Page 12 - August 2017
P. 12

|  Private Press Books  |                        |  Richard Farmer  (10262)  |

       – The Cardiff  Collection

             lthough I have been a member    Poisonous Plants; Deadly, Dangerous
             for 15 years, Newport was my    and Suspect (1927) and Flowers and
       Afi rst Convention; a very enjoyable   Faces (1935). You need to see these
       weekend. One of the talks prompted    images and these books in the original
       me to make a follow-up visit in Cardiff :   to appreciate the work of the craftsmen
       a talk given by Professor Judi Loach of   who created them, which was one of the
       Cardiff  University about a collection   intentions behind the creation of this
       of Private Press Books, which she     collection.
       described as Cardiff ’s ‘best kept secret’.      The private press movement fl ourished
       It’s certainly that – the best collection of   at the turn of the 19th and 20th
       ‘Golden Age’ private press books in the   centuries, beginning with the founding
       UK, in Cardiff  University Library.    of the Kelmscott Press by William
          A couple of weeks after the Convention,   Morris in 1890. Morris advocated fi ne
       my work – entirely non-print related   craftsmanship and high quality materials
       – took me down to Cardiff  from North   to produce books that he deemed
       Wales and so I emailed the University   ‘beautiful’. The private presses produced
       Library and booked a later train      books using traditional printing and
       back. The response from Cardiff  was   binding methods, with an emphasis on
       immediate and welcoming and when      the book as a work of art.
       I walked into the Special Collections      The collection that is now in Cardiff
       Reading Room the books were waiting   University was put together by
       for me. I had asked for three books   the Cardiff  Free Library, spending
       illustrated by John Nash (1893-1977).   considerable sums of Cardiff ’s money
       John, the brother of Paul Nash, was   on assembling the collection in the
       an artist of rural scenes and plants   early years of the twentieth century, at
       (apart from his work as a war artist in   a time when Cardiff  was booming with
       both World Wars), working in oils and   the export of coal from the Valleys.
       watercolour and as a wood engraver.   Judi Loach is researching the history of
          His wood engravings are easily found   the collection and has found that one
       on the internet where you can see his   of its purposes was for it to be used by
       ability to make lively and dynamic    apprentices in relevant trades such as
       illustrations particularly of plants – he   printing, who were encouraged to use
       was a keen gardener. Coming face to face   the collection as part of their studies.
       with the originals in these books allows      The books remained in Cardiff  Public
       you to appreciate the way in which    Library, the property of the City Council,
       he is using deep velvety black areas   and slipped from the cataloguing system
       contrasting with the bright whites of the   and from public awareness until in the
       paper to produce an arresting image, and   early years of this millennium the City
       you can see the vigour and confi dence   Councillors recognised their fi nancial
       in the way that he has cut the block.   potential and planned to sell them by
       Two of the books I was looking at are   auction, which would have dispersed the
       amongst the best demonstrations of his   collection. A group including Professor
       accomplishments as a wood engraver:   Loach campaigned to save the collection
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