Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Repair the binding, lose the map?

baskerville spine

I am in a quandary. I have a treasured copy of Publii Terentii Afri Comoediae (The plays of Terence) printed and published by John Baskerville in 1772. The book is a fine example of Baskerville’s later design and printing (he died in 1775), the text is laid out generously, printed of course in his own Baskerville types on the characteristic laid paper, smoothed or pressed after printing.

The binding is a contemporary full brown calf with faint traces of a diced or cross-hatched pattern, with gold rules to the front, back, edges and insides of the boards and spine, and blind tooling on front, back and spine. An attractive decorative tool is used between raised bands on the spine.

The leather spine is attached by only one hinge, revealing the paper linings: fragments of a coloured map of the Caribbean. Recently identified as “A New and Correct Map of American Islands, now called the West Indies . . .” by Thomas Kitchin, it was published in the September issue of The London Magazine, 1762. Many different-coloured versions exist, as is common.

kitchin map

Unfortunately the broken hinge also separates the map, but with a little careful surgery in Photoshop the fragment can be re-assembled. Although the map is distorted because of the curvature of the spin, and the colouring is different, it can be compared with the detail from the map shown below (on the right).

terence spine

The fragment is not a mediaeval manuscript, it has no monetary value (the complete maps sell for between $200 - $500, yet it is interesting because it sheds light on late eighteenth century binding practices. As the map was published in London, we might assume the binding came from a London binder. The book is inscribed: "With B. Drury's best wishes, Eton, July 26, 1818." and in a different contemporary hand: "Tullamoow"??. Benjamin Drury was a colourful if eccentric Eton master (A history of Eton College, 1440-1910 by H. C. Maxwell Lyte). The use of a coloured map is surprising as they were not coloured when published in The London Magazine. Was it a reject? Whatever, the horizontal and vertical ruling on the map would have helped in cutting and aligning the paper lining when forming the hollow for the binding.

The question is: what should I do, repair the binding and lose the map or leave it alone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Winter is good – his Hoar Delights

Winter is good – his Hoar Delights
Italic flavor yield
To Intellects inebriate
With Summer, or the World –

Generic as a Quarry
And hearty – as a Rose –
Invited with Asperity
But welcome when he goes.

Emily Dickinson

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Marking Time exhibit now at Washington University

all in good time binding

All in Good Time the autobiography of watchmaker George Daniels (designed, printed and bound by DE) is part of the Guild of Book Workers national touring exhibition, Marking Time.
Currently at: Suzzallo Library & Allen Library, January 6-February 19, 2010
Sponsored by the Special Collections Division, University of Washington Libraries

Friday, January 15, 2010

Special binding of The Prelude

I am pleased to announce my special binding of The Prelude by William Wordsworth is now available. The cover design is based on a detail from the same watercolour that was used for the fourteen illustrations. Other details form doublures and flyleaves. Bound in white alum-tawed goatskin, the book is hand-sewn on linen tapes, with hand-sewn, two-colour headbands and leather-jointed end leaves. It is presented in a felt-lined drop-back box together with an extra set of the illustrations, including one not printed in the book.
Price: $5000

Designed, printed and bound by David Esslemont.

380 pp., 290 x 185 mm. Set in Adobe Bembo and printed on Zerkall mould-made paper in an edition of 200 copies. Fourteen illustrations are archival inkjet prints.

Published in 2007 by the Wordsworth Trust.

The Prelude
Edited by Robert Woof
Foreword by Stephen Gill

Wordsworth’s masterpiece
This edition of Wordsworth’s masterpiece follows the text of one of the Trust’s greatest treasures, the fair copy made by Dorothy Wordsworth in 1805–6 known as ‘Manuscript A’. In 1805 Dorothy wrote to Lady Beaumont: ‘I am now engaged in making a fair and final transcript of the poem on his life, I mean final till it is prepared for the press, which will not be for many years. No doubt before that time he will, either from the suggestions of his friends, or his own, or both, have some alterations to make, but appears to us at present to be finished.’

Greatest poetic achievement
As predicted, Wordsworth continued to revise the poem and it was not published until after his death in 1850. The 1805 version of the poem, now considered Wordsworth’s greatest poetic achievement, did not reach the public until 1926 in an edition based on Manuscript A, with reference to ‘Manuscript B’, another fair copy made at the same period by Mary Wordsworth. Our new edition follows closely the original spelling and light punctuation of Manuscript A and presents Wordsworth’s poem as it stood at a particular point in time when he appeared, to his wife and sister, ‘to be finished’.

A haunting need
Robert Woof’s introductory essay describes the early growth of the poem, tracing the changes that were made between the very first fragments of 1798 and the poem as completed in 1805–6: ‘Many of these changes reveal a different, often expanded and more deeply explored presentation of Wordsworth’s experience as a boy, a young man, a political figure and a potential poet whose subject is a haunting need to deepen his own self-analysis.’

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Free book for half-a-dozen parents of young children

Getting side-tracked from the Florilegium I have created Heads, a book for children (or the child in all of us). To be published under a new imprint: Moles Nest Books. 28 pp, 8.5 x 8 inches, hand-sewn, fifty copies.

From the blurb:

"Heads is a collection of pen-drawings made by British artist David Esslemont.

A simple line is used to create various characters and expressions from the sublime to the ridiculous. Contortions and deformations arise with sometimes shocking brutality and absurd humour.

Overall the drawings reveal the artist’s sharp and observant eye as he records the subtlest of details."

Because a few of the drawings are frankly, rather gruesome I need half-a-dozen parents to take a look and if they dare, show it to their kids (or not) and give me feedback. I am prepared to remove the more gruesome drawings. Ages 4+. Written in British English I would also like your views on how the captions translate into American English. And any other observations you have would be very welcome. Request a proof copy (it's yours to keep) by email.
Thank you for your interest.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Old apples

The apples are developing some interesting character. The skins now resemble a dried chili pepper while the flesh is dessicating to reveal ten-pointed nodes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Found! – Long-lost book will appeal to head librarians

I have just found a long-lost notebook of drawings of heads I made many years ago.
These pen drawings will be published as a small book to amuse the reader on these long, cold winter days . . . if you respond with enthusiasm!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Female reproductive organs

It is winter and there are no fresh deciduous leaves to print on the trees, so I turned to fruit. Image capture was a straightforward high-resolution scan. I chose the apple because it's gynoecium [the female reproductive organs] are a five-pointed star or pentagram. This was of particular interest following the hexagon experiments as the points of the star define another geometric figure, the pentagon. Euclid describes how to construct a pentagon in Book IV, Proposition 11. It is interesting to note how the cross-section of the apple is almost perfectly circular.

Developing the apple into a flower:

apple flower

And the flower into a pattern:

apple flower pattern

And a quilt pattern:

apple pattern quilt

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Italian floor tiles and Euclid

Experimenting with a square detail from the blackberry leaf I discovered the Café Wall optical illusion, and created a snow crystal. This reminded me of a tiled floor I first saw in a church in Italy and prompted me to re-create the pattern using the leaf on a parallelogram. The pattern is a tessellation of parallelograms. The parallelogram is constructed from two equilateral triangles and is also known as an equilateral quadrilateral or rhombus. Three rhombi form a hexagon. So the floor pattern is also a tessellation of hexagons.

Giving each rhombus a distinct colour emphasises the illusion of three-dimensional cubes. Patterns such as this, based on symmetry, belong to the Wallpaper Group (or Plane Symmetry Group or plane crystallographic group). Apparently, there are 17 distinct groups; and this pattern would appear to belong to Group p6m.

The hexagon is a six-sided polygon with six vertices. It can be constructed with a compass and a straight edge following Euclid’s method in his Elements, Book IV, proposition 15. The most colourful edition is Oliver Byrne's The first six books of the elements of Euclid : in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater ease of learners. Printed by Charles Whittingham at the Chiswick Press for William Pickering, 1847. (I first saw a copy of this book in the library of the Book Club of California.)

The basic snowflake ice crystal is a hexagon. Other examples of hexagonal forms in nature are the honeycomb and the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Snow crystals

Water molecules in an ice crystal form a hexagonal lattice – a simple snowflake. The elaborate six-armed symmetry of snowflakes is derived from this ice crystal lattice.

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

Gregynog Hall Nigel Beale aka The Literary Tourist , came to visit and recorded our conversation in which he asked me about the history...