Fugitive Lyrics, by Ian Beck, Hand & Eye Editions (2013)

I have been looking forward to another work from Hand & Eye Editions since their wonderful edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. So when Phil Abel, proprietor of Hand & Eye Letterpress, told me about their new publication, Fugitive Lyrics, I was interested; this despite not having much knowledge of pretty much anything surrounding this work. Fugitive Lyrics is written and illustrated by Ian Beck, and author and illustrator that I was not familiar with despite, as it turns out, his having sold over a million copies of his books worldwide.  Fugitive Lyrics is a fictional volume of poems mentioned and described in the opening pages of the comic novel Mapp and Lucia by E.F. Benson, both of which I again hate to admit I had never heard of. So, with the base of ignorance supporting me, I received the work, read it and….love it!

For those like me not familiar with E.F. Benson’s work on which Mr. Beck’s poems are based, a few words of background are in order. E.F. Benson (1867-1940) was a prolific English writer best known for his Mapp and Lucia series. This popular series, set in the 1920’s/1930’s, centered mostly around  the lives of upper-middle-class British people, especially, in the Wikipedia summary“their vying for social prestige and “one-upmanship” in an atmosphere of extreme cultural snobbery.” There are six novels in the series.

  • Queen Lucia (1920)
  • Miss Mapp (1922)
  • Lucia in London (1927)
  • Mapp and Lucia (1931)
  • Lucia’s Progress (1935) (published in the U.S. as The Worshipful Lucia)
  • Trouble for Lucia (1939)

In the mid 1980’s, there was a ten episode TV version of the novel series that aired in England.

Back to Fugitive Lyrics…Mr. Beck’s verse, even to one who has not read the Mapp and Lucia series, is excellent and thought provoking, as the following examples highlight.

From The Secret Garden:

Take stock of life, midway upon the waves
‘Neath lonely dappled shade; we’re all time’s slaves.

From A Last Rose:

Destined to fall at last, as we all must, leave sun and shower
Of Summer, and lie forlorn in earth’s dark bower.
But you, O Rose, you will bud again, renew, and bloom
afresh,
And gladden the summer hours with your dreams of maiden
flesh.
For us there will be no rebirth, only the long eternal sleep,
Either scattered as charred seeds upon the wind, or buried
‘neath the soil so deep.

From Loneliness:

And in my lone vigil wonder; at the stormy sky, the
change of weather.
The scythe of time passes high among branch and leaves,
Cuts down those it chooses, and as they fall,
The wise old herm of lasting stone says, that everything
mere man believes
Is but a chimera, of no more substance than the fragile ball
Of oaken leaves about his base, so soon will dust become
us all.

Fugitive Lyrics received commendation in Judges Choice awards at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair. It is easy to see why. Wonderful verse paired with nicely done illustrations, in a well designed book. The creamy off white, soft yet thick Somerset Book Soft White 175 gsm paper blends nicely with the binding color and is an excellent base to showcase the 12 point Monotype Garamond text and the illustrations which are printed from line blocks made from Mr. Beck’s ink drawings. The drawings are a narrative match with the poems they sit beside and are very well executed. Mr. Beck hand-colored the special editions from which a couple examples exist below. The hand-coloring is wonderful making me wish I was quicker to move on getting the special edition, though the regular edition is certainly enough to make the most discriminating collector smile. All at a very reasonable price for a hand-produced work.

Hand & Eye Letterpress often prints books for other people: examples include the typeset and printing of Henry Bowers’ South Pole Journals for the Scott Polar Research Institute and a number of volumes in The Folio Society’s Letterpress Shakespeare series. As with Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress also prints for their own imprint, Hand & Eye Editions, which they run with Webb & WebbFugitive Lyrics is not yet up on the Hand & Eye Editions website,  so please contact Phil Abel for questions or sales enquiries. You better move fast, their are only 100 copies, 25 of which are deluxe and the deluxe is already sold out. Bravo to Ian Beck, Phil Abel and Brian Webb for bringing this edition to life.

{Ed. Note: I would like to point out that the idea of bringing these fictional poems to life was that of Jonathan Gili (1943-2004), an award winning documentary filmmaker for the BBC. According to Mr. Beck, it was a dream of Mr. Gili to do so; unfortunately his early death did not give him that opportunity. After Mr. Gili’s death, Mr. Beck spoke about Mr. Gili at the Double Crown Club where Mr. Gili had been president; from which Phil Abel suggested to Mr. Beck that they carry out Mr. Gili’s wish as a homage to him. Along with Brian Webb, it was quickly decided that such was an excellent idea. The result, you see below.}

About the Edition

  • Designed by Brian Webb
  • Printed by Phil Abel at Hand & Eye Letterpress
  • Transcribed and decorated by Ian Beck
  • The illustrations are printed from line blocks made from Ian’s ink drawings; they were printed separately from the type; the specials were hand coloured by Mr. Beck
  • Text is 12 point Monotype Garamond machine-set by Gloucester Typesetting Services and by Hand & Eye; Headings are hand-set Monotype Old English Text.
  • The paper is Somerset Book Soft White 175 gsm
  • The book is bound by hand by Hannah Byles with a cover paper of Colorplan Baghdad Brown 135 gsm with labels printed on the text paper; the specials were covered in a brown book cloth with a linen finish to match the description in EF Benson’s text
  • Limited to 100 copies, 25 of which deluxe bound in linen and hand-colored

Pictures of the Edition

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Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Prospectus
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Prospectus
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Cover (Standard Edition)
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Cover (Standard Edition)
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Cover
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Cover
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Spine (Standard Edition)
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Spine (Standard Edition)
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Title Page
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Title Page
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Contents
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Contents
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration and Text #1
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration #1 and Text
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Sample Text #1
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Macro of Sample Text #1
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Hand Colored sample of this page from Deluxe edition
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Hand Colored Sample Illustration #2 from Deluxe edition
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration and Text #4
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Sample Illustration #3 and Text
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Hand Colored sample illustration #3 from Deluxe edition
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Hand Colored Sample Illustration #4 from Deluxe edition
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Colophon
Fugitive Lyrics, Hand & Eye Letterpress, Colophon

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