Saturday, May 26, 2012

Printing at Olympia and St Brides

So many exciting and interesting things to share from the London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia this weekend, I don't quite know where to start. Thank you to the Old Stile Press for inviting me to come and be around their stand and thank you to all those who came up to say hello and made themselves known, it's always nice to be able to put a face to an email.

If you come here often you might remember that I blogged about a little wooden printing block I had bought for a few pounds in an antique centre locally. I took it with me to London as the Old Stile Press had very kindly offered to attempt to print it. But, as it turned out, just across from us in the 'ancillary exhibitors' section were the lovely, wildly enthusiastic, friendly, kind and generous people (above) from the St Bride Foundation, which is an amazing resource just off Fleet Street, a charitable foundation, that includes a 50,000 volume library on printing and typography and an educational resource about the history and practice of printing and book-making. They had with them an actual printing press and a proofing press, both of which they were using in a 'demonstration' fashion during the fair, there was also a 'have a go' table where you could try your hand at cutting a few lines in a wooden block. They were delightful people who very kindly offered to have a go at printing my block for me.

It was cleaned and proofed and adjusted and cleaned again in ways that defy imagining but we did have that moment of magic when the paper is peeled back and Lo! the image has arrived (below). And for a block which might last have been printed a hundred years ago or more it was in remarkable condition and, all agreed, a rather fine example. Thank you to all!

Of course, in my previous post on the subject I said I had sworn off buying the very common copper or zinc alloy printing plates you see all over the place but I was reminded at the fair that it might not be wise to overlook them all. John Lennon's first book, In His Own Right, was auctioned recently in Stockport with all the original printing plates for the rather quirky illustrations by John himself. At auction they raised nearly four and a half thousand pounds: if you wanted to buy them at Fair today where they have found their way onto a dealer's stand you would have pay a great deal more than that!

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