The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, David Annwn, Foolscap Press (2015)

Books and Vines readers know the high esteem in which I hold Foolscap Press. Their designs are always well thought out and extremely interesting to behold. See here, here, here and here as examples. I was so excited and enamored with their Story of a Fisherman that I somewhat overlooked a smaller work that was published at about the same time: The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds.

For those not familiar with the Saint John’s Fragment, a bit of background, directly from Foolscap.

The piece of papyrus called the Saint John’s Fragment was acquired in an Egyptian market in 1920 by Bernard Grenfell, an English scientist and Egyptologist. It now resides in the collection of the Rylands Library at the University of Manchester in England (and known there as Rylands Library Papyrus P52). This scrap of paper-like material, measuring only 3.5 by 2.5 inches, is made from the pith of the papyrus plant. It is dated from between 100 CE and 150 CE and is generally accepted as the earliest extant record of a canonical New Testament text.

Written on both sides of the papyrus, it must have been part of a codex, that is, a collection of sewn and folded leaves, not a scroll or an isolated sheet. That being the case, it would be among the earliest surviving examples of a literary codex. It was written in Greek in a script known as Hadrianic, named after Hadrian (76 CE-138 CE), the Roman Emperor of that era.

Specifically, the text on this piece of papyrus is from the Gospel of John 18:31-33 and the verso holds a snippet of verses 37-38, the scene where Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate who, after interviewing Jesus, states: “I find not one fault in him.”

I have a fascination with old fragments, their history and the stories behind them, so this work was a natural for me.  An image of the actual fragment is done by American calligrapher Thomas Ingmire, followed by the restored page, then the English translation of the restored page with flaps that extend the pages in order to allow for the missing text. The stencils for the pochoir painting of the Fragment is made by Mark Knudsen. Mr. Ingmire has also added gold tooling to the title and half-title pages. Mr. Ingmire is one of the greats of the somewhat lost art of calligraphy. He was the first American elected to England’s Society of Scribes and Illuminators with a craft membership status.  His work has been highlighted previously on Books and Vines; see the Arion Press editions of The Constitution of the United States and The Psalms of David and Others.

Along with the images of the fragment discussed above, this edition contains a poem written by Anglo Welsh poet, critic and publisher David Annwn called Against the Odds.  Foolscap tells us that Mr. Annwn:

has responded to this fragment in a poem that always seem to bear just below the surface remembrance of a statement from the Rylands Library: “The importance of this fragment is quite out of proportion to its size, . . .” And yet it exists, considering all which could have destroyed it, against the odds.

The poem is printed letterpress on Frankfurt Cream paper, in Tiepolo type, printed from polymer plates. The beautiful (visually and to the touch) endsheets are hand-made Lokta. The binding is hand-made Cave paper which, like the end sheets, feels and looks fantastic. I had a custom slipcase made by Starr Bookworks to match the book, using handmade (from Belgian Flax) Cave paper, walnut color. The book is 40 pages long and measures 8 1/4 inches tall x 6 1/4 wide. It is limited to 116 numbered copies and is signed by both David Annwn and Thomas Ingmire.

The book was actually inspired by two unique books, each with Mr. Annwn’s poem. You can see images of the first of such here:  http://stjohnsfragment.weebly.com. I would also suggest you spend some time on Mr. Ingmire’s web site, which has a plethora of pictures and information to keep you intrigued, educated and entertained!

About the Edition

  • Printed letterpress on Frankfurt Cream
  • Poem printed in Tiepolo type, printed from polymer plates
  • Stencils for the pochoir painting of the Fragment made by Mark Knudsen
  • Endsheets are hand-made Lokta
  • Gold tooling to the title and half-title pages by Thomas Ingmire
  • Bound in hand-made Cave Paper
  • My copy shown below in custom slipcase, made by Starr Bookworks, with handmade (from Belgian Flax) Cave paper, walnut color
  • The book is 40 pages and measures 8 1/4 inches tall x 6 1/4 wide
  • Limited to 116 numbered copies signed by both the poet David Annwn and calligrapher Thomas Ingmire

Pictures of the Edition

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Book in Custom Slipcase
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Custom Slipcase
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Spine and Covers
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Spine and Covers
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Spine
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Spine
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Front Cover (pen for scale)
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Front Cover (pen for scale)
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, End Papers
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, End Papers
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, The Fragment, front side
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, The Fragment, Recto
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, The Fragment - back side
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, The Fragment – Verso
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Title Page
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Title Page
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Title Page
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Title Page
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Spine and Covers
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Another sparkling gold illumination!
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, front completed
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, Recto completed (Greek)
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment - rear completed and Sample Text from poem
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment – Verso completed (Greek) and Sample Text #1 from poem
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Macro of Sample Text #1
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Sample Text #2
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Sample Text #2
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, front completed (English)
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, Recto completed (English)
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, back completed (English)
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, Verso completed (English)
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Sample Text #3 (Afterword)
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Sample Text #3 (Afterword)
The Saint John's Fragment - Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, Colophon
The Saint John’s Fragment – Against the Odds, Foolscap Press, Fragment, Colophon

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