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Saturday 2 November at the Oxford Book Fair

November 4, 2013

What a treat that was – exciting, energising and inspiring. And a chance to replenish my stock of bookbinding needles from Hewits, and of beautiful papers from Conways of Halifax, Shepherds Bookbinding, Ludlow Bookbinders and Paper Resources.

Below are some Japanese papers from Shepherds, and a lino-printed paper by John and Jane Jeffery, from Conways.

Japanese 1053Japanese 2054

Japanese 3055Conways002

I spent half an hour or longer at the stand of artist and poet Reinhold Nasshan’s Einhand Press, a newcomer to this event. His website does not do justice to these ravishing books, conceived, printed and/or painted/collaged/handwritten by Reinhold and clothed (“an unbound book is like a naked man”) in gloriously physical and tactile bindings by Silvia Schreiber. For example, the one-of-a-kind book D’Arc (Joan of Arc) includes metal, parchment, waxed paper and stiffened sackcloth pages, and pages encrusted with ashes, bound in a wood and metal cover to which the pages are laced with leather thongs like a suit of armour. Or, as the artist so charmingly put it, an iron shirt. Another unique work “Light is White” incarnates his first poem written in English.

A triangular book with inch-thick covers, “ALP”,  visible on left-hand edge of the photo, celebrates James Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabelle.

His “Unreadable Usylessly Blue Book” won the London Art Book Fair 2011 Award for Excellence  and was purchased for the Victoria & Albert Museum.


Christine Tacq’s book “Sleepwalking through Trees” is a anthology of poems with relief and intaglio prints and embossing. Large (33x40cm) and very beautiful.


Below is the prospectus.

sleepwalking prospectus052

For years I have admired the books and woodcut prints of Dmitry Sayenko of Nikodim Press, St Petersburg.

He has written hereConcerning my own books, I call them: “the primeval books”. It means that I try not to use new technologies but, on the contrary, I prefer the archaic ways of making books but it concerns only my techniques and the method of creation. It is as beautiful and grasping as ancient cars or vinyl gramophones. It is the aesthetics of the past time and such aesthetics has its remarkable charm. As for the fine art side, I should say that here I employ all the recent achievements of the contemporary book graphics.”

Today I went back several times to look at a print on his stand. It is an illustration from his new book, “Terra Incognita“, a collection of mythic beasts and their stories. It’s a big hefty leather-bound book, half a metre wide when open, and utterly wonderful.

You’ll regret it if you don’t, said my friend Jim, so I went in search of a cash-machine. I bought the print in memory of my paternal grandmother who was born near St Petersburg in 1894, and of my father who survived being shipwrecked while protecting a convoy to Russia in 1945.


Above: the book. Below: Dmitry signing the print.


I was looking for Carolyn Trant (Parvenu Press) and was not disappointed. Her new books are as captivating as anything I’ve seen from her in previous years.

I bought a little print that came from the installation “The Falcon Bride

Falcon bride004

The first time I came to this biennial Book Fair, six years ago, I was enthralled by Carolyn’s extraordinary book “Beauty and the Beast”, of which she has said, “To sum up, the piece consists of a dressing-table in a forest, which opens up like a book to reveal five further small, readable volumes inside; a portable altar, a fetish object, a true archive of the heart.” You can take a virtual tour of the book here.

“Marbhna” (Elegy) is her major book this year. It was conceived during a residency in Donegal, and the landscapes in it reminded me strongly of the Hebridean landscape I’ve so recently left. Here are some examples.

Another stall I was looking for was that of Dr. Caroline Saltzwedel’s Hirundo Press.

Six years ago she was exhibiting “Ulysses in Hamburg“, a box of prints inspired by James Joyce and Homer. Having recently learned some etching techniques I was fascinated by her use of inks of different viscosities to achieve relief and intaglio printing simultaneously from the same plate. This year my eye was caught by one of her new books, an edition of a new poem by the Canadian typographer and poet Robert Bringhurst, whose book “Elements of Typographic Style” is in my bedtime-reading collection. “Stopping by” is a beautiful edition of a profound poem about ownership and belonging.

Another of Saturday’s pleasures was to meet my good friend and former collaborator, the painter and book-artist Judith Yarrow.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2013 2:40 pm

    Ama, this was such a pleasure to read. I especially like the stunning Japanese papers, and Dmitry’s eloquent description of his work. I can completely empathise with how energised and inspired you must have felt during and after the fair.


  1. Books On Books Collection – Reinhold Nasshan – Books On Books

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