The first fine press book reviewed on Books and Vines (on July 6, 2011) was Oscar Wilde‘s The Importance of Being Earnest, from The Bowler Press. Unfortunately for The Bowler Press, in the early days of Books and Vines site traffic was lucky to be 50 or so visits a day with single digit subscribers. Now that daily traffic is 400-500 visits daily and growing, with over 120 subscribers, not to mention having a camera that actually takes decent pictures, I thought it time to re-shine some light on this fantastic edition.
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.
With Wilde being one of my favorite authors, and The Importance of Being Earnest being one of my favorite Wilde books, purchasing a fine letterpress edition of this work was a foregone conclusion. When I stumbled across The Bowler Press and saw they had produced just such an edition, I was elated. None-the-less, as I had not heard of The Bowler Press prior to this, I had a couple conversations with Mr. Morrison before actually purchasing. His obvious enthusiasm for the fine press craft gave me a strong indication that his work would be a brilliant debut effort (this is the first book from The Bowler Press).
When the book arrived, my high expectations were exceeded. The quality is outstanding. 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, debut or not. Only 65 copies made. I am not sure if Mr. Morrison has any left, but would highly recommend picking one up if he does.
As I am now a subscriber to The Bowler Press, I look forward to Mr. Morrison’s next couple efforts. A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift is nearing completion, with Songs to Julia by Robert Herrick being planned and also, eventually, a three volume edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In the next couple weeks, I am expecting to receive from Bowler ‘the letters from Jane Austen novels’ (Mr Darcy’s Letter and Capt. Wentworth’s Letter) in a 8 by 12 inch, navy and green rayon-covered, double-hinged folio. For more information on any of these, see Bowler’s website or Books and Vines News.
The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, Wilde’s most popular play, satirizes Victorian society and mores while also emphasizing the triviality of life. Wilde himself explained the theme as “we should treat all trivial things in life very seriously, and all serious things of life with a sincere and studied triviality.” The play is true comedy and the wit of the writing is as sharp and funny today as when written. The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed in February 1895 at St. James’s Theatre in London, and was first published in 1898.
Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet/writer whose works remain immensely popular today. His best known works are The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Salome, De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Wilde’s wit and humor are legendary, as is the controversy surrounding his life. Wilde was convicted of homosexual offences in 1895 and sentenced to two years hard labour. He was incarcerated in Reading Gaol from November 1895 until May 1897.
About the Edition
- This edition follows the text from the three-act version first produced at St James’s Theatre in London in 1895
- Designing, setting, illustrating, printing and binding by Jarrett Morrison
- 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
- Octavo, 100 pages
- Sixty-five copies, including five hors commerce
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