All young Naval Officers under initial training from the Royal Navy and those from Commonwealth and International Navies, who have stood on the parade ground at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, will have read the stirring words on the print below. They are carved into the stone on the top facade of the college that runs across the front of the astonishing building that Sir Ashton Webb designed and was opened in 1905. Thus, although the words are taken from the preamble to the Articles of War in the reign of Charles the Second, it is appropriate that they are shown with the image of ‘Britannia’ at the head.
My most recent printing activity has been to print two ‘Cartoon Drawings’ done by Commander Tony Steiner OBE, himself a well known Submarine Captain and also a talented marine artist. His silhouette drawings of ‘The Casing Party’ and ‘The Attack Team’ will strike cords with many submariners who found themselves as part of these situations over many years, particularly in the diesel-electric Boats. The letterpress prints have been done in aid of the Submariner Memorial Appeal that is raising money for the commissioning of a permanent memorial in the National Memorial Arboretum, to those submariners who have lost their lives outwith the two world wars, especially in accidents.
The text has been composed in ‘Verona Roman’, a typeface cast by the late Stephenson Blake of Sheffield, who sadly are no longer casting type. The two printing blocks were photo-engraved by the Lyme Press in the Isle of Wight, who did a superb job with the scanning of the original drawings and reduction in size of the images, before mounting them type-high. The printing was done with my ‘Victoria’ press, which was perfect for the task, having such an amount of inking power and pressure to handle the solid black of the silhouettes.
The print run of sixty of each print are expected to sell well through the Submariners’ Regimental Website. However they can also be ordered by email direct from me here in Inverness.
Once again the joy of a private press where one can print what one likes for whom one likes, without any time constraints or commercial pressure. So as it happens to be my big sister’s seventy-eighth birthday next week, what better than a large poster to recognise this event. Printed on Somerset mould -made paper on my small flat-bed press. Only two copies printed; one for Margie that will be mounted on an A3 board – and one for my samples.
This is another Shakespeare print, with a well known quote from Twelfth Night about Music. The print is on 400gsm 100% cotton card which really brings the beauty of the ‘three dimensional’ letterpress printing which has been done with added pressure so that the decorative initial letters can be seen in the detail and relief in all their glory.
The card is mounted on a red thick backing board measuring 12.5″ x 9.5″, perfect for framing. I have only done ten of these prints, so all you music lovers, please let me know if you would like one!
As this is the first full run with my new ‘Victoria’ Press, the production of our 2020 Christmas card is a bit of a milestone. The words from HMS PINAFORE, I hope are pertinent in these rather strange times that we are now experiencing, not yet over – and for which we can do nothing about, except obey the ‘rules’. From a printing aspect, the red border was done before I had realised that the roller pressure can be finely adjusted. This would have obviated the slight ‘filling in’ of the border motif. A German friend and recipient of the card, has rung to say that the press was named ‘Victoria’, after the elder grand-daughter of Queen Victoria, who married the Kaiser Frederich III.
To me, one of the most missed activites of ‘Lockdown’ has been music making with others. As a very amateur – and late starter – violinist, the joy of playing with two orchestras has become a huge part of my life. Both the ‘Truly Terrible Orchestra’ (a perfect description) and the Ness Sinfonia, a more serious recently formed orchestra, have given me access to music that I would never have ever expected to play. Notwithstanding that I am only able to play a percentage of the correct notes, the experience of making music with others is absolutely thrilling. Thus, so that I could share his words with musical friends, I thought it apposite to print the words of Noël Coward, who obviously realised the power and importance of music in difficult times.
The joy of a Private Press is that one can print exactly what one wants and I got great satisfaction today in printing a poster for a very old friend of mine Jonathan Thomson, who aged seventy five has just (today) completed the grulling Route 500 round the North of Scotland. He started at Inverness last Monday morning and got a good send-of from the Highland Council and some well-wishers, with myself and three other fiddlers playing him on his away with two pipe marches. His trip was to raise money for Post Traumatic Stress. That he was able to complete the route in under a week is a huge achievement. As he biked back to the Flora Macdonald statue in Inverness, his starting and finishing post, he merely said ‘Job done’. It was great to have been able to present him with a poster congratulating him on his outstanding achievement.
One of the joys of running a private press is that one can print for one’s friends as and when appropriate. For the last two years we have had a lovely French tenant (Natalie) living in the small flat over my print work-shop , who is now sadly having to go back to live in France. She has had to put up with my BBC Radio Three classical music, or classical CDs that I play when I am printing. So I have had some fun composing a small ‘bon voyage’ poster with wood type, and printing it on my small Stephenson Blake proofing press.
And a second poster is one I have specially done for the Nairn Book & Arts Festival; sadly this year held on line, but still with a remarkable programme of good talks and events. I have printed a special poster for this annual event in Nairn for the last ten years. This poster was the first in which I used my ‘new’ Victoria Press and the border type cast by Gloucester Typesetting. However, after much trial and effort the wood type was too solid for this press and I had to revert to the Stephenson Blake proofing press, which under the circumstances, and seeing the size of the A3 poster, produced a remarkably satisfactory result.