We have started trials on two major new Limited Editions, which if all goes well, will appear in the next year or so. One is a set of facsimiles of all Van Gogh’s surviving sketchbooks held at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which we hope to publish next year in collaboration with that institution. There are four sketchbooks plus a number of loose pages, all kept in a handsome box lined in marble paper, and they form a fascinating insight into his working practices. The museum is closed for refurbishment at present, so Kate (our Production Manager for Limited Editions), Phil (from Dot Gradations, the repro house that handles all our trickiest work) and myself were whisked off in a taxi to an anonymous warehouse in the suburbs of Amsterdam where the works are in temporary storage. Somehow the workaday surroundings increased the frisson of handling these fragile objects. The sketches were clearly not produced with posterity in mind – scribbles and jottings are interspersed with relatively finished drawings. Here are two examples – one a portrait of an unknown sitter, the other an early sketch for an extremely well known painting.
The other new project is also very fragile and priceless, a manuscript of Horace’s Odes, written and illuminated by William Morris, which Neil – our Managing Editor with particular involvement in Limited Edition projects – spotted in the catalogue of the Bodleian Library. It is a small jewel-like book and the intricacy of the gilding is quite breath-taking – and fiendishly hard to replicate in facsimile. Here is a particularly lovely page, which certainly bears the influence of Burne-Jones, who quite possibly contributed the delicate portraits.
We had an eventful afternoon last Tuesday, when David Attenborough came into the office to record interviews with the BBC and Guardian about our new book of Birds drawn by Edward Lear for John Gould. Film crews and stills photographers with all their sundry equipment were on hand to record his precious words. A few days earlier, he signed all the limitation certificates for the book.
We have now sold out of our edition of The Sound and the Fury, with two of the last copies going to Martin Scorsese – a long-standing fan of Folio books, and Francis Ford Coppola.
I am delighted that Christopher Frayling has agreed to be a guest judge in our next Book Illustration Competition. He is illustrious in many fields, so much so that he is be-knighted, with the brilliant motto PERGE SCELUS MIHI DIEM PERFICIAS, a loose translation of the Clint Eastwood line ‘Go ahead, punk – make my day’. Among his many books, Frayling has written one of the most unrepentantly civilised that I have read in a long time. Its subject is the tragic demise of Horace Walpole’s cat Selima, the poem by Gray it inspired, and the three sets of illustrations produced for that poem by Richard Bentley, William Blake and Kathleen Hale. But this is just the starting point for a delightful meander through the literary and artistic world of the 18th century. As it happens, we will be publishing a new facsimile of all Blake’s illustrations to Gray next year – here is his opening for Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat.