Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Back in the office after a wonderful holiday in the Abruzzo - our hovel was just behind this castle at Rocca di Calascio. Amongst the 305 emails which had stacked up while I was away were two of particular interest. One was from Tom Phillips, who has just finished his Cicero illustrations for us. He sent a scan of the original Roman coin he had cunningly doctored for his dig at Berlusconi. The illustrations are full of contemporary references, and why not?  Cicero’s impassioned outcry ‘o tempora, o mores’ is as pertinent today as it ever was –and not just in Rome. Tom also said the book he would most like to work on next is Rilke’s Duino Elegies–he’d like to translate the poems as well as illustrate them, so it would be an out-and-out artist’s book – probably printed letterpress on hand-made paper with giclée illustrations. The other interesting email was from Quentin Blake, proposing La Fontaine as his next victim. Strangely, Folio has never published the Fables before – but I scarcely care what book Quentin does, it’s such a joy working with him. He sent this appetiser, of the Ant and the Cricket. I have been kept busy this week working on South Polar Times, the ‘in-house journal’ kept by Captain Scott’s men on his two Antarctic Expeditions. We are publishing a facsimile of all twelve issues to coincide with the centenary of his death next year. The twelve original volumes are housed in three different locations – the Royal Geographical Society, the British Library, and the Scott Polar Research Institute, and we have been scurrying between these august institutions with stacks of colour proofs. One could easily get blasé about handling such treasures, but there’s still an amazing frisson of excitement about these fragile typewritten pages, knowing the conditions in which they were produced and the tragic outcome of the Terra Nova expedition. All the best illustrations are by E.A. Wilson, who was in the polar party who perished with Scott. Here is one of his covers.