Dana Gioia


Ex Ophidia, 1986


Designed by Richard-Gabriel Rummonds and printed by him, with assistance from Antony O’Hara and Cary Wilkins, at Ex Ophidia.

Published in an edition of 90 copies.


I don’t think that fine press printing gets much better than this example from master printer Richard-Gabriel Rummonds.

Despite knowing of Rummonds’ status as one of the world’s finest iron handpress printers, I had, until recently, only ever seen one example of his printing; a small booklet printed for Gruffyground Press, The Ship of Sounds. Although clearly a fine piece of work, it was not substantial enough to give a full representation of the printer’s capabilities. This state of affairs has now been well and truly rectified with the arrival of this magnificent, all-but perfect publication. Everything about Journeys in Sunlight is exemplary.

The author, Dana Gioia, is an exceptional, highly accomplished writer and the poems he presents here are some of the most beautiful and evocative I’ve read for a long while. They present a richly romantic ideal of a somewhat classical rural Italy that could really only exist as such in our imagination. The first of the six poems, An Emigré in Autumn, is my favourite, with images so rich that I’m transported to a place I feel I know, yet have never been to. I must get more of Gioia’s work. To compliment the text, the artist Fulvio Testa was asked to create three etchings. His resulting exquisite illustrations of Italian countryside landscapes could not have been more suitable.

As for the general design and typography, Journeys in Sunlight just keeps on ticking all the right the boxes. The choice of Dante for the type is spot on, looking classical and elegant on the pages, while the presswork – on a tactile textured Magnani handmade – is immaculate. Such an incredibly high standard of presswork is a rare thing, and puts a great many practitioners to shame. The layout is, like the publication in general, classic and refined. It relies – as the greatest examples of typography tend to – on nothing but the well-judged restraint of its designer. There are no frills of fancy tricks here, and the only hint of any kind of typographic boldness’ is the beautiful calligraphic J on the title page, which is by no means extravagant, but rather a most pleasing touch.

The binding, as with the rest of the book, is suitably subtle, with a leather spine and boards featuring the most delicate example of less-is-more paper marbling I’ve seen. And it is literally delicate as it was done using high-pigment colours that aren't exactly paper-fast. The balance between paper-fastness and strength of colour was tipped in favour of the colour, and as such, all the copies come with a glassine wrapper to protect the marbling from the great ease in which it can be smudged. This minor element of physical fragility is the only down side to this publication, and the sole reason for the earlier all-but perfect’ statement. If such care was not needed in the handling of this edition, I reckon the all-but’ could be removed.

Of all the items to make my Books of the Moment list of late, this book is the most impressive and beautiful, and I am so delighted that I have a copy.



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