Thursday, 4 June 2015
I went to York at the weekend, for the AGM of the Alliance of Literary Societies, and met several people who asked whether I had given up my blog; flattered that they should have noticed its non-appearance in the last few months, I resolved to resume writing it without delay. Since the start of the year things have been somewhat hectic, with a major reorganisation of our office. The result is a change to my role: after nearly 30 years in charge of all Folio production, I am now concentrating entirely on Limited Editions; having been freed from the shackles of managing a department I am throwing myself into numerous projects with renewed relish. In fact that was the reason for going to York – by meeting representatives from 40 or 50 other literary societies and telling them about our successful collaboration with the Trollope Society on The Duke’s Children, I am hoping that other masterpieces may emerge from dusty cupboards up and down the land. One cannot visit York without seeing the Minster, and I spent a pleasant hour there, particularly in the Chapter House, which contains the most wonderful gallery of medieval portraits in the carved stone heads above the stalls. There must be almost a hundred of these, all different and amazingly life-like. To my surprise, there does not appear to be a photographic book of them – perhaps I can persuade the authorities to let me make one. Then I went to Shandy Hall in Coxwold for a chat with Patrick Wildgust. Major Sterne anniversaries will occur in 2017 (250 years from ‘The End’ of Tristram Shandy) and 2018 (publication of A Sentimental Journey and Sterne’s death) and we discussed various possible publications to mark these events. Earlier in the week was the Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia, filled with eye-popping treasures. Here are a few of them: Hansel and Gretel, a selection of Grimm Stories beautifully illustrated by Kay Nielsen, whose endpaper design (top, above) is one of the loveliest I have ever seen; the original artwork for a French 19th-century book of mammals – the watercolours of the animals themselves are by Jean Werner, and the exquisite pencil backgrounds are by Alexandre de Bar. And here is a real curiosity from Maggs Bros – a broadsheet in which Shakespeare is co-opted to the defence of the realm against the tyrant Bonaparte. And talking of Napoleon, I also ran into my friend Martin Morgan of Extraordinary Editions, who was selling copies of his magnificent centenary anthology The Battle of Waterloo 1815: if you can only buy one Waterloo book this year, this should be the one! Ever since once of our members brought in his copy of one of Walter Crane’s Toy Books, I have been trying to track down a complete set of these wonderful publications. There are 41 in all, each of 8 or 16 leaves, and consist of retellings of classic children’s stories such as ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, illustrated with intensely coloured wood block prints. Once I have tracked them all down I’d like to produce a facsimile series in their original covers. As a taster, here is the fabulous double-page spread from ‘Beauty and the Beast’. A week or so ago, I went to the opening of an exhibition from the collections of Oliver Hoare, mounted to accompany his book Every Object Tells a Story, an extraordinarily eclectic and beautiful collection of objects from around the world. Here for example is a serenely beautiful head of the Buddha, from the Gandhara civilisation in what is now Afghanistan, dating from the 3rd Century AD. For more details click here. Although it is rather belated, I cannot resist including this photo from the ceremony in which Quentin Blake was made a Freeman of the City of London – the most famous privilege of which is that he can freely herd his sheep across London Bridge. Here he is, sandwiched between the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. And here too is an illustration from his forthcoming edition of The Golden Ass, details of which will be sent to our members in a week or so.