Letterpress book


I had recently started letterpress printing and was on the lookout for something to test me. I had been a book designer at Cambridge University Press so I knew the ropes. A friend of mine said that his son writes poetry. At that time Sam Oliver was an undergraduate studying Classics at university.

Sam sent me his poetry and I set to work designing the book. There were many technical restrictions. My Arab had a chase size of just 9" × 13" which meant that I could only really print one page at a time. I had the 10pt Monotype Centaur cast for me by Hand & Eye Foundry (now Effra Press) but I only ordered a half font which wasn't nearly enough, even for a single page. Some of the pages had to printed in two sections because of this.

It turned out that typesetting the book was certainly a test. There were lots of different alignments: left, right, and centred text. And perhaps choosing to make it 40 pages was foolish.

I printed and bound an edition of 26 with half of them going to Sam, and I either sold or gifted my half. I also bound a few copies in paperback as an experiment.

… a collection of poems in a demanding variety of stanza forms, set in a small size of Centaur/Arrighi, well printed in a small format on some salvaged Glastonbury laid paper, and handsomely bound by the printer in a black cloth case, printed in grey in wood letter with the title vertically down and up the binding – a layout repeated on the title page. This remarkably assured performance was published in an edition of 26, and only five were for sale, but you might be lucky.

Review from Parenthesis, the journal of the Fine Press Book Association.