It’s hard to believe autumn is here already. But the days are shortening, the air is growing brisker, and gradually the city is coming to life again as people trickle back after the long summer break. London is back in business, and it’s all go here in the Slightly Foxed office, with the latest of the Slightly Foxed Editions and Slightly Foxed Cubs arriving from the printers, and some new projects afoot.
We’ve always loved bookplates and featured some in our early issues. Bookplates have a long history, dating from the Middle Ages, when a book was a rare and precious object and the bookplate – usually a fairly simple woodcut – was its owner’s identifying mark. Later, copper engraving became popular. Great German artists such as Dürer, Cranach and Holbein all designed bookplates, some very large and elaborate.
In England a great advance in bookplate design came with the invention of the line-block in the nineteenth century and the twentieth-century revival in wood engraving. More, and more varied, people were owning books, and the approach to bookplates became freer and more personal. Distinguished artists like Eric Gill, Joan Hassall and Reynolds Stone created bookplates inspired by an individual’s character rather than his coat of arms. This tradition is continued by many of the finest English wood engravers, such as our own contributor Simon Brett. Not only is a bookplate a practical way of keeping track of one’s books but it gives the book itself a special interest, identity and provenance.
Commissioning an original bookplate, however, is a costly business, and this gave us the idea of producing a more affordable bookplate which would still be elegant and personal. So we’re offering readers the opportunity to acquire a bookplate featuring a wood engraving by one of our favourite engravers, Howard Phipps. There are four charming scenes to choose from, with a space on which the individual reader’s name will be printed. You can see the images on p.95 and read more in the enclosed leaflet, where you will also find details of this year’s Slightly Foxed Christmas card, and our 2016 calendar.
As to other news, we can’t resist mentioning the latest Slightly Foxed Edition, the writer and naturalist Gavin Maxwell’s childhood memoir The House of Elrig (see p. 12). It is an extraordinarily powerful book which tells the story of a sensitive small boy, entirely at one with the wild moorland countryside of the great Scottish estate on which he grows up, who is wrenched from this paradise to go to a series of brutalizing English schools. It is also a wryly observed and often comic picture of the philistine life of the Edwardian upper class, and of his own grand and eccentric family.
There are also two new additions to Ronald Welch’s splendid Carey family series (see p.39), both written with the verve and incredible attention to detail that make the books so exceptional. Escape from France sees young Richard Carey dispatched by his father to help the Careys’ aristocratic relatives escape revolutionary France, while in Nicholas Carey the series reaches the Crimean War, in which young Captain Nicholas Carey experiences the horror of a Crimean winter and distinguishes himself at the battles of Sebastopol and The Redan.
Finally, a small reminder about Readers’ Day. It’s on Saturday 7 November at our usual haunt, the Art Workers’ Guild in Bloomsbury, and we have an excellent and varied line-up of speakers this year. We’ve still a few tickets left, so do contact the office if you’re interested. We look forward very much to seeing you at what has now become a regular SF ‘family’ event.