Angels, by Adrian Roberts, The Celtic Cross Press (1998)

The Celtic Cross Press, Rosemary Roberts being the proprietor, prints and publishes limited editions of fine books.  The Press is based in England, in the small North Yorkshire village of Wass, near the ancient ruins of Byland Abbey. They publish poetry and short works of prose, hand-printed by letterpress (on a 1950’s Vandercook Universal), on fine paper and bound in full cloth covered boards. All the original illustrations are printed from blocks cut in wood or lino, or from drawings made into metal line blocks. Current books available, which gives you a flavor of their work, include poetry and stories by the likes of William Wordsworth, George Mackay Brown and David Burnett While Ms Roberts aims for the highest standard in design, content and printing, she also does a fantastic job (incredible really) keeping prices modest so her work should appeal to collectors and book lovers of all kinds.

While all of the books from The Celtic Cross Press are well worth happily owning, there is one ‘extra special’ edition that I wanted to particularly highlight, so to show what this press is capable of. In 1998, The Celtic Cross Press published ‘Angels‘, a book about the mysteries of God and His use of angels as messengers in biblical times. This work was a collaboration between illustrator Pauline Jacobsen, author Adrian Roberts, and designer Rosemary Roberts, together with two master Fine Press printers (David Esslemont and Simon King).

Adrian Roberts (Rosemary’s son) is a teacher who studied both classics and theology and he brings his knowledge of the two subjects beautifully together in these essays. Pauline Jacobsen trained at the Slade and is known for her skilled cutting of the side grain of wood to create beautiful pictures in this often neglected medium. I asked Ms Roberts how this book came about, from which it became clear how personal of a project this is (which is why I just love private press works):

Pauline Jacobsen, a Christian like myself and a great friend of mine, was available for a project and asked if I’d do a book of all the appearances of angels in the Bible for her to illustrate. “Not ALL!” I said. With the help of my theologian son I selected some important passages which she wanted to illustrate. My son was waiting to begin a new teaching post and agreed to write the text. Pauline usually works very big so after persuading her to think ‘smaller’ I designed the book. I asked Simon King to print the text because my machine was not big enough. I then asked David Esslemont to print Pauline’s blocks and bind the book. Pauline lived in Aberdeen, Adrian & I in Yorkshire, Simon in Cumbria and David in Wales – and there were floods in Wales during the binding process. Much travelling was involved for me. It was great fun but (!)…

The collaboration was a wonderful success. As you will see below, the book is beautifully designed, everything from the binding of Nigerian goatskin and specially made paper sides, the chapter headings, the 23 woodcuts in 3 colors by Pauline Jacobsen and the selection of Monotype Baskerville text on Vélin Arches paper. The sum is even greater than these parts as it is simply a beautiful book. From a review of Angels written by David Burnett in Parenthesis (Fine Press Book Association’s journal):

There is an amplitude about this book in its generous proportions and noble presentation. …..the text is clear, full and scholarly … it offers a world like a medieval book of hours in which one can wander with profit and pleasure, delighting both the mind and the senses. Like all good art …it begins with delight and ends in wisdom. This book is a treasure …

When you see below, I think you will agree!

About the Edition

  • The whole book was designed by artist and printer Rosemary Roberts at The Celtic Cross Press
  • The woodcuts in three colours are by Pauline Jacobsen and they are printed directly from the blocks
  • The  23 woodcuts in 3 colours and the 25 one-colour chapter headings were hand printed by David Esslemont in Wales
  • The text was set in Monotype Baskerville by the Mouldtype Foundry and was printed letterpress by Simon King in Cumbria
  • The paper is Vélin Arches
  • 230mm x 310mm  96pp
  • This edition is limited to 75 special copies numbered 1-75 and bound by David Esslemont in quarter Nigerian goatskin with specially made paste paper sides and titled in gold on the spine. The book is in a cloth covered drop-back box
  • Each copy is signed by the Author and by the Artist

Pictures of the Edition

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Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Book and Slipcase
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Book and Slipcase
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Frontispiece and Title Page
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Frontispiece and Title Page
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Sample Illustration #3
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Sample Illustration #2
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Colophon
Angels, The Celtic Cross Press, Colophon

3 thoughts on “Angels, by Adrian Roberts, The Celtic Cross Press (1998)

  1. Just a note to say that Rosemary and the Celtic Cross Press won the prestigious Parrot Prize (I think) at this year’s FPBA Oxford Book Fair for this book. Well done Rosemary!

    1. Not this book, but her latest. And I bought a copy: it’s title is Havard. But sadly, it’s Ms Roberts swansong – she is (semi-)retiring, and will make prints, but no more books.

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