Friday, 9 August 2013
Just back from a week’s trekking in Iceland. I first became fascinated by this wild and majestic country when reading the sagas as a student – the dramatic events they describe are played out against a backdrop of harsh deserts and awesome mountains, sulphurous boiling mud and steaming hot streams, and these are indeed far more amazing in reality than any description. Folio published a substantial edition of the sagas some years ago, but have never published the heroic and mythological poetry – known as the Poetic Edda, which inspired Tolkien, Wagner and many others. Do let me know if you are a fellow enthusiast – I’d love to persuade my colleagues that we could publish this successfully. Last time I went to Iceland, a few years ago, I was reading The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo, and was totally gripped by this adventure yarn which has so much to say about the human condition. Only recently, however, did I learn that Hugo was also a formidable artist. Delacroix, no less, said of him that had he opted to become a painter instead of a writer he would have outshone all other artists of their century. Hugo clearly regarded The Toilers of the Sea as a combined literary and graphic project, and had 36 of his drawings bound in the original manuscript. Astonishingly, these original drawings have never been published with the text of the novel, an omission we hope to rectify next year. Victor Hugo’s father was a general in Napoleon’s army, and served in Spain during the Peninsular War. Indeed he was responsible for some of the atrocities so powerfully recorded by Goya in his series of etchings the Disasters of War. Work on our reproduction of the original album of these has involved many visits to the British Museum where it is now housed. Most recently we were comparing different pieces of acid-etched calf and swatches of marbled paper with the original volume. In this picture the endpaper of the original volume is at the top and below it are attempts to replicate it on two different stocks. Matching old hand-made paper stocks is very difficult: the one on the left is too bright white and that on the right (under the keys) is too creamy.