Publishing Group Annual 2014
A Bouquet of Flowers
Review of the Publishing Group Annual: Flowers by Fred Eagles
Previously known as Small Printing this cooperative annual by members of the BPS Publishing Group is a welcome surprise in the depths of winter. This latest edition for 2014 is titled Flowers but has A Bouquet of Flowers on the cover.
Eighteen members of the PG combine their talents to produce one of the most colourful issues to date. From the Hedgehog Press, beautifully set in Consort Light, comes the query on which interpretation of Flowers is to be considered; this is accompanied by an excellent ancient electrotype of a skiff on a river by a meadow. Chris Brinson quotes the poet Christopher Hassall with a short verse on roses illustrated with what may be a linocut?
Peter Criddle also has a linocut on his page, a large initial A but the lines beneath it are set in those rarities Molé Floriate, Gill Floriated and Ballé Initials all appropriate to the theme. Correction: we are told on the verso that it is an old electro not a linocut. Two pages from John Easson guide the printer on the best approach to setting floral borders to decorate a page. This simple exercise reminds me of some of the work produced by Joe Shearn in the Fifties and Sixties which were a delight to behold.
A digital page from Mike Elliston follows illustrated with a few photos, taken on his Blackberry, of the favourite flower in his garden. Glint was very modern border unit designed by the graphic artist David Bethel in the Fifties. It was so named by Beatrice Warde of the English Monotype Corporation and became very popular with printers for its flexibility in layout and design. Paul Hatcher has three colourful pages illustrating how this design compared with the earlier Arabesques of the era and how well the two designs can be used together. Again one is reminded of the work of Joe Shearn!
John Holmes from New Zealand can always be relied upon to set the standard and his brief history of the development of fleurons through the ages is a delight with floral border units set within the text at the appropriate moment in time. I recall that what Owen Legg calls an elimination linocut is similar to Eric ‘Spider’ Webb’s cut-and-cut-again linocuts, also of the Fifties. Owen’s full page linocut in various shade of green is well done; it is only a pity that he could never reproduce it again.
A simple page set wholly in Sans comes from the Semple Press of Rachel Marsh with a floral decoration set exclusively in rectilinear border units. The recent cinema release of an extract from the life of Alan Turing at Bletchley Park reminds us that others were also deeply involved in the development of a means of overcoming the problem of the Enigma code. John Miller recalls the GPO engineer Tommy Flowers who built the Colossus computer, without which Turing could not have succeeded, out of spare parts.
Another digital contribution from Ron Prosser illustrates the silk-screen process used by ladies in India to aid the decoration of tree leaves with floral designs to make colourful cards for sale for charity. According to the OED the word ‘flour’ is derived from the word flower. Bob Richardson uses this link to illustrate his pages with examples of flour bags from the archives of the St Bride Library. Who remembers when flour came in 7-lb cotton bags?
Bob has two further pages, this time on the story of the continuous vine leaf-like Favoro border unit which I thought came from Stephenson Blake but actually came from P.M.Shanks, later Stevens Shanks. One is rather similar to the other and probably was its inspiration? He has photos of the original Figgins matrices again from the St Bride Library collection. Bob’s final sheet is a digital copy of the Monotype leaflet announcing the release of Will Carter’s leaf border units from 1955 which leaflet also featured the decorative dashes from David Bethel; see the Glint borders above.
Ron Rookes first leaf has a two-colour page set solid in the Arabesque borders (again so reminiscent of Joe Shearn), followed by extraordinarily good reproductions of various colourful wallpapers from William Morris’ Kelmscott Press. Jean Watson has a short verse by Abraham Lincoln topped by an illustration of a small bouquet of flowers,
George Webb reminds us that printers’ flowers need no watering or weeding and provides a selection of floral ornaments, some designed in Italy in 1478. A challenge from Peter White: which of the featured Latin names of various flowers are spelled correctly for half of the list are not. Proof readers should be careful for some examples I’d never even heard of. The final sheet is becoming something of a tradition. A Roll of Honour of contributions to this annual cooperative by members of the BPS Publishing Group from 1967 to 2013 provided by John Holmes of New Zealand and set in Baskerville.
The whole quite substantial volume is Wire-O bound in stiff covers printed by Bob Richardson, with the title page by George Webb and binding and list of Contributors by Ron Rookes. A worthy addition to your collection of valued printers’ ephemera.