Caption: Book cover – the glimpses of orange are pieces of card, essential items in the correctletterspacing of uppercase letters ;)
Œ ligatures.... what can you do with them? They sit unused in the corners of typecases gathering dust, a physical reminder of changing typographic conventions. Decades ago they were used in latinised Greek words such as œdema, œstrogen and fœtid; now they only get an outing for French words such as hors d'œuvres or œuf. But it's impossible to throw them out. Being almost unused, they sit pristine with sharp edges hinting at the potential of beautiful clean prints in the future... if only they had a use.
One day when sorting through some wood type I found two Œ ligatures turned round the wrong way, and suddenly they had transformed themselves into jellyfish. I hunted through the rest of my wood type and found four more wood type jellyfish... enough for a small shoal. Once the wavy wood rule was located, a quick print was inevitable. And once printed... there was a definite hint of space invaders. And printed on black, there they were... mutant space invaders.
This was just Sunday afternoon mucking about, until I showed them to fellow printers last August and suddenly this small experiment was being taken seriously. A book was suggested – after all I had two pages designed already! The project appeared to take on a life of its own and ideas for other Œ adventures kept coming. The second crucial part of getting the project underway was being accepted to have a table at Counter Plymouth on 19 October. Now there was a deadline. This was important as otherwise I would still be agonising over the print quality of the first page.
Caption: Planning the hallowe'en page
Sometimes I set type direct on to the bed of the press. But more usually now I like to plan designs by cutting up proofs and shifting them around on the page. For the hallowe'en page (high jinks at hallowe'en) this created all kinds of hassles at the setting stage -- just as well I was doing this on a proof press. I wouldn't have even attempted it on a platen!
Caption: Arrgh! Call the forme police!
Some pages needed more planning than others. The hide and seek page (where the Œ ligatures hide among words) required a more translucent planning approach, so I proofed the words onto tracing paper. The ink never dried on the tracing paper, which was a complete pain, but I now store excess ink for future use in tightly sealed small packages made of tracing paper, which works better than any other method I've tried before....
Caption: Tracing paper proofs: sticky, but effective planning
I managed to finish printing the book (all sixteen copies!) by the deadline, and even bound the first six. More on the finished result in part 2... coming soon!