Friday, 2 December 2011

I found a new use for the iPad the other day. I was at the Yale Centre for British Art, checking the proofs of William Blake’s illustrations to the poems of Thomas Gray against the watercolour originals, and they weren’t looking too good, so I brought the iPad camera into action:                   As you can see from this example, the proof (on the left) is distinctly ‘warmer’ than the original. Being able to photograph the two side by side in the same lighting conditions, and email the result to the repro house, is an immense help in getting the colour right. I try and avoid superlatives in this blog, but I have to say that handling over a hundred original watercolours by Blake is pretty exciting! The dummy copy of Poems of Thomas Gray has recently come in from the binders, designed by David Eccles as a companion to Night Thoughts which we published a few years ago. David is also working on lettering for the presentation box of the Vellum Leaves by William de Brailes. He has based it on de Brailes’ own inscription within one of the illuminations – these letters are less than 2mm high so it requires a magnifying glass and lots of patience to copy them. Here is de Brailes’ original, hugely enlarged, together with David’s version. After my visit to Yale I went to New York for meetings at various august institutions, sounding them out about the possibility of holding special events for our East coast members. The Morgan Library (who possess one of the de Brailes leaves) and The Grolier Club were both extremely welcoming and receptive to our ideas. Most intriguing was The Explorers Club, where we hope to hold an event to celebrate the South Polar Times. It is a magnificent building, with all the accoutrements one would hope for in such an institution, from solar topees to huge elephant tusks and a stuffed polar bear. On my flights to and from New York I was engrossed by Steven Pinker’s latest book The Better Angels of Our Nature, a fascinating analysis of the gradual decline of violence over the history of mankind. His accounts of medieval tortures and executions are grimly fascinating, and it was serendipitous that my last call in New York was at the Richard Feigen gallery, where Sam Fogg is showing some remarkable Northern European late medieval paintings, some of which rejoice in their depictions of unimaginable suffering. Here is a torturer from one of the paintings, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mr Bean. Finally a word about a fund-raising initiative from House of Illustration, our partners in the annual Book Illustration Competition. Please click here to support their excellent cause. Finally, finally, Quentin Blake has been awarded this year’s Prince Philip Designers Prize, to add to his amazing collection of honours. Is there any other appropriate award he has not won?