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Barbarian Press
Books Forthcoming


Wood engraving by Edwina Ellis
(from A Christmas Carol, 1984)

Endgrain Editions 5: Richard Wagener
Summer 2018

Bordering on the Sublime
Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press.
Autumn 2019

Books Forthcoming from Barbarian Press

We are aware, as probably you are too, that this section on forthcoming books is always written with a certain determined wistfulness. Making books as we do, almost entirely by hand, and often with substantial texts, is an occupation haunted by haps and mishaps. While the books announced as under way are indeed in process, and will be finished, we have learned that projected dates are endlessly flexible—not because we wish them to be, but because those metaphysical bureaucrats, the Fates, become increasingly jocular as we get older. So we ask your patience, and invite your trust. The books will emerge. This, together with death and taxes, is sure.

Bordering on the Sublime: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press is edging its way at last toward the presses. Many of you will recall that in 2009, through the generosity of many of our subscribers and patrons, we acquired the entire Curwen Press collection of Monotype ornaments, together with well over a hundred standing borders used in their work for various clients, press proofs of those borders in use, and over a hundred packets of new ornaments still in the foundry wrappings. Bordering on the Sublime will reprint these borders, most in two colours, accompanied by essays by David Jury and Crispin Elsted on the Curwen Press’s history, its place in British and European printing and design between the wars, the press’s work with ornaments, and the use of ornaments generally in that period and later. The page devoted to the project has more information.

The amount of preparation for this book has been staggering. Since it will be such a large project, we want everything possible to be in place so that once we start work on it there will be no unpleasant surprises occasioning further delays. We were able to order the paper for the book in the fall of 2016, and it is now stacked on every available flat surface in the pressroom. In the spring of 2017 the type arrived from Michael and Winifred Bixler, together with a couple of hundred pounds of Monotype ornaments to refresh some of the holdings of the Curwen Press, all of which we now own. Crispin is researching and writing the second half of the book, although the work has been considerably hampered somewhat by the lack of information about Bert Smith, the compositor at Curwen who created most, if not all, of the borders. We are still hoping to find someone who knew Mr Smith or may know something more about him; we would be gratified to be put in touch with his family, but it may be that he will remain a shadowy figure, represented only by his work.

Of course it is necessary to survive while working on a long project like this – we estimate it will take at least eighteen months of press time to complete it – and that unfortunately means that we must produce smaller books while the Curwen project is ongoing. Typically, ‘multi-tasking’ is seen today as a desirable and admired skill rather than what it actually is – an indulgent excuse for not paying sufficient attention to anything one is doing – and it would be wonderful to be able to devote one’s whole effort and thought to one project at a time, whether small or large. That said, we enjoy working on every book we produce, and we will of course maintain our best standards in all the books.

Therefore, while work is beginning on the typesetting of Bordering on the Sublime this autumn and winter, Jan will be starting work on Endgrain Editions 5: Richard Wagener. We here take a stand, and are rash enough to say that we hope to publish Endgrain Editions 5 in the Summer of next year, 2018. Work will be advanced on Bordering on the Sublime which, by that time, will be in the press.

Other projects are in the early planning stages, but are still too far off to have a page devoted to them:

  • We have made firm plans with the family of Eric Bergman, the brilliant German-Canadian engraver and block-printmaker of the mid-century, to publish a major book on his work, which we have long admired. This will include over 80 engravings from the wood and some dozen multi-coloured woodblock prints, together with a biographical essay by his grand-daughters, a critical appraisal by Patricia Bovey, and plates of other works and photographs. Discussions and plans for this are ongoing. We anticipate publication in 2019.
  • We have received permission from the son and daughter of the wonderful British poet Molly Holden, who died in 1984, to publish a major selection of her poems, long shamefully unavailable, for which we hope to commission engravings from several British engravers. This will follow the Bergman project.
  • We have long wanted to publish an edition of John Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar, illustrated with engravings by Andy English. This project awaits further discussion while other work is done, but we and Andy are firmly determined to publish it when the time is right.
  • And of course – beyond all these there looms, tantalizingly, our planned edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the 1567 ‘Englishing’ of Arthur Golding, with engravings by Peter Lazarov, about which we – and Peter – are very excited.

We will continue to post news of developments here, with the hope that something irresistible will catch the unsuspecting eye.