At the end of February we travelled north through sleet and snow to see the spring issue of Slightly Foxed coming off the press. As many of you will know, Slightly Foxed is printed by the friendly firm of Smith Settle in Otley, and we and twenty or so of our Yorkshire subscribers spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon seeing round the works – a tour which was followed by a convivial get-together over cake and a glass of Madeira.
Housed in a former woollen mill in the Dales, Smith Settle is rather special. By contrast with a big commercial printer, what strikes you here is the human scale of the operation – it’s clear that people rather than machines are in charge. Skilled workers participate in the printing process at every stage, whether it’s adjusting the colour or positioning the signatures (or folded sections) ready for sewing on the machine. (Smith Settle print in 16-page signatures, rather than the more usual 32, which is one of the things that gives Slightly Foxed its nice sturdy feel.)
The firm is known for its high-quality printing, but it is especially famous for its fine bindings – in fact there are probably only three or four binders left in the country capable of doing such work. Last time we visited, a facsimile edition of William Morris’s Kelmscott Chaucer was being bound for the Folio Society – a glorious production in white leather with gold lettering. This time it was a facsimile of the Luttrell Psalter, printed at the University Press in Cambridge and bound by Smith Settle in azure blue goatskin decorated in orange and gold.
While visiting, we also saw samples of a more modest, but for us exciting, binding operation – the elegant slipcases that we are now offering to protect your issues of Slightly Foxed. (From your letters, we realize that many of you are keen to keep them in mint condition – to the point where you are even unwilling to lend them to friends!) The slip covers are made from strong board, covered in a handsome dark grey book cloth, and each one holds four issues. They are both practical and decorative – four back issues in a slip cover would make a splendid present. For more details see the advertisement on p.95.
Another new departure for us is the decision to include a leaflet from Eland Books with this issue. We are frequently approached by publishers and magazines who are keen to place inserts in Slightly Foxed, and since it gives us an opportunity to do reciprocal mailings, and is another source of revenue, we thought we’d give it a try. If we continue we will never, we promise, subject you to more than one insert per issue (apart from our own leaflet), and it will always be carefully chosen (no stair lifts or garden furniture). Please do let us know how you feel about it. If we find that too many of you are suffering from insert-overload, we will take notice of what you say.
Finally, we are delighted that we are now able to offer an automatic direct debit facility which will save you the palaver of having to renew your subscription each year. Since it will also save us paper and postage (and so is eco-friendly too) we are happy to offer a discount of £2 off all direct debit subscriptions. Let us know if you would like us to send you the relevant form.