Thursday, 29 October 2015

A few weeks ago I went to Bayeux for the first time. Culinary considerations aside, the main objective was of course the Tapestry, and I was bowled over. The sheer length (70 metres is really very long), the richness of its colours, the series of striking compositions each overlapping and linking to the next, all contribute to an unforgettable experience. I have long had a pipe dream of reproducing the tapestry in full, as a continuous scroll, and I had a meeting with the Director of the Bayeux Museum to discuss this. He was intrigued, and I undertook to develop the idea further and send him a formal proposal. There are numerous technical problems, not least the construction of the viewing box. This drawing shows the concept – turning the two handles enables the viewer to scroll to and fro through the whole length of the tapestry. [Click on the image to enlarge]. Bayeux Tapestry Scroll boxSubject to the approval of the French authorities, we hope to publish next year, in time for the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings on 14 October. It may be a hare-brained idea but it might just come off.
The proximity of Bayeux to the D-Day beaches is a striking reminder of the symbolic importance (as well as the military one) of choosing Normandy for the landings in 1944. We were constantly reminded of the parallels between these great sea-borne invasions, viewing the tapestry one day (‘this is how we invaded England – we built all these ships, provisioned them with food and munitions, and filled them with our best troops and means of transport’) and the museum at Arromanches the next (‘this is how we liberated France – we built all these ships, provisioned them etc etc’). Surprisingly few traces remain of the awesome German defences: this battery at Longues-sur-mer is the only one to survive in situ. Battery at Longues-sur-mer; Arromanches D-Day museum
The latest news on Alice in Wonderland is that the text is now all printed, and the books are being sewn prior to casing in at the binders. This has to be done before the colour plates can be tipped into place – which is just as well, since the artwork for the plates is still coming in from Charles van Sandwyk in Canada. Here is one he sent the other day, which is perhaps my favourite so far: I like the way Charles has given a slightly unstable air to the Rabbit Herald by perching him on the gavel, and love the expressions of the audience – they look suitably interested, but not frightfully quick-witted. Alice in Wonderland illustration Our Alice web page will go live on 10 November, and the physical mailing will drop through letterboxes a few days later.
The author David Lodge popped in the other day to see our rare copy of the edition of H.G. Wells short stories, The Door in the Wall which was published in 1911, illustrated with original photogravures by Alvin Langdon Coburn. David is writing an essay to accompany our facsimile of this unusual book, and had only seen the photographs in muddy reproductions. Here is a rather better image of one of them, ‘The Lord of the Dynamos’, together with a proof of the title page, printed on mould-made paper. The Door in the Wall