Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Rather a hiatus in blogging of late, not because there has been a lack of interesting activity, rather because there has been too much. I did get as far as starting a Yule blog, featuring this lovely wall painting of the Nativity in the church at Malancrav, in Transylvania, where we went last summer. I particularly like the rather naughty expressions of the ox and ass. Now even the New Year is becoming a distant memory. It was very exciting to see that the Queen’s honours list included a knighthood for Quentin Blake. There were parties aplenty for Quentin’s 80th birthday last month, but not a word was whispered of this impending glory. Not that this distracted him from his work, and he duly delivered the artwork for The Fables of La Fontaine punctual to the day.  There are over 50 illustrations, and the way he has varied the rhythm – full-colour plates are interspersed with less formal images with restricted colour palettes – is a joy.

We have been forging ahead with trials on the William Morris manuscript of Horace’s Odes, which have been fraught with difficultly due to the incredible intricacy of his original work, and in particular the wide variety of gold and silver tooling Morris employed. The binding is also particularly tricky, with handsome leather doublures – I doubt whether this attractive hand-binding technique has ever been attempted on an edition of this size, and the prospect is somewhat daunting.   However the really hectic activity has been around Van Gogh’s sketchbooks. With over 300 separate images to reproduce, numerous visits to check the proofs against the originals in Amsterdam have been required. Meanwhile the curators at the Van Gogh Museum have been working round the clock to produce a commentary on every single sketch (and even every single smudge). We are working flat out to have the facsimiles ready for the re-opening of the Museum on 1 May 2013. The trial solander box arrived yesterday, together with a proof of the limitation certificate, printed letterpress. I have just heard from Hereford that our reproduction of the Mappa Mundi is now on display in the South East Transept of the Cathedral, housed in the 1948 display case originally constructed for the medieval map itself by the Royal Geographical Society. The recent refurbishment of the case has added smart new oak panelled doors and down lights, allowing an impressive display of the Folio Society map when the original cannot be viewed.