Friday, 17 August 2012

Last week I went to press pass Edward Lear’s Birds at the printers Appl, in the lovely Bavarian village of Wemding. The printer was a Herr Vogel, which occasioned much innocent merriment.

Then back to London, where the leather-bound dummy finally appeared – we have been working on it for six months or so, devising methods of replicating old methods and materials with what we have available. Not perfect yet, but it will be. Meanwhile, Niroot has been making progress (slow progress indeed, not surprisingly) with his paintings for the Just So Stories. Here are three stages in the evolution of his Whale, with the Mariner, who was a man of infinite-resource-and-sagacity, stepping out on the shingle.

I have heard a variety of apologies from printers over the years, but this one – from Christopher Bacon, who is printing Niroot’s etching for Just So Stories – is a new one. ‘Sorry to have missed your call this morning, but had to take a sick hedgehog to hospital...’ No doubt it was a Stickly-Prickly Hedgehog, though not from the banks of the turbid Amazon. Still on the subject of Just So Stories, we have received an excellent introduction from Michael Morpurgo. I worked with Michael on one of his first books, All Around the Year, more than 30 years ago, which led to the undoubted high spot of my literary career – playing darts with Ted Hughes in a Devon pub. We are at last beginning to see the end of an extraordinary journey – the Letterpress Shakespeare. Someone spotted that Shakespeare's 450th birthday is 23 April 2014, which seems an appropriate date for us to conclude this huge undertaking. No doubt there will be great bardolatrous revelries on that day, and even more a couple of years later, which will be the 500th anniversary of his death. Now I’m off with my family for a couple of weeks in Transylvania, where I’m assured we will have a fangtastic time. (Ouch!)