If any of our blog readers are in Melbourne over the next month or two we recommend a visit to the excellent exhibition Art and Adventure: the Fine Press Book from 1450 to 2011 which opened at the University of Melbourne's Baillieu Library last week and runs through to May.
Curated by poet / printer Alan Loney the exhibition features some of the most beautiful books that I have set eyes upon. I was fortunate enough to be invited to give a paper at a symposium relating to the exhibition on the development of the Christchurch Art Gallery's artist's book collection and my own experiences as a letterpress printer. The depth and quality of the Baillieu Library's collection is staggering and Alan had quite a job selecting the final books that went on display. An outstanding example of fine printing for me was a volume from the Dove's Press Bible published between 1902-1904 and of course I couldn't go past the Baillieu's copy of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer by William Morris' Kelmscott Press printed in 1896. Also included was William & Laurence Kennaway, Biscuit and butter, a colonist's shipboard fare, a wonderful example from the Nag's Head Press printed right here in Burnside, Christchurch in 1973 by Bob Gormack.
The symposium, organised by Alan and Susan Millard provided the unique opportunity to hear from a range of speakers on the nature of the fine press book in the 21st century and included fellow speakers Caren Florance, Alan Loney, Carolyn Fraser, Andrew Schuller, Jorge Lozoya and Chris Wallace-Crabbe.
A self confessed printing press spotter I came across this massive Alexandra press on the ground floor of the library. An absolute monster of a hand-press it was built in Sydney around the 1880s - enough to make any letterpress printer break out into a cold sweat.