Friday, 15 November 2013
I spent most of last week in Barcelona, overseeing the printing of Goya’s Disasters of War. I cannot recall any book of ours which has required as many machine proofing trials as this one. Etching is, of course, an intaglio printing process, and is notoriously difficult to reproduce by offset lithography. Thus, although the images are ‘just’ black and white, to achieve exactly the right shade of black, in all its gradations, involved four different inks – one of them is a dark brown, though it looks bright orange in its unprinted form. After printing, each of the images is ‘debossed’ with a metal plate exactly the same size as Goya’s originals; defining the printing area in this way is not merely cosmetic, but performs an important aesthetic function. And here is a picture of the printer himself, Pedro. In between passing each sheet I had plenty of time to myself – not long enough to go out and enjoy the sights of Barcelona, alas, but long enough to get stuck into Tristram Shandy, in preparation for a trip to Shandy Hall in Yorkshire next weekend to celebrate Sterne’s 300th birthday. It suddenly struck me that in addition to anticipating so many features of modernist fiction, Sterne was also the world’s first blogger. The art of blogging – pray don’t interrupt me, madam, I am about to say something important for a change! – is the merging of real, historic and fictional time. Tristram Shandy is one vast blog, seven years in the making. Here are some photos of my 18th-century edition showing the famous marbled page (‘motley emblem of my work’) and the fold-out of Uncle Toby’s favourite song ‘Lillabullero’. I would rather like to publish a new edition of it one day, copiously (but not always relevantly) annotated, and with numerous contemporary illustrations of hobby-horses and midwives, maps of the siege of Namur, etc. Back in the office, the commentary dummy for Odes of Horace arrived. Here it is, pictured alongside the designs by David Eccles for the solander box cover and the acanthus-leaf surround to the facsimile book itself. Last night I went to a wonderful recital by Boris Giltburg, perhaps the most exciting young pianist in the world. Why mention this here, you might ask, apart from rightly encouraging all bloggees to go to his concerts? Why, because he is an enthusiastic member of Folio, and especially keen on our limited editions. He came to the office a couple of days ago, with another bibliophile friend, and only wanted to talk about books (they are particularly looking forward to The Toilers of the Sea) while I just wanted to talk about music. Appreciation from someone I admire as much as Boris is incredibly heart-warming. Folio took a stand at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair for the first time this year. As usual, there was a superb display of wonderful books and prints. For me the most enticing of all came from Russell Maret – here is a spread from his forthcoming riff on Euclid’s Elements, entitled Interstices and Intersections.