We’ve added a new page, a splendid interview with Michael Harvey by Nicholas Sloan.
Archive for the 'People' Category
Michael Harvey has been working with letters for more than sixty years. He has drawn them and cut them, he has written about them and taught them, he has made fonts. He was taught by Joseph Cribb and Reynolds Stone who in turn were taught by Eric Gill, so he links the current generation of lettering and type design with the great revival of the Arts and Crafts movement. Having absorbed its influence he moved on to other letter forms, sometimes exploring for its own sake, always considering the function of what he was doing.
Now he has told the story of his Adventures with Letters in a book that he has written, designed and illustrated with numerous drawings, photographs and type specimens. It’s published by his 47 editions imprint, and we’re very pleased that he’s asked us to distribute it. It is available here, now!
The Curwen Studio was started by the mighty Curwen Press in 1958. Stanley Jones was hired to set it up and run it, and he’s still there, as dedicated as ever to lithographic print making. Phil had the good fortune to go to the studio with the Double Crown Club yesterday.
It’s an awe-inspiring place, with a tradition and artefacts going back to the 1920s and 1930s and beyond. There was one of the plates that the Curwen Press used to print Barnett Freedman‘s illustrations of Anna Karenina; a stone on which Freedman had drawn the tools of the trade over which he had such mastery; and an Ardizzone plate, possibly for Stig of the Dump or The Otterbury Incident, we thought, but more likely a Little Tim book given the size. There are some pictures of them here.
The presses were impressive too. Sitting outside is a German proofing press from the 1920s that the Studio used for years. Metal fatigue finally took its toll, and now it is a rusting sculpture among the trees. We were shown a stone litho press that had been used by the Press for music printing. It has burn marks from the fire that followed the bombing of the Curwen Press during the Second World War. And there are two massive B1 proofing presses, made by FAG, one of whose letterpress proofers we have in Pinchin Street. Interestingly, Stanley, and Jenny Roland who is managing director of the Studio, believe that eventually the printing trade will completely move over to computer to plate, the film and plates they use will no longer be available and litho print making will revert to using stones only. Like film-setting, it’s the intermediate technologies that go, the new ones march on and the earlier ones continue as a medium for artists and craftsmen.
Stanley took us through the different ways of preparing a lithographic image, and for illustration there was a pile of proofs that included a Paul Hogarth colour separation, David Gentleman trying out different pencils and pens on sheet of exquisite figure drawings, a Paula Rego and some Henry Moores.
There are lots of wonderful prints on the walls too, as might be expected, and a plan chest where Angie Lewin shares a drawer with Bob Dylan.
Each of the group of seven was given a piece of A4 drafting film, pens, pencils, crayons, markers and scalpels with which we made their own images. They were put up together on one sheet and exposed on plate. Then we could see the magical process of the plate being developed and watched as prints were made. There was no Freedman or Gentleman present, but t we did have Ian Beck in the party, and it was a great deal of fun.
Yesterday was the twenty-fifth anniversary of our first day in business and we celebrated with a party. Not everyone who had planned to join us could make it because of the snow, but we think there were still 60-70 people here. One of them was Phil Baines, who kindly took this photo, as well as some more that he has put on Flickr.
It was a great evening and we’re really proud to have got this far. Now, as well as recovering, we’re getting on with the real reason for being here: printing.
We’re also making some progress with our Monotype installation. All our equipment is here, or nearly all of it, and the machines have been wired in. The next big step is getting the plumbing done. Meanwhile we’re making an inventory of our matrices.
We bought forty cases of metal type and borders, a good range of new Old Face Open in packets and twenty-nine cases of wood letter along with the Monotype. We plan to proof them up over the coming weeks.
There’s a lot going on here at the moment, hence the infrequent blog entries.
Phil has been frantically printing Richard III, the latest in the the Letterpress Shakespeare series for the Folio Society. His attempts to meet the production deadline haven’t been helped by an ink problem. We used to buy a black from Shackell Edwards that was made to our specification. It was wonderfully stiff and dense, and gave a terrific sharp, rich result. SE went out of business earlier in the year, and when we asked another manufacturer, who will remain nameless, to provide a match what they came up with was so thin and runny that we’ve had to reprint five formes.
Our usual practice on the Shakespeare is that Nick imposes the formes and Phil prints them. The impositions don’t take nearly as long as the printing, and in between times Nick has been working with Rosa on the proofing press. They are printing a short extract from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for the Oak Tree Fine Press. It is only 48 pages, but they are all in two colours and there are ten or eleven wood engravings to print from the original blocks too. The type was set on a Mac and made into line blocks, which need careful positioning on the press. To add to the fun, some of the edition is on hand made paper which has very irregular edges, a nightmare for maintaining register.
The job has had its problems and it’s going much slower than we had hoped, but the printing’s looking great.
We’re closed next week, as Phil is away. There may be a post or two from San Francisco…
Otherwise we open again on 23 March.
Josh is with us at the moment on work experience. He studied graphic design at Bath, where he had some experience of letterpress.
He’s standing next to the book we’ve been printing, now packed up and ready to go for binding. It’s a signed transcript of Doris Lessing’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, which is being published by Oak Tree Fine Press. Unusually, the author signed on blank paper before the printing, so we had to take extra care.
That page was printed on our proofing press, but the rest went on the Heidelberg cylinder. The restoration work we described here paid off once again, because having the press in good condition greatly reduced setting up times.
Jessica is in the final year of her graphic design course at Camberwell College of Art. She’s on work experience with us, and is currently working on a poster for our stand at the letterpress day at St Bride this Friday.
Catherine is a print maker based in Edinburgh. She is doing work experience with us this week and next.