for the Christmas exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery in Shetland. I took the opportunity to mount the Rembrandt in the frame I bought at Art In Action. I made a double mount of textured creamy white board. Here is the final result:

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Back From Berlin; Getting Into Books

Apologies for the long hiatus since my last post - due, please believe me, to business, rather than laziness. The English tribe has been in Berlin - wonderful city of clean streets, art and cake:

O, J and A have been inspecting one of the last remnants of the wall at the "East Side Gallery":

Much of the paining remains but the surface is flaking away and being obscured by recent graffitti. This piece has survived quite well:

Apart from seeing the sights and eating wonderful cake, there was work to be done, in this case designs for a bookplate. Wherever I am, I always find a cafe to be an excellent place to work.

Home - to find a packet from Chris Daunt, Blockmaker, who supplies all of my engraving blocks. But why do I need all of these?

And thats not all - fresh supplies of various Zerkall papers have arrived from John Purcell Papers:

In another drawer are beautiful hand-marbled papers:

And luscious patterned papers by Victoria Hall of Norwich:

I've also been practicing my bookbinding skills:

The large book is a full-sized "mock-up" of a book to showcase some of my engraved bookplates.

Although I am still working of a few commissions, I am concentrating on the design, printing and binding of two handmade books, to be published in small editions by my own Oak Apple Press. This has been a long-term aim of mine and I am working hard to get them ready for the UK Fine Press Fair at Oxford on November 3rd and 4th.

Some of the bookplates will be printed onto the pages. The larger ones will be printed separately and then pasted onto pages of a different colour. I have been printing these separate plates over the past few days, hoping to get them all done by the end of the week. I'll keep you posted.