Friday, April 27, 2007

I Love This Book #1

My friends at The Old Stile Press have an occasional series on their blog titled, 'How I wish this book were one of ours', highlighting inspiring and interesting books of all sorts. So, having no shame whatsoever, I'm nicking the idea (sorry N.) because every now and again a book crosses my path - sadly often not for long - and I gasp at it and sniff (yes sniff) and stroke it, and wonder at quite what the attraction is.

I hope in this first of my occasional series, the attraction is obvious. But I should say that for me, books like this have a particular resonance. The books I was most fascinated by as a kid were exactly these kinds of natural history books: birds, beetles, minerals and so on... which categorised and listed and illustrated things. Sadly, none of the ones I had available were quite of this standard but still... these kinds of natural history books and field guides came just before atlases, which I was reminded of by a post recently on one of my favourite design and typography blogs because we had that atlas at home. And a little behind those in the 'fascinating' for a young mind stakes, came my mum and dad's old school textbooks, biology and chemistry in particular which, at the age of 13 or so I actually read from cover to cover!

So, to the matter in hand. Cast your eyes in wonder over A Systematic Arrangement of British Plants with an easy introduction to the study of botany by a chap with the perhaps botanically unfortunate name of William Withering. This is the 4th edition, published in London in 1801 with the most amazing copperplate engravings for illustrations. There's something about the quality of this kind of print which I feel always creates a much more direct sense of 'something drawn' than other forms of engraving. These four volumes have the original boards but have been professionally rebacked making four extremely nice and solid books. (psst... also currently on sale on ebay here till tomorrow).

Amateur Type

A growing interest in typography is kindling in my loins... So I'm sharing this little beauty with you today. Found in amongst a bundle of original drawings and artwork it's effectively a font, but hand-drawn. Not perhaps the kind of thing that I'd want to use on the front of a book, in fact, the more I think about it, I can't think of anyway in which I might have been able to use it but there was something mesmeric about the way it was drawn in black ink with one or two corrections in white... and in case anyone is wondering, I've already sold it!

PS. Thank you Thevina for adding comments here there and everywhere, lovely to see you here and even more lovely to have comments on the blog! A very well known blogger with a huge following (including me) recently started a post by saying that he had to revist an earlier topic because he had three or four blog-enquiries which, he said, was the blogger's equivalent of the phone ringing off the hook! He was being modest as his post regularly garner 20-30 comments but it is nice to see a few numbers as I scroll down. I'm glad you liked the photos and as a follow up to the Cockerell marbled paper post I should say that I recently found more sheets in different patterns but not enough of any of them to create even something as limited as Randwick Woods turned out to be. John C. YES... all 44,000 words typed out. I have toyed with the idea of getting OCR software but don't have the budget to get a decent version and I have found in the past that one gets what one pays for with both voice recognition and OCR software. However, I'm also being disingenuous a little, I kind of enjoy the challenge of putting it all onto the computer myself, plus, because of the slower speed of typing something as opposed to reading it, this way I am absolutely familiar with the text I'm publishing... intimately familiar... I like the way that typing the text creates a kind of relationship to it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Boring Diary Style Entry

Am sleeping very badly again, badly even for me. Hence I am up and typing and quite wide awake right now at 3.44am, considering even making this one of those nights I go straight through in order to 'start over' tomorrow evening. The danger always being that come tomorrow afternoon I will collapse onto the bed and have just enough sleep to put me off going to bed again till late tomorrow night.

Has been a fabulous day nonetheless. Of late we have got a new car - a zippy, little, petrol efficient, small car - the exact opposite of the monster we've got rid of. So it was Sunday... sunny... it seemed a good idea to go for a drive and we ended up in Arundel, known for it's castle and its antique shops. The picture is of the top floor of Ninevah house where a good dealer-friend of mine has a unit but the town used to be stuffed full of every level of antique shop. Sadly, it seems that over the last year or so it may have become a victim of its own success. The place becomes known for its antique shops so the visitors come (and Lord do they come by the coach load in the summer) but this means the town becomes prosperous, busy, successful... so rents go up. Thus forcing a good number of the antique shops out in favour of yet more cafes and tea-shops... This is the stage we're at right now but it seems to me that it won't be long before there are so few antique shops left that it becomes pointless to visit and use all the new tea-shops and cafes and so a downward spiral slips away before us...

Anyhow, although it was a little sad to see a couple more shops gone since our last visit, it was an extremely pleasant afternoon of rummaging and I came away with one or two bits.

In other news. I have finished typing all 44,000 words of Vincent O'Sullivans Aspects of Wilde, the first planned conventionally printed hardcover book in my catalogue. Next comes the rather strenuous task of proofing and laying out, followed by the rather challenging but fun task of designing the cover, followed by the extremely exciting task of uploading the lot to Lulu and waiting for the first copy to arrive through the letterbox!

And to top off a pretty good day all round... I've just watched the trailer for Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix which was released today and have goosebumps all over...
PS. John, thanks for continuing to pop by. I do watch yours every day and some of that artwork you've been posting recently is astonishing. Nicolas, I shall answer your email question about the nudes below shortly, I wasn't being obtuse when I emailed you I simply forgot that part of yours. Thev, hi, glad you could pop in...

Forrest Reid Rides Again

Forrest Reid is perhaps an acquired taste. His novels are almost exclusively stories of the 'sensitive' boy, usually set in an Irish landscape where the supernatural world of pagan Greece is only just below the surface of things. Reid's early novels are heart-stoppingly expensive and difficult to find. I still weep every now and again when I think of my copy of Pirates of the Spring, which in a moment of madness I sold a few years ago for a a stupid price. So, obviously, some of Reid's shorter works have been a serious target for my publishing enterprise - I currently have two titles by him and this above, is the third Reid related item. This time about Reid, not by him. These two short pieces were written at the time of Reid's death, one as a Radio talk (by Stephen Gilbert, long-time friend and still literary executor of Reid) the other, by Robert Lynd the essayist and critic, as a more conventional obitury piece. I toyed with the idea of attempting to get permission to add E. M. Forster's memoir of Reid as well but decided in the end that it would lengthen the process to much and the piece is still relatively easily available as it was anthologised in a couple of Forster's books. It would have only been for the pleasure of publishing a 'big name' - which is only vanity not good publishing.

I'm pleased with this design, the use of a victorian printers ornament in such a large and prominent way is probably something I'd not have dared a year ago now I think, blended against the green of the cover, it looks rather snappy!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Memories or not

Following on from rediscovering the pile of photos mentioned below I have also reopened a diary from 1993. I haven't kept a diary or journal all my life by any means but for periods of a year or so at a time I have done quite well. The frightening thing is that there are many things in this diary which I simply do not remember. One expects I guess to 'be reminded' by an old diary of things forgotten - and there was a great deal of that - but to find things that I still can't remember after reading about them is disconcerting to say the least: as though these things happened to someone else.

It transpires I was reading much more widely then, inspired by the man I was living with and working for in Nice on the south coast of France, who would throw - almost literally - books and CDs down the stairs to my basement flat from his house above. Some entries remind me that I did once listen to music: Beethovan piano works, Mahler, Rachmaninov and Britten. I was reading Derek Jarman for the first time. One note quotes him talking about Kings College London - where I did my degree too - he says it was as strange mix of 'Rugby, theologians and the rest of us', you can guess which of the three I was. I was also reading things as diverse as Jo Orton's Diaries and The Art of War in the Middle Ages (a whole journal page devoted to my fascination with the Battle of Adrianople where, apparently, the Romans were routed by the Goths!)

Here too is an account, word for word, of a visit to a young offender in the segregation wing of Her Majesty's Young Offenders Institution XXX, which I don't remember at all.

And most surprisingly of all, apparently in early 1993 my then boyfriend and I saw a production of What the Butler Saw in Salisbury starring a very young Ewan McGregor. The diary records my impressions of both the play and Mr McGregor's cock. You might think I would remember that!

How different a person one is at 21...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Callum James Gets a Face Lift

Well, it was about time but the bookselling website has now undergone a complete redesign and an update with at least three books not previously online there (all of them have been shown here at some point though).

Callum James Books

Friday, April 13, 2007

Atelier Callum

For some few years R and I have been moving from one small flat to another and a great deal of our 'stuff' was deposited in my parent's garage. Our current flat is the biggest, nicest and most long-standing for a long time and so most of that 'stuff' has slowly found its way back to us.

There was a time, before digital photography got good, when I was something of an amateur photographer and had the room and resources to keep a dark-room up and running in the house and some of the products of that period recently got dragged out of the garage and I've had a wondeful time flicking through hundreds of photos. The upshot of my afternoon of tripping down memory lane is this little studio exhibition below.

PS. Thank you to all my blog-friends for staying in touch despite my recent long silence on this blog and via email. John, thank you in particular for your long and insighful comment on the post below. I hope that I can be a better long-distance, e-friend to you all again now.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Scar

A while ago I was hearing things about how websites like Cafepress and Lulu had begun to come into their own. Now that self-publishing is not such a dirty word they seem to have found an important niche. I was intrigued however, by the possibilities for a more conventional arm to my publishing work. At the moment I create two kinds of book. The first is a booklet format which, although I hope I have developed into something which looks good and has interesting content, has its limitations in terms of the length of text it is possible to publish. The second are the hand-made casebound books which also have limitations not just of size but also of time and resources as they are difficult buggers to get right.

My original aim in starting publishing was to get as much interesting and difficult-to-find material as possible 'out there' so it's always been an irritation that I can't reprint whole books - the capital costs and minimum orders from almost all book printers are simply too great. But here comes Cafepress and Lulu with the option of doing all your own design-work and being able to order just the one copy if that's all you want. So, in order to test out how easy (or not) the process was I needed a text of a suitable length. Handily I, like how many millions of other people, have at least one unfinished novel in the metaphorical drawer (these days a computer file) so I used that. A fair amount of reading is required on the Lulu website (I chose Lulu because they offer a hardback with dustjacket format) to understand the technical specifications of what files and formats are required but I DTPed the text and designed my cover in the appropriate *pdf format and so on and eventually uploaded the files and ordered a copy. Obviously I am not trying to self-publish here. The aim of the exercise was two-fold. I wanted to see how the process worked and I also thought that perhaps seeing even half a novel in the form of a 'real' book, I might be encouraged to go back to writing it.

Obviously, you are looking at a picture of the final product. Apart from a little tweaking, the formatting worked and was straightforward enough. I now believe that once I have a text it would only take a few hours work to get it to the stage of being able to order the first copy from Lulu. It's cheap enough that there's a profit margin to be had and (although the page paper is just a tiny bit thinner than I would ideally like) the quality is very good.

The upshot of this is that I am now planning my first conventionally printed hardback publication to go alongside NOT replace the hand-made stuff (it's the only way I could publish book-length material) so look out for a new edition of Aspects of Wilde by Vincent O'Sullivan being anounced in the near future. I haven't yet decided on the details such as will I keep the notion of limited edition for these books or will they be open, things like that, but I am most of the way through digitising the text and the introduction has been written so it won't be all that long.
Will I be sharing the text of my magnum opus with you all here? - no.
Can I really work in the mess you see there on my desk? - yes
Who links to my website?