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1984 by St James Park Press

In late 2020, James embarked on his most ambitious project yet, seeking to create the definitive letterpress production of Nineteen Eighty-Four. This edition has twenty-four original letterpress illustrations, each one as intentional and unique as the last, and James incorporated over twenty different types of paper, so it should be no surprise that this project was a long time in the making. We are delighted that James was willing to discuss this production at length, as this was our most anticipated project of this past year, and we believe there will not remain a shred of doubt that it was worth the wait for those who get to experience it.

Q: We are so excited to get to talk more in-depth about what was quite possibly our most anticipated book for 2023 for us at Collectible Book Vault. You first announced that you were going to be working on a definitive letterpress version of Nineteen Eighty-Four in October of 2020, but I’m sure the process began well before that in your mind. You have said that you won’t commit to a work unless you can offer something new and elevated with your particular vision. What was the moment when you knew this was the right title for you and what did you believe your version would offer that had not been done before with this work?

Nineteen Eighty-Four has always been a part of my literary memory bank. I can’t remember when I first read it, but whenever that was, many years ago, I connected with it and it has stayed with me ever since. There are a number of classics one could list like this and I am drawn to those before others when deciding what works I would wish to print.

The most immediate thought, beyond this, was the addition of letterpress illustrated posters, especially posters that could exist within the imaginary world of the novel, to bring about a realism to the setting that can’t actually be achieved by any other method. When you look at an illustration made digitally, from a painting or drawing, there is an invisible wall between the reader and the setting. You are looking at an event in the novel through a screen. It is a photocopy of an event. When you, for example, hold a handprinted poster of Big Brother Watching You, on antique paper, that wall is no longer there. The reader is literally in the novel. As I say in the colophon to the edition, it is an original artefact from the archives of Big Brother. It goes to the very heart of my vision for the ‘art and feel of the book’. When I started planning the edition, though, I included illustrations as well, also letterpress printed of course, because I felt having just imagined posters wasn’t enough to give a full view of the story.

Q: You read fairly extensively in preparation for this production from books like On Nineteen Eighty-Four by D.J. Taylor, The Ministry of Truth by Dorian Lynskey and of course the text itself. Why was it important for you to not only read the text, but commentary on the writing and purpose behind the novel itself and how did this research shape the end product from a thematic perspective?

The illustrations in the edition all have layers beyond merely the aesthetics. For a novel in which the themes are as layered, it felt important that the illustrations reflected this. Although I had initially thought there may be elements relating to Orwell himself or the background to the writing of the novel that could be sufficiently interesting to include as part of those layers, which led to the part of the research I undertook, ultimately, I concentrated on the themes themselves. There are enough references and meta-references within the illustrations without the need to include further ones about Orwell.

I suppose the real question is why to create illustrations that are not solely included for the aesthetics. The reason is simple: in my mind the novel calls for it.

Q: As is common for your publications, you printed all of the illustrations letterpress with a variety of hand presses. You essentially created twenty-four unique broadsides for the standard edition that feel both cohesive in theme, but diverse in execution and style. Why was it important to have the level of control you did over the illustrations when often a fine press will hand off this task to a singular artist, letting their style guide the process? How collaborative was the process and who wrote and determined the text found within the illustrations? Were there any larger artistic or historical influences that shaped the overall portfolio?

It never entered my mind to commission an artist to undertake the illustrations as a whole. When I plan to publish an edition, the overall approach is generally fixed in my mind via a moment of inspiration, for right or wrong. The illustrations are a mix of spontaneity and well-thought-out thematic and textual elements within.

The obvious reason not to use a single artist, though, is that it would have appeared contrived, however “real” the posters felt. The posters that would have been created by the Ministry of Truth would not have been made or designed by a single artist all at the same time, so it was actually important that all the posters have their own personality separate from one another. At the same time, because they are part of a single edition, there was also a consideration they needed to maintain a level of continuity. It was a difficult balance to maintain.

In one part of the edition, though, it was important that the illustrations did appear disconnected. The tryptic for Learning, Understanding and Acceptance were purposefully given their own personality; more abstract than any of the others. The torture of Winston marked an abrupt shift in the novel’s own approach, which is why it was depicted so differently. The fact they are so different tells a story of its own.

The portfolio was initially and primarily shaped by two focuses: posters specifically mentioned in the novel, which seemed an obvious requirement, and illustrations which covered the complete range of characters, locations, events and themes in the novel. For the latter, all the main characters are shown: Winston, Julia, Big Brother, O’Brien, Goldstein. So too are the main locations: Victory Mansions and the four Ministries. Then, specific events: children spying, public hangings, the flicks, economy drives, hate week, train travel, dreaming of the Golden Country, the Book, the Newspeak Dictionary, Victory products, Winston’s torture in Room 101 and so on. The novel’s larger themes are intertwined within all of these and those are where a lot of references to real-life events can be deciphered.

Once I had that list and overview in mind, as well as the themes I wanted to explore, I sketched out the portfolio in the crudest manner. Text and layout were planned, as well as the general style. I had in mind the sort of images that would be needed for each. It was then that I sought the artists most fitting for the purpose. I had essentially decided on each of the posters before commissioning the artist. Thirteen of the posters have original and commissioned art on them, which means eleven do not (although arguably there are original graphics in a couple of those). This means that almost half of the illustrations actually didn’t involve any additional artist’s voice beyond my own. Of course, I did use stock illustrations needed for those, but the point is that no third party’s thoughts were involved. In addition, all of the text and layout of each of the posters were created before the artist was commissioned. Sometimes not precisely, but enough to brief an artist on the overall poster in advance.

The general approach can be best observed via a single poster; for example, Be a Child Hero, with an illustration by Ian Beck. Although I have known Ian for some time and always loved his work, a chance comment on one of my social media posts relating to the edition suddenly made me wonder if he would be interested in a commission for it, specifically for this poster.

As I explained in February 2021 to Ian in an e-mail, it is ‘a sort of “kids, tell on your parents” propaganda poster. I pictured an old-fashioned scene of wartime children patriotically snitching on their parents, with some captions… saying, “Boys and Girls, are your parents thought-criminals? See it, say it, sorted” type of thing. Children in Nineteen Eighty-Four were basically enthusiastic Hitler youth types, taught to love Big Brother. So really it’s an old-fashioned colourful kids poster, with a darker message behind it. If that may be of interest… maybe two or three colours…’.

Ian was happy to do it and so, shortly after, I hand-set all the text as it appears in the final poster, proofed and corrected, save for the tagline spoken by the boy in the final image. I emailed a scan of this proof to Ian, noting, ‘there is at least one more line to add, which is the comic strip text, so to speak, along the lines of “Mother, who is Father talking to?” or something equally suspicious. As I said before, it is a propaganda poster for children to tell the authorities (Big Brother) on their parents doing wrong. We may add the above sort of text as part of the drawing, or later with type, depending on what fits best. So do feel free to come up with a line as part of the drawing. I would envisage you doing up to three colours… style wise I was thinking something sort of approaching realistic, futuristic-1940s, if such an oxymoron makes sense(!), with an English wartime feel to it. But frankly, do as you’d like’.

In March, Ian had sketched what he called his ‘rough and hasty thoughts’ of two head and shoulder profiles of a boy talking in the ear of a soldier.

My response included, ‘isn’t it interesting what’s in one's mind versus what’s in another… I like it a lot. I wonder if there’s a way to make it more sinister? Either with a younger child, or in a specific setting, or with a greater height difference where the policeman is a lot taller than the child? In its current form it takes it away from the mummy/ daddy approach I was thinking of, and makes it more of a recruiting poster’.

Ian thought, ‘the height is interesting, it almost needs a crouching adult listening to a young child?’, to which I added, ‘or maybe the space to the right of the top text can be a standing man, neck bent to look down, and a tiny child (far below the text) looking up, or pulling on the man’s jacket…, or pointing in the direction of her father who’s in an open window talking on the phone to someone. Literally top of my head that. Come up with anything you fancy’.

Ian prepared a sketch of what would be the basis for the final image. I was very pleased with the sketch, believing, ‘if we are going for something like that, then maybe I’ll add a typesetting that also says, “Has Father been acting differently lately…? below it; or something like that. I prefer this one to the last as an image’.

Ian prepared a further sketch, with a change of colours to red and ochre that gave a more ‘period feel’. I relayed my concerns over ‘an intellectual battle with myself over colours and clothing [as]… in the year 1984, the clothing of the young Spies was blue shorts, grey shirts and a red neckerchief, and the clothing of the police was black. What I’m thinking to fit in with the style and colour palette you’ve used is to make this a poster that could have been made in, say 1970, and survived… hence being before the “current” uniforms of the year 1984 were decided upon. I quite like the idea of this being an “old” poster that survived…’. I also decided against a hand-drawn banner in favour of the text I had already printed. As well, I suggested the addition of ‘a small element such as a red neckerchief to show what the transition is going to be in the “future”.

Following on, the final design was prepared and its placement perfected.

This series of exchanges, which formed a good proportion of the correspondence between us, is a representation for how the thirteen commissioned artworks were undertaken. A lot of specific direction, but wholly dependent on the artistic ability of the artist to see it through and the occasional element that influenced my own decisions (such as dating the poster to an earlier time).

This poster in fact went on to influence my edition of Animal Farm, as I used the same Ashley Script type that I used in this poster for the title page of Animal Farm.

Q: I’m sure there is an intricate story behind every single illustration, but one that stands out in particular is Golden Country. Can you give us the background of this piece and also walk through some of the intricacies of multiple color relief printing and using progressive plates by hand? What is one other illustration you are particularly fond of and why?

The background to the commissioning of the Golden Country is similar to that of Be a Child Hero, with Robin Mackenzie approached for ‘a large coloured illustration engraving… a countryside scene, based on the setting in the novel’, which would likely have ‘to be lino as it’s a large image needed’.

Two paragraphs from the novel were sent to Robin, starting, ‘Suddenly he was standing on short springy turf… he called it the Golden Country’, and ending ‘Winston woke up…’. It describes in great detail the scene of the Golden Country and his dream of a woman tearing off her clothes on the way to him.

As I said to Robin, ‘this is the page I want to illustrate. Your coloured illustrations look like the perfect style to do this. I like the illustrations without a defined border (which gives a more dreamlike quality to the image, which is what this is – a dream). I would like a signpost somewhere or some sign in the distance that says “Golden Country”.

Robin suggested a three colour, multiple block, vinylcut for the illustration and sent over a sketch. As Robin said when he did, ‘before I go further with colour detail sketches, I wanted to send you this rough compositional sketch. I wanted to capture the moment of the girl just about to fling aside her clothes. I want to then abstract slightly with areas and shapes blurring into each other in a dreamlike way’. As I replied to Robin, ‘I had something quite different in mind…’.

I sent over a rough sketch of the composition I was interested in (which I will not share as it was prepared in the style of a 4-year-old child drawing), which was accompanied by an explanation that, ‘I was thinking of a more “landscape” image, as stated in the text page, featuring all the elements mentioned in that paragraph. Rabbit bitten pasture, elm trees, duck etc. Sun shining. Lake. So more of a dreamy rolling hills composition’. The sketch showed the girl in the distance with the focus on the landscape itself and all the elements, rather than a close-up on a single person. I explained, ‘the reason why is also because I have a wood engraving of the female character so wouldn’t want to repeat it so close up’.

The next sketch was exactly as I had in mind, which Robin then prepared in colour. These were immediately approved without further discussion.

Although this shows a more direct brief on the intended composition, again it required a skilled and talented artist to actually produce the final illustration, which in turn went on to be chosen for the annual exhibition of the Society of Wood Engravers, which was extremely gratifying both for Robin but also for the edition.

When it came to printing the three blocks, the process is relatively straightforward. For each, it involved the preparation of the paper to be used, the mixing of the inks as desired, setting up the hand-press as needed, the proper placement and registration of the blocks, and thorough and careful hand-inking. It is quite an involved series of processes, but not unusual.

Although the Golden Country illustration has proved extremely popular, which is not hard to see why when compared to the bleaker illustrations included in the edition, the one illustration I am particularly fond of, which will seem the least obvious, is Artsem.

Simplicity is at the heart of this imagined poster. It also holds one of the most direct messages, and a powerful one at that, but in the most subtle way.

I particularly enjoyed devising the text, and it contains my most favourite tagline, ‘practice goodsex, avoid sexcrime’. In the Appendix to the novel, The Principles of Newspeak, the word goodsex means chastity, and sexcrime means sexual immorality.

Although on its face, the advice implies a positive, the practice of good sex; the reality is that the sentence means the public should practice no sex and avoid sexual intercourse.

The only hint to this reality is the small text at the bottom of the poster, stating that the advertisement is sponsored by the Anti-Sex League of Oceania, an organisation which advocates for complete celibacy. The large text, ART SEM, which features boldly on the poster, equally gives little insight into its real meaning. ARTSEM is Newspeak for Artificial Insemination, the Party considering that all children should be begotten by these means. On its face, the word looks pleasant enough, split so that the word ART, which etymologically means skill as a result of learning or practice, appears first. I also enjoyed the subtlety of printing the illustration so that the lifeline of the baby gently turns from black to red.

Q: The unique nature of many of the relief printed illustrations introduces the complication of combining individual type blocks and custom plates for any given illustration. The variety of typefaces and the size of many of these mean that it is unlikely that you had all of these sitting around in your workshop. What portion of the type blocks and plates used in these illustrations had to be custom made for this project? What were some of the most complicated techniques used to create the illustrations and what proved to be more difficult in implementation than you thought?

In fact, almost all the typefaces used within the illustrations are fonts of metal or wood type in my print room. To some extent therefore, the illustrations are designed around those limitations, which is both a pleasure and hindrance with letterpress printing. I absolutely prefer metal or wood type for printing over platework, and frankly as I have no ability on the computer, the idea of trying to formulate designs digitally would prove impossible for me. There really is a relief in only having a set number of typefaces to work from and in only one size for each or maybe more, but usually not. It pushes the requirements for creativity beyond where you can have an endless choice of faces in any size, as found on a computer.

The greatest problem I actually faced with this, however, was in one instance where I felt only one type I had would work aesthetically, but it was such old type and so worn down (type doesn’t last forever) that I had to underlay each letter to different heights with small slips of glued paper to bring all the letters to the same height. This isn’t unheard of, but it is certainly a fiddly and time-consuming process. If one doesn’t do this, the type won’t all be inked evenly, being at different heights, and also won’t print evenly, as the paper will hit the letters that are taller before those that are shorter.

Of course, I can’t say I wouldn’t have liked to have more type in different sizes, which would have helped, but the illustrations do not suffer from these restrictions. As I say, the limitations of what you have on hand in letterpress dictate the design as much as your own vision does.

I always try to limit the use of plates to a minimum, for no better reason than I simply prefer the feel of printing with type and hand-engraved blocks over a polymer or metal plate. I also prefer knowing that there has been a creative hand in the block being printed, and that no computer has had to be involved. I don’t take the view that the end printing is adversely affected, so ultimately I have no qualms using plates where necessary, which ultimately means where it isn’t possible to do it in any other way. There were a good number of plates used for some of the illustrations that were hand-drawn by artists, or graphically designed, but all of the ornaments and borders printed were from original metal or wood blocks, and some of the illustrations were by linocut or wood-engraving.

The most difficult type of block or plate to print from wasn’t in fact a block or a plate, but rather the rubber sole for a real boot. Plates and types are actually designed in a way that allows ink to be repelled onto the paper; whereas gritty rubber-made soles are made to adhere to the surface. Pulling printed sheets from an inked sole was therefore very difficult and caused me a lot of problems. The end result was worth it though.

Q: Throughout the edition you used twenty-four different antique and contemporary handmade papers from mills in England, France, Germany and Italy. What was your initial thought in using such a breadth of paper and what practical and creative influence governed your choices?

My initial thought should have been, as it would be now: it isn’t possible to find that many handmade papers. I had committed myself to twenty-four illustrations on handmade papers, which is the number of chapters in the novel, plus a frontispiece (incidentally, my edition of Animal Farm also follows this approach with ten illustrations for ten chapters; although there are in fact a further ten chapter heading illustrations and a wraparound cover illustration).

The number of illustrations and the size of each was already a large enough undertaking, and naively in one sense, I had not given thought to the practicalities of sourcing that many different papers. For some reason, I simply considered it a sensible proposition. I was very lucky indeed. If I was asked to repeat the exercise now, I believe it would be impossible. Those from whom I sourced the antique papers would not be able to do so again, as I obtained their remaining offerings. Certainly, I could commission handmade papers to be made, as I did with a small number of those in the edition, but would probably struggle to find more than half a dozen decent papers.

The reason for using such an extensive range of papers was the same reason for using different artists and creating such different illustrations. The paper is another character and it was vital that the illustrations were seen on papers that reflected their nature. A good example is Public Execution, where I used a Richard de Bas antique French paper, heavy and rough, in a toned off-white colour. Its characteristics reflected the nature of the poster exactly. It had a mixture of feeling like a Wanted poster hung in the Old West, or printed during the time when guillotines were used in France. This was exactly what the poster needed. Without it, the notion of the poster existing at the time of the events in the novel would have been completely lost.

Q: There are so many unique touches in this piece like the embossed eyes sitting subtly behind the text and the notice board in one of the illustrations that contains the names of the patrons who purchased this work. Was your process progressive and cumulative or did you have most of these ideas from the onset? What sort of barometer do you use to know when an element is additive or may be distracting to the overall experience?

I am envious of those publishers who prepare their whole edition on a computer in advance and so can see the entire book as a finished edition before they’ve even started printing. I don’t (and can’t) do that and prepare everything in a very general way with pen and paper, with the odd proof or paste-up for a few of the elements. So, my process is very progressive and cumulative. What I have in my mind at the start will be an overview, with most of the main and specific elements decided upon, but smaller elements still to be finalized, depending on what else has happened during the production. Bear in mind that I had already started printing before I had even found all of the artists I commissioned, and it wasn’t until close to the end that I hit upon exactly how I wanted the binding to look, or had commissioned the papermaker in India for the handmade paper used on the covers because of it.

I enjoy that progressive process as you aren’t committed to any strict design at the start. It allowed, for example, the inclusion of a reference to the invasion of Ukraine (the poster for Triumph of Command), which started in February 2022. When I was working on An Albion in the Antarctic, I was actually re-writing the text as I hand-set the type, because it meant I could set the text to fit around the page design. Each page was printed one at a time, hand-set one page at a time. It is a good comparison, as although the text was all written in advance, it was actually written afresh while the book was being done. That is a similar sort of manner as to how a book like Nineteen Eighty-Four is done. Not in so far as the text is concerned, but as regards the design elements.

Also, I work on the premise that the idea has to hit you, rather than be forced because of a specific timescale. It has to be progressive because you are sometimes waiting for that moment. A good example of this was how I portrayed the hand showing four or five fingers in one poster (for the torture of Winston, who is forced to say whether his torturer is holding up four fingers or five). I couldn’t decide upon the style of that image for a long time, but then it hit me to use my own hand – the printer’s hand. So, I inked my own hand and impressed various designs of it, printing my index finger twice on the page. This was then made into a plate from which I printed the final image. So the edition features my handprint within the illustration. This was far better than trying to commission an artist to create some random illustration of a hand.

The short answer is that although it is progressive and cumulative, I did have most of the ideas at the start. A combination of both.

I enjoy the small touches in the edition. Of course, I was very happy to have hit upon the idea to include the name of the subscriber within one of the illustrations, which I cannot see has ever been done by anyone before.

I do have a few favourites of this ilk beyond this. One is the inclusion of the words Eastasia and Eurasia on Goldstein’s illustration, to produce the effect that the former word appears on the front, while the reverse of the latter appears on the back.

Another would be that for Room 101, where you have to “open” the printed flapped paper up to reveal the room inside, to hide the shock of the inside image. I also enjoyed using handstamps for some of the posters, especially for the connotation I had in my mind of that overly bureaucratic sense of being in that world. I had fun splitting a clock face amongst three related posters, so that when lined up together they show the clock, especially because being bound into the edition the reader is unable to actually do that.

A final satisfying touch was finding a way for the border text to seem as though it was meant to be there, rather than just an additional jarring insert.

I did this by having an opening and a closing to the book, where you start with a full redacted page, which covers the area where all the text later appears. As you turn the pages, that block starts to split into redacted lines across the pages, and turning the pages again, certain Newspeak words start to appear dotted around. At the same time, the lines start to pull back gradually, as if like a curtain being pulled apart, and eventually the shape of the border text emerges, all words present. The closing does similarly but in reverse, as if like a stage play where the curtains finally draw. Two small touches in this were especially pleasing, namely in the opening where the first word that appears from these lines, on its own on the page, is “1984”, acting a bit like an additional half-title. At the end of the book, where the book itself mentions the date “2050”, the last word now reads “2023”, being the date of release of the book.

The barometer for these sorts of touches is, as I say, if they don’t aid in the theme of the poster or are too distracting to the overall aesthetic. A tagline in Triumph of Command was one thing removed from the final, a quote on the Ministry of Peace another. There were things proofed but never used. The only one I really wanted to include was a small diamond shape with the word “hate” inside; but this was more because it’s just a wonderful little printer’s metal ornament which I would like to have printed from, rather than because it was necessary for the book. The ornament now sits on my shelves and I doubt I will take it apart, as it seems a sweet memento now.

Q: The image of the eye is paramount in this project for obvious reasons considering the themes of the book. Orwell wrote this in 1949 as a warning against totalitarianism and suppression of individual freedom. Since the time this was written, the accessibility and technology for those in power to have an Orwellian level of surveillance and control has only grown and actually surpassed many of the ideas depicted in this work. Why do you think these ideas transcend the time period it was written and remain so relevant today? Was Orwell’s work particularly prescient or just a commentary on an immutable part of societal and human condition?

That is certainly a question for someone more knowledgeable than a mere printer such as myself. I find it hard to believe it prescient though, as Orwell was really just harvesting, to some degree, things taking place during his own lifetime, which he witnessed, rather than creating an imaginary future from scratch. He created various terms which have been added to our lexicon, so that when used today they feel like Orwell created them for our own purpose, which is why it can feel prescient. However, it’s no different to phrases devised by Shakespeare in the 17th Century appearing so apposite today, for example, or various and numerous instances in novels, or films or television shows, which have in a sense predicted the future and this seems to me not dissimilar.

The sad truth about all of it is that it evidences the slow progression of humanity in all ways that really matter, which is how a novel written in the 1940’s can still remain so relevant today.

From my perspective, Orwell was really just, as you say, providing a commentary on an immutable part of the human condition. It is important, though, not to dismiss or underplay the effect a novel like this can have, even if its themes weren’t original. Although the term ‘Thought Police’, for instance, may not have been new to Orwell, his popularization of that expression means we now associate examples of its use with something negative, which in turn prompts us to reject any proponent of it. So, although it may be merely a commentary, it can in turn help to recondition.

Q: As we are doing this interview you now have the finished production in your hands. When you originally set out to do this project, I’m sure you had an idea of how you expected this process to go. Were your expectations of the time and complexity of this project exceeded or were you aware of the gravity and scope of this project from the beginning? While I’m sure there are things you might have done differently in hindsight, are you generally pleased with the final result?

Although I make books to my own vision, as is the joy of a private press, I am acutely aware that it is the subscribers to those editions that provide for it to exist in the way it does. I am sincerely and extremely appreciative of not only their support but more so, their unwavering patience. It is for this reason, more than any other, that I am relieved to see the edition done and in their hands.

I think the problem with predicting any timescale for completing an edition is that you don’t necessarily fully factor in the time it takes to do the less obvious things that go into making a book. One example of this may be the handling of paper, from finding and collecting it, to folding, cutting, dampening, counting, sorting, and so on. It can eat up a huge amount of time, especially where there is the volume and size of paper and variation of handmade papers used in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Another example may be the commissioning of artists, especially when you haven’t fully decided on the exact artwork to be used.

So, whilst you generally have an idea on how long the printing may take in advance, and the binding, you can’t predict how long everything else will take and you usually predict far too optimistically. There is generally an arc of feelings when making a book. It starts with a feeling of excitement and optimism during the planning and early stages; half way through the process you will be at your lowest ebb, wondering if everything you have done and are on course to do is wrong; which is finally relieved when the book is bound. I suppose it is hard to be anything but pleased with the final result when you’ve been through that.

Q: What are you most excited about working on next and why?

Aside from The Beauty of Byrne, which I’ve spoken about previously, I am particularly excited about Milton’s Paradise Lost. Like Nineteen Eighty-Four, it has been a text that has been with me for a long period of time; since I was in my late teens. It was also my gateway into rare and antiquarian books, as collecting editions of Paradise Lost was my entry into the world of collecting. That then introduced me to private press editions and in turn to becoming a private press myself. So, it could be said that the St James Park Press would never have existed without my love for Milton’s poem.

Hamlet from Cranach Press

I haven’t said anything to date about how I envisage the edition, but if one imagines the Cranach Press Hamlet, but published by the Ashendene Press, that is the general vision I have for this; particularly in so far as the engravings are presented. Whilst that edition of Hamlet was theatrical in nature, Paradise Lost is more akin to an opera which adds a whole new dimension. Of course, this won’t be a pastiche, as it is a St James Park Press title, so it will have its own character, but that description shows the inspiration behind it. A large edition, on specially made handmade paper, with a plethora of letterpress printed engravings. Of course, it’s another edition where I have bitten off more than I can chew. I can’t wait!

This interview was done in a series of communications back and forth and we want to thank James for his generosity to be a part of this series and his thoughtful answers. If you want to keep up with the latest from St James Park Press then you can see what James is working on at You can also follow him on Facebook or Instagram to stay up with all of the incredible things coming from this press.

Interview by: Zach Harney of the Collectible Book Vault

*Since there are often different spellings in American English and British English of the same words, we have chosen to adhere to the spelling of the person who is speaking rather than conform to one convention for the whole interview.

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I can feel the sheer amount of effort and passion that go into these books. And I love 1984!


I love the discussion on the progression of the artwork, the collaborative process, and the influence of the printing techniques. Fascinating.


Stuart Ng
Stuart Ng
Dec 18, 2023

Awesome interview! Love the in-depth look at how the posters are created and why.


Justin Nathan
Justin Nathan
Dec 18, 2023

Great interview! I can't even begin to imagine how hard it was to source that many unique papers and artists. The book and art looks incredible! Thank you for the interview.

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