A Couple Works from The Old School Press, ‘On Durham’ and ‘An Italian Dream’

I saw an ad in the latest Parenthesis for a fine press publisher in England with the name ‘The Old School Press’ owned and operated by Martyn and Angela Ould.  The name resonated with me since I tend to like “old school” works! A visit to their web site shows an interesting mix of small publications, including lots of poetry. They publish new texts in limited editions, using letterpress, fine paper and hand binding. Prices are very reasonable. Here are a couple examples of their work, with descriptions pulled from the website and pictures provided by me.

On Durham (De Sitv Dvnelmi)

The last extant poem in the Anglo-Saxon poetic tradition is The Old English Durham Poem. It tells of the site in the North of England on which the city has been built and the relics of the saints assembled there. David Crane has provided an introduction to his new translation of the poem, a translation that matches the metrical structure and alliteration of the original. It is printed in hand-set Stephenson Blake Caslon Old Face (including the 10, 12, 14, 18, 22 and 30pt) on Zerkall mould-made paper, and sewn into a wrapper of heavy, hammered Zerkall.

There is a trade edition of about 250 copies ($10) with a nineteenth century wood-engraving, found in the stock of a Durham printer, printed from the wood. A regular edition of about 50 copies ($35) also contains an additional line drawing by Wendy Batt of an interior from Durham Cathedral and an additional wrapper of kozo handmade paper. The pictures that follow are from the regular edition.

The paper and print are very nice, and though the poem itself is only one page, I found the introduction from Crane interesting. Here are some pictures, with apologies for the poor lighting.

On Durham, Old School Press, Cover
On Durham, Old School Press, Endpapers
On Durham, Old School Press, Title Page
On Durham, Old School Press, Sample Page (Introduction)
On Durham, Old School Press, Sample Page (Introduction) and Illustration
On Durham, Old School Press, The Poem Itself
On Durham, Old School Press, Colophon

An Italian Dream, by Charles Dickens

This is chapter seven from Pictures of Italy, by Charles Dickens.  In this chapter, Dickens describes his visit to La Serenissima as if remembering a dream that happened between two other, more prosaic stops on his tour. ‘In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed of time, and had but little understanding of its flight. But there were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed along the streets.’

The text was set automatically in 12pt Poliphilus from the digital copy by Harry McIntosh at Speedspools. Poliphilus is a type based closely on that cut by Francesco Griffo and used for Aldus Manutius’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili which was published in Venice in 1499. The  text was printed on a dampened hand-made paper from the Carteria Amatruda in Amalfi, a stock of which bought from Christopher Skelton’s estate some years back. Complementing that are end-papers of a burgundy-coloured Magnani Firenze, another Italian hand-made. The book consists of a single section of 16pp sewn into boards. The front cover carries a photograph, digitally manipulated, that Martyn Ould took on a rather misty day from Dorsoduro, towards San Giorgio, though the latter was not to be seen. The edition is 135 copies. $70.

This is a beautifully done little book; small, but everything done top notch. As with On Durham, the paper and type is especially nice. For those who have been to Venice, sipping a nice wine on a spring day while reading this fine edition will dreamily put you back into the mindset of being there!  I find this a nice insert to the amazing Allen Press edition of A Venetian Story by Lord Byron (which will be reviewed on Books and Vines in the coming months).

An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Cover
An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Cover and Spine
An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Endpaper and Title Page
An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Sample Page with Text
An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Second Sample Pages with Text
An Italian Dream, The Old School Press, Colophon

8 thoughts on “A Couple Works from The Old School Press, ‘On Durham’ and ‘An Italian Dream’

  1. Hello Chris,

    Some nice comments about ‘The Old School Press’. I would urge people to use your link to view the site. It is full of interesting information and images. My favourite section is where Martyn Ould gives a ‘running commentary’ on the development and production of some of his books. The combination of words and pictures is like a basic education on how to produce hand-made books in a Private Press. I bought a copy of ‘Palladio’s Homes'(a wonderful book) as a result of reading about it month by month from the original idea to the completion of the book. There is also a useful page of links to a number of British Private Presses that are currently making books. Martyn Ould is deeply involved in many aspects of the Private Press movement including ‘Parenthesis’ and this comes through in his site.

    Thanks again for the interesting words and images.

  2. This small private press is a find. I visited their website and looked at their list of books currently in print. Most of the books are quirky in a typically British manner focused primarily on poetry. However, there is a gem in their list of books in print, namely, ‘Tonge’s Travels’. It is the travel diary of a young Oxford undergraduate who spent his summer aboard a steamer touring the Mediterranean in 1865. If you click onto books ‘in print’, then click on the watercolor image to the left of ‘Tonge’s Travels’, and finally click onto the blue tab marked “excerpts” it is possible to print out and read six pages from Tonge’s travel diary.

    Simply put, young Mr. George Tonge is an observant and astute traveler with a humorous, caustic wit. Reading the excerpt reminded me of Mark Twain’s ‘Roughing It’ as he crossed the western United States in a stagecoach. Aside from the historical interest in reading about these cities (Genoa, Pisa, Naples, Corinth, Athens, and Algiers) through the eyes of a young undergraduate in the mid-19th century, it seems to be a marvelous read.

    The book seems to be beautifully done using letterpress on Mohawk Superfine eggshell finish paper, text running in wide double columns, and 24 watercolors and sketches. Needless to say, I have ordered both books.

  3. It is amazing to me the wide variety, but low cost books, which you seem to so easily find. If I were younger, many of these editions I would pursue. In the meantime, I hope you are showing younger collectors the many options they have open to them in the Fine Press genre. Keep up the good work!

    1. Thanks Don, appreciate it! You are right, for younger folks (not hard to be younger than me these days!), there are a lot of options. Funny, in this world going digital, I am convinced a further renaissance in fine press work across the price spectrum will only grow, as a subset of people will want ‘real’ books, and such people will generally want well done real books, else why not just do digital?

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