STOP PRESS: Just after writing this, I went to the ABA fair in Olympia, and saw a first edition of Micrographia for sale, see below. This photo perfectly illustrates the problem we had in photographing the plates when the image disappears into the gutter. And NB the stonking price tag!Another forthcoming publication is a set of three facsimiles of fine press works from the 1920s, and their dummy volumes were delivered last week. The books are as close as we can make them to the original volumes, but the solander boxes are entirely new, and rather jolly, I think! Yesterday we had a visit from Neil Bousfield, a brilliant engraver who is taking up the challenge of illustrating Wilfred Owen, the third in our letterpress War Poets series. Neil works in the demanding medium of reduction engraving (which I have heard referred to as the ‘suicidal technique’ since no mistake can ever be rectified), printing layers of colour, each darker than the last, from the same block, which is further engraved between each printing. Here is an example of Neil’s work, entitled The cold, cold sea: Another very talented young artist who called in recently, and for whom I’d love to find a suitable Folio book, is Claudia Hahn. She is a Natural History illustrator, and her technique is also very demanding, with eye-popping detail. Here is a print I particularly admired, clearly oriental in inspiration, and enhanced by the liberal application of gold leaf. Tom Phillips has found time between sessions of judging the Booker prize (which involves reading 180 new novels) to celebrate his 80th birthday with an exhibition at Flowers East, Connected Works. The variety of works on show is remarkable, though they all share themes which have run through Tom’s entire career. Here is Wittgenstein’s Cage (2009), which exemplifies Wittgenstein's proposition ‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world’: the text can be read on all six planes of the cube simultaneously in layered, mirrored and condensed form, thus demonstrating Wittgenstein’s ‘trap of language’. A serious point made in a thoroughly accessible and witty form. And finally, when visiting Naples recently, I can across a tiny printing shop (Officina Carmine Cervone) in a back street: the owner welcomed me in, and we had a good ‘bonding’ chat about the merits of letterpress, fine paper etc. I imagine that 50 years ago there were little artisanal printing ‘offices’ like this scattered through towns and cities all over the world; now they are rare, but a delight to come across.
The Folio Society does not often hold launch parties, and there was a good reason to make an exception for the Bayeux Tapestry. If ever a publication needs to be seen to be understood, this is it. We held the event at House of Illustration, and it was attended by press, friends and Folio customers. Alas my speech is not recorded for posterity, but as soon as I’d finished speaking I was hauled off to a quiet room by the charming Dr Janina Ramirez (‘the Art Detective’) to record an impromptu podcast which you can listen to here. The most enjoyable aspect of the evening was seeing so many people gazing absorbed by the tapestry as they turned the handles and watched its action unfold before their eyes. We have just received early copies of our latest limited edition, Robert Hooke’s Micrographia – I believe this is the first edition since the 18th century to include all the plates at full size. Here’s a photo, showing the famous enlargement of the fly’s eye – it has an extraordinary impact even today, so how it appeared to its first readership in 1665 one can scarcely imagine. It’s a big book, so I left my reading glasses on the page to give an idea of scale. I knew that it was one of David Attenborough’s favourite books, so I took him a copy and he was delighted.