Monday 15 October 2012


It is 200 years since the first publication of Grimms Fairy Tales and being celebrated by an exhibition of books from the collection of David Blamires  across two wonderful libraries in Manchester - the amazing Chethams and equally delightful Portico Library.
In a fit of craziness we decided we just had to make a one day pilgrimage by train and were not disappointed, not least because it was also an opportunity to meet up with our very good friends from Incline Press, Graham and Kathy ( publishers of my biography of Peggy Angus) - Kathy works at the Chethams Library and Graham has produced a beautiful letterpressed book to accompany the exhibitions with essays by David Blamires and tipped in illustrations, and a newly translated tale with a specially commissioned illustration by Clifford Harper, who does the small images that look like wood engravings for the Guardian.

 Here are Peter, Graham and Kathy discussing the finer points of printing around an old common press refurbished by Alan May ( who made Peter's own for the Tom Paine Printing Press ).
The older editions are on show at Chethams ( dating from 1821 - early 1930's) and the twentieth century illustrated ones, 1945-2011  at the Portico.
Chethams Library, on a site originally a monastic foundation and now a private music school, is an early example of a chained library ( apparently even the monks were not averse to hiding a few mss up their monkish sleeves ) . It really has wonderful atmosphere. The image immediately above shows the alcove where Marx and Engels sat and worked .

The exhibition at the Portico ( a library dating back to 1806) was an altogether more chaotic affair in a very charming way - it would have nice to see more artists books ( the four small books that did represent the form were really lovely - I didn't note the artist and I can't find them named in the catalogue.... )

We then dashed to complete our Manchester library tour by visiting the Rylands Library - with its new glass addition to the ecclesiastical looking building , Victorian Gothic, commissioned as monument to John Rylands by his enlightened widow.
It is huge  and over several floors with various exhibition spaces and a grand reading room at the top, completely wonderful...
My daughter is helping organise an exhibition here next year to commemorate 700 years since the birth of Boccaccio, see
and I am about to start designing a book for what should be a very interesting exhibition of 21st century book artists reacting to his work .

 It has some nice printing presses in it too...

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