The Bodleian Library and Shakespeare

Earlier this year the Bodleian Libraries’ Centre for the Study of the Book announced its ‘Sonnets 2016’ project to commemorate the 400th year since the death of Shakespeare. Printers across the world were invited to take part by reproducing one of Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets. Those who responded early got their pick first, with most of the more famous and recognisable ones getting snapped up quickly. Within a very short space of time all the Sonnets were assigned and we were fortunate to get Sonnet 48 (not one I was familiar with but one I have since got to know rather well).

The brief was very open, a lot less prescribed than some collaborative print shows I have taken part in. All that was required was that the process must be a form of relief printing, with the paper size and edition left down to the printer’s discretion. My initial thought was ‘this is going to be easy’, but I was to discover that sometimes having a wide open brief can leave you staring blankly at a clean sheet of paper.

The more I thought about this, the greater the expectation I had for the print. After all, this is a unique opportunity to contribute, in however small a way, to Shakespeare’s legacy. This print is going into the Bodleian Libraries forever, so this has to be something special.

2016 has been a busy year for Smallprint Co. Mainly because we moved our studio and set up a small gallery/shop, together with doing the day-to-day business. The summer galloped by and very soon a warm September was racing towards me. The deadline for the Sonnets 2016 was the 30th, so with this in mind, it was time to sharpen up the pencil and get the final sketches together.

Choosing a typeface was the first decision, though in the end I opted for one which I often default to. It’s a beautiful ‘old style’ and it has the advantage of being a substantial full font with little risk of getting ‘out of sorts’. This was one of my unlabeled cases that I acquired a couple of years ago, and through a degree of detective work I have identified as ‘Jenson’ 12pt, a foundry typeface by Stephenson Blake and based on William Morris’ Golden Type.

Reading over the sonnet I tried to get some inspiration for the form. Shakespeare makes reference to keeping love locked in a chest and this led me to develop an idea around a box shape form for the text. I didn’t want it to be too literal and began with setting the type fully justified in the centre of the sheet. I didn’t think that it lent itself enough to the ‘box’ idea, but then thought about spinning round to form a neat diamond. This of course raised more challenges in calculating the increasing and decreasing line widths, making sure to avoid too many hyphens and rivers. Several adjustments were made over a couple of days as it always helps to walk away from a job and look again with fresh eyes. It seemed that each time a line was altered the changes cascaded down the text making more adjustments necessary, a river would form or a line would look ragged or too condensed.

The final print was produced in an edition of 20 on Somerset cotton paper, with one copy submitted to the Bodleian Library and the remainder available to purchase. In the end it was a pleasure to work on and gave me the chance to try some new tricks and experiment with structure. I hope you enjoy the final print.

Christopher Barker

Printer

If you are interested in owning a copy, details can be found here. 
You can follow The Bodleian’s blog on all the sonnets received from around the world here

First Anniversary gifts

Calling all newly weds! You may be wondering what the perfect gift is to give your beloved for your first anniversary. Traditionally it is a paper gift, and cotton in America.

Look no further… The Smallprint Co. will hand print the perfect paper gift for happy couples and all you have to do is supply the text. What’s more, we print on cotton paper, so we’ve got all bases covered!

Popular ideas include wedding vows or a reading, first dance lyrics or an excerpt from a favourite novel or poem. Of course, the content is completely up to you!

Another wonderful idea for a personal gift is to book a letterpress session for the both of you. Choose a time to suit you both – from Monday to Saturday and in the morning, afternoon, evening. Spend 3 hours together learning to compose and print your chosen text – and you get to take the print away with you too.

Prices start from…

  • Commissioned Prints £55
  • Letterpress workshop £130 per couple for 3 hours
  • Gift vouchers are available

Gift Vouchers for the Creative Type

Are you looking for the ideal gift? Our gift vouchers are perfect for the creative person! They can be redeemed against commissions, workshops, or Smallprint’s cards and paper goods including prints… What’s not to like?!

To order please fill in the form below and someone will be in touch.

Smallprint’s Open Day

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To celebrate our new space and welcome friends old and new, join us for an Open Day

Saturday 29th October 2016 at Friary Street, DE1 1JF

RSVPs are recommended and free tickets can be found over on our Eventbrite page at http://bit.ly/TSCOD

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The Smallprint Company has moved premises from a small incubation unit hosted by the University of Derby to our very own independent space.

Alongside our regular services of commissions, workshops and paper goods, you will find a dedicated exhibition space, shop and more workshop space than ever before, as well as being able to house our ever growing collection of vintage presses and moveable type.

Clients can discuss their commission in a comfortable space with Hannah and Chris and The Workshop is available to hire for meetings and creative activities. The gallery space is also perfect for showcasing a wide range of print practitioner’s work. Currently showing is Wood Engravings by Rob Chapman, a beautiful collection of intricate wood engravings based upon his walks around his countryside home.

You will also find a range of new stockists to complement The Smallprint Company’s range of paper goods. Alongside our popular ranges of cards, gift tags and prints, you will find hand printed gift wrap, prints and other unique giftware by talented craftspeople.

Find us conveniently located to the rear of Friar Gate, on Friary Street, in the centre of Derby.

 

Creative Spaces

We’re very much looking forward to hosting workshops by other creatives in the coming months in our brand new space, The Workshop (watch this space for some exciting news)!

As well as providing space for other creatives to run workshops in, the space is also available for meetings including networking and team building. More details can be found here room-hire.

To make an enquiry email hello@smallprintcompany.co.uk or fill the form out below and we’ll be in touch shortly!

New beginnings

We’ve been working so hard over the last few weeks and we can finally see an end in sight! Hooray!!!

We must say that the work could not have been achieved in the time that it has, without the help of some very generous friends and family, donating their time to splash paint on the walls…

Today my Dad came to the studio to hang some rather special wood engravings for our very first exhibition at Friary Villas and they look simply stunning.

We’ll be announcing an official launch open day in the next few days, so watch this space!

 

Making progress

Our new space is in good shape overall but a little tired around the edges, so we’re decorating throughout, removing the grubby carpet and adding our own touches.

Some days it feels like it’s going on forever and then we remember that we’ve only been there 3 days, a week, 2 weeks…

It’s actually shaping up pretty quickly and a huge reason for that is the great bunch of friends we have who gave up a little of their time to paint and put shelves up. Beer and a bbq might have been a factor…

From Banks Mill to Friary Street (via Chapel-en-le-Frith)…

It’s been an absolute whirlwind over the last few weeks but it’s been such fun and we’ve been overwhelmed with the support that friends and family have given us. They are absolute stars!

The actual move went as smoothly as expected (although I suspect Phil may be a little more hesitant in helping us to move ever again!!) and then we have ploughed headlong into the decorating. Each day sees some improvement, we’re starting to see it all take shape now and we’ve started working on commissions again… Good stuff!

Photo documentary of the move (pt 1)

 

 

BBC4 visits the studio!

The BBC4 popped by to film some shots of the presses for a show to be aired around Christmas time recently.

Railways: The Making of a Nation has a lot more to do with letterpress than you (or I) realise! Simply put, industrial centres -towns and burgeoning cities – produce something which in Derby’s case was textiles, and transported their products around the UK using the national rail network. And of course, the rail network depended upon local printers to print their administrative and marketing paperwork amongst other things. Derby being a textile town with a developing railway network had its fair share of local printers to support their empire. It’s good to know that we’re continuing a tradition… but watch the show for a more informed precis!!