The Bowler Press – Wilde’s Importance of Being Earnest

When doing some searches a few months back on what fine private presses still exist, I stumbled upon The Bowler Press in Vancouver.  The Bowler Press was founded in 2007 by Jarrett Morrison with an intent to primarily print illustrated works of classic literature in limited editions, with occasional new works from time to time.   Presswork is performed on a Chandler and Price Old Style jobber manufactured in 1910.

After a couple email conversations with Mr. Morrison, I jumped in and subscribed, purchasing his first letterpress work, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Wilde is one of my favorite author’s, and I love this particular story (a “a trivial comedy for serious people”).  However, it was Mr. Morrison’s obvious enthusiasm that gave me a strong indication that his work would be top notch.

As taken from Bowler’s website:

This edition follows the text from the three-act version first produced at St James’s Theatre in London in 1895.  Hand set in Bembo roman, with stage directions composed in Fairbank italic by the Bixler letterfoundry. Printed on Somerset Book Soft White Wove. Quarter bound in burgundy velour with pattern-printed covers and Bugra endsheets. Ten engravings by Jarrett Morrison, including one 4 by 6, six 3 by 4, and three 2 by 2.  Sixty-five copies, including five hors commerce; octavo, 100 pages.

Mr. Morrison did it all on this book. Designing, setting, illustrating, printing and binding.

When the book arrived, my high expectations were exceeded.  The quality is amazing.  The burgundy velour binding with gold lettering is unique and beautiful, matching perfectly with the patterned cover.   The paper is absolutely top notch, very soft and moderately thick.  The text is easy to read and brilliant (as only can happen with letterpress).  The spacing on the pages is pleasing to the eye and contributes to the ease of reading.  My only nit-pick is I wish it came with a slip case, as the corners will be easy to damage with slight rubbing.  An absolute top notch work, amazing it is his first effort.    With only 65 copies made, lovers of fine books should run to find a copy before it sells out.

I look forward to Mr. Morrison’s next couple efforts.  Currently, plans are for two more titles in 2011, A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift and Songs to Julia by Robert Herrick.  2012 should bring the first volume of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice which I am eagerly looking forward to.

Here are some photo’s to give you a visual of the book.

Quarter Bound in Burgundy Velour with Gold Lettering
The Title Page, notice the fine, intricate wood engraved illustration
A Sample Page, notice spacing, the clarity of the text and intricate wood engraving
Importance of Being Earnest, Bowler Press, Colophon