Crispin Elsted


Barbarian Press, 2002


Designed by Crispin Elsted and printed by Jan Elsted at Barbarian Press, Mission, British Columbia, Canada.

Published in an edition of 125 copies.


A Natural History of Surprise is a wonderful small collection from Canada’s Barbarian Press that I have been frequently dipping into since acquiring it.

Written by Barbarian’s own Crispin Elsted it is an absolute pleasure to read. I’d not read any of Elsted’s poetry before, but am now glad that I have for his poems are superb. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, for other writings of his I’ve read, such as essays, reviews and even emails, are elegantly written with clear evidence of the author being steeped in the beauty of language. There is a warmth in Elsted’s writing that makes it an engaging and effortless joy to read. This is also certainly true for his poetry, of which I have since gotten hold of – and enjoyed – more examples.

Despite the exceptional quality of his poems the stand out piece of this stunning, but all-too-brief collection is the essay at the end. It is a most beautifully written piece on rural Italy, and a more eloquent, visually rich depiction would be hard to find!

Being a Barbarian Press production it all-but goes without saying that it is a handsome, well produced item of the highest standards. The materials are particularly spot on, with a pale cream Barcham Green Chilham handmade used for the poems and a muted green Barcham Green Charter Oak handmade for the essay. The cover uses a wonderfully tactile Canal Jute mould-made over boards and features an enlarged section of the tipped-in frontispiece engraving by Peter Lazarov.

As an aside, my near-evangelical gushings on A Natural History of Surprise during a conversation with a poet and fine press publisher acquaintance were enough to instantly have them wanting a copy. They duly purchased one and are as enamoured with it as I am!




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