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: