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Barbarian Press
Books Forthcoming

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

Musick in partes
Songs & Poems from Shakespeare’s Plays
Spring 2017

Bordering on the Sublime
Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press.
Autumn 2018

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 chance. While the books announced as under way are certainly 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.

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: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press will reprint these borders, most in two or more 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.

We are delighted to tell you at last that Bordering on the Sublime: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press is slowly, inexorably, under way. We continue to be astonished at the amount of preparation necessary to beginning the book. Much work on it has already been done and is continuing: David Jury’s text for his part of the book is completed, and Crispin is working on the rest of the text, including the appendices, as well as sketching trial layouts. The success of our Indiegogo fundraising campaign last autumn has allowed us to order the type, which will arrive before the fall, and the paper, which has arrived—all 16,000 sheets of it—and is stacked on nearly every available surface in the pressroom, composing room, and bindery.

Money—the ‘bitch goddess,’ in one of D. H. Lawrence’s more telling phrase—is as always dictating circumstance. In order to pay bills and survive during the process of working on such a large project, we will be producing some smaller books while Bordering on the Sublime is in the press. This is a necessity, and in some ways a dismaying one. Today ‘multi-tasking’ is seen as a desirable and admired skill rather than what it is—an indulgent excuse for getting away with not paying proper 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.

The first of these smaller books, The Splendour of a Morning: Early Poems of C. P. Cavafy, is now at the binders. The second, Musick in partes: Songs & Poems from Shakespeare’s Plays, intended to mark the quatercentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1616, is getting under way. This small book will be in the same format as Fancy and The Eve of St. Agnes, and like them will be illustrated with wood engravings, in this case by John Lawrence, an artist with whom we have long wanted to work. The book will, we hope, be ready in time for Christmas—or at least Candlemas.

Other projects are in the early planning stages, but they are still too far off to have a page devoted to them. Here are some of 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 and a critical appraisal, and plates of other works and photographs. Discussions and plans for this are ongoing.
  • Endgrain Editions 5: Richard Wagener, is being planned. The book will include about one hundred of his engravings, with commentaries by various others. We have the blocks in hand, and this book will probably be started early in 2017.
  • 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 hope to produce 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 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.