Thursday, 21 March 2013

Just back from the Prints and Drawings department at the British Museum, where we were looking at one of their great treasures, the unique volume of original Goya etchings for Los Desastres de la Guerra printed by the artist himself and bound for presentation to his friend Ceán Bermúdez. For political reasons the first edition was not published until 1863, long after Goya’s death, and the plates in it were considerably altered, so the BM copy is the only record we have of the artist’s intentions. These are among the most graphic and visceral depictions of war ever made, and we are hoping to publish a facsimile of them next year, the bicentenary of the ending of the Peninsular War. Here are two of the 85 plates: the pencil captions were written by Goya himself, who also wrote his name on the page edges – which we intend to reproduce.

Mentions in this blog of the forthcoming Fifty Fables of La Fontaine illustrated by Quentin Blake have stirred up considerable interest, and several members have asked if they can reserve a copy. This is indeed possible, but not via a comment on the blog. Should you wish to do so, please contact our Limited Editions team directly via this e-mail address: [email protected]. This is perhaps an appropriate moment to point out that this blog is intended as an informal ramble through the content of our Limited Edition projects, and does not treat of such practical matters as prices and publication dates – all of which will be announced in due course via mailings and our website. Indeed, the fact that I mention a project does not even mean that we will certainly publish it: some fall by the wayside, alas. Having said which, this next project will most certainly be published, barring accidents. I had a visit the other day from Michael Williamson, chairman of The Trollope Society, who had an extraordinary tale to tell about The Duke’s Children, the final volume of Trollope’s ‘political’ (or Palliser) novels, and widely regarded as one of his finest. It had always struck me as odd that The Duke’s Children is considerably shorter than the other novels in the series. Michael explained that as originally written it was indeed as long as the others, and contained additional threads of plot which tied up the narratives of the earlier books; but the wretched publishers, faced with declining sales, insisted that he cut the book to three-quarters of the length. Trollope reluctantly did so, and pruned the book so carefully that no one would suspect that a quarter of it was missing. Fortunately the original manuscript survives in the Beinecke Library at Yale. Amazingly it has never been published, and Michael has offered us the chance to do so – happily coinciding with Trollope’s bicentenary in 2015. I am now taking great pleasure in re-reading the five preceding political novels, so as to be primed for reading the restored final volume as soon as the text is available. This print is of the castle of Crummie-Toddie, which features in the novel, and gives a clue to the illustration style we plan to adopt. Back to La Fontaine, I was delighted to hear that Sarah Bakewell has agreed to write an introduction to our edition. I found her book How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer utterly inspirational and can warmly recommend it even to those who – like myself – have never read Montaigne. And here, to finish with, is a lately arrived rat from the QB studio.