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Podcast: David Esslemont on the history of the Gregynog and Solmentes Presses

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Nigel Beale aka The Literary Tourist, came to visit and recorded our conversation in which he asked me about the history of the Gregynog Press, my time there as the Controller (artistic and managing director, and printer) of Gwasg Gregynog from 1985–97, and the evolution of Solmentes Press. Listen to the podcast at The Biblio File (link below).

Waxing lyrical about the the press's setting amidst the rolling hills of Montgomeryshire, I talk about its founders, the wealthy Davies sisters, some of the key players such as Blair Hughes-Stanton (coincidentally one of my tutors at the Central School of Art), and some of the outstanding books produced there up to 1945, when the press closed.

Encouraged by John Ryder and Ian Mortimer, among others, I joined the press from Newcastle upon Tyne where I had been printing and publishing since 1978. It was a significant move, I learnt to speak Welsh, and delighted in the literary and artistic traditions of Wales. Over the course of 12 years I w…

Manhattan Fine Press Book Fair

A great pitch by my friend Russell Maret:

Englishman makes pizza from scratch and sells recipe for $$$$

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It all began with a dream of establishing a self-sufficient “Pizza Farm” business. 



Decorah, IA – Artist David Esslemont dreamt of establishing a “Pizza Farm”. He grew wheat and tomatoes and built a clay oven – but it just wasn’t feasible. However, he had another idea: a limited edition hand-printed book.

Pizza from Scratch, a visual narrative in woodcuts and linocuts, tells the story of how he literally grew a pizza on his farm in Iowa. With orders from distinguished institutions such as the Library of Congress and the British Library the book promises to be quite a success, and with copies selling for up to $4,800, it will help pay the heating bills this winter.


Weeds, fire, cultivating, seeds, seedlings, broadcasting, harrowing, harvesting, threshing and construction details are all depicted together with a diagram proving Pythagoras's theorem (used to make a right angle when laying out the foundation for the walls).

Esslemont grows the oven from scratch. Cement block walls supp…

Pizza from Scratch – The story of a visual narrative

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I have an interest in food – okay it’s a passion – actually it’s an obsession: I am obsessed with food and cooking, today it's pizza cooked from scratch in a wood-fired oven. Some of my earliest memories of cooking date back to when I was a Boy Scout: delicious, smoky, crispy outside, soft inside “benders and twisters” – simple wheat flour dough balls stretched around a stick, cooked over a campfire.
Later, travels in Italy and the revelation that the Holy Trinity was in fact garlic, tomatoes and olive oil, and the best pizzas where cooked in wood-fired ovens, helped fuel this passion for cooking that become an obsession.

I want to know where my food has come from. If the food is processed, what are the ingredients and where did they come from? How were they grown/raised? I want to taste natural flavors, not chemicals; naturally ripened tomatoes, not bland, anemic imposters – I don’t want to worry about pesticide or herbicide residues. So, I grow fruit and vegetables following or…

How to get your books bound by the best bookbinders in the world

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How serendipity led to Inside the Book playing a leading role as the set book in a new bookbinding competition. The Open•Set bookbinding competition is now a traveling exhibition and opens on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 in the University of Iowa Special Collections galleries, Iowa City (details below). I was one of the jurors and I am pleased to offer you an overview of the competition together with some insight into how my book came to be bound by some of the best bookbinders in the world.

I was pleased to meet Lang Ingalls, the chief organizer of Open•Set at a party in New York following the 2015 FPBA Manhattan Book Fair. She asked if I had any books in unbound sheets for a new competition . . . coincidentally I still had almost half the edition of Inside the Book.
"The OPEN • SET competition is a NEW triennial competition that formed in response to the burgeoning interest and palpable momentum in finely crafted design book bindings in the United States. Sponsored in part by the A…

Pizza from Scratch – Part 4

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January 28–February 9: 'Burning Weeds', a hand printed, five-color lino cut, 24 x 12 inches.  At this stage neither the logistics of printing and binding or the format of the book have been resolved, but a page size of 10 x 12 inches (landscape) would accommodate this image as a double-page spread if trimmed to bleed.

Red, on orange on yellow,  and orange on yellow, 'wet on wet ink' proofs.

'Wheat Field', early morning, lino cut with watercolor wash, 24 x 12 inches. These double-page spreads convey the breadth of the landscape but printing them presents a challenge. Perhaps single-page images would make more sense . . . .

How about 12 x 7.5 inches? Here a close-up of the key block for a three-color lino cut, 'Cultivating' with the Massey Ferguson tractor.

This print of the key block is offset onto two other blocks, one each for red and green.

Obviously the Massey is red and the leaves and grass are green, where the two colours overlap they will produce…

Pizza from Scratch – Part 3

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January 12, 2015: Making adobe clay involves 'puddling' – the mixing of clay, sand and water with your feet, hence this pencil study. Drawing is an important discipline for the artist – daily practice is worthwhile. This post includes detailed studies as well as sketches for the illustrations to the Pizza book.

One of the main goals is to grow wheat for flour to make dough for the pizza. Here is a pencil drawing of an ear of Glenn organic Spring wheat grown on our farm here in Iowa.

The first step in preparing the field for planting was to burn last years weeds, with the hope that many of the weed seeds were also incinerated. At this point I began to think the book should be landscape format and this subject will become a double page spread lino cut.


Mixing cement and building concrete-block walls is hard, thirsty work, especially in the heat of the summer and the builder deserves a well-earned beer at the end of the day, especially when an important stage is completed. These…