Evergreen Press, 2016
Designed and printed by John Grice at Evergreen Press, Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, UK.
Published in an edition of 99 copies.
Where do I start, apart from ‘I love this book’!
Despite having seen several of the printed sheets in various early stages during production, I was not prepared for how marvellously Ornata turned out in the final, bound copies.
I count myself fortunate that I personally know the printer of this book, John Grice, and I make no secret of being a great admirer of his work. His typographic and design skills are most praise-worthy and the quality of his presswork is rather fine, too. As he mentions in Ornata, Grice views his general style as rather conservative, which may be true inasmuch as a lot of his work has a more classical or traditional lean to it, but this is by no means a negative thing. I feel all the best book work is born of such style, and traditional has never equated to a lack of imagination or creativity. Indeed Ornata shows a great many particularly creative eye-catching pieces throughout, and Grice has certainly showcased some work in here that is somewhat contrary to his own view of being ‘traditional’. This pushing of his envelope has resulted in a vibrant and colourful volume that is visually interesting and engaging from start to finish.
To classify or pigeon-hole Ornata is somewhat difficult. The automatic assumption that it’s a ‘specimen book’ is rather off the mark. Obviously, it does contain specimens of various ornaments and type faces throughout, but the manner in which they are presented soon make it apparent that the book is much more. It is one man’s journey into the curious and fascinating world of what constitutes as ornament in letterpress, and the possibilities such frequently overlooked or forgotten elements have to offer.
The commentary throughout, although historically-slanted in its general tone, is, in the main, the thoughts of the printer rather than a scholarly text. This adds to the appeal of Ornata, making it an interesting read rather than a stuffy series of facts and figures. It is personal, and therefore more enjoyable for the inherent warmth such a prose style brings. The text is also made somewhat impressive when you learn that it was not carefully thought out and planned, but mostly ‘written’ directly to the composing stick to suit the pages as the printer went along. I doubt many would, or could, work in this manner nowadays. Granted, the occasional literal has crept in, for which, as an albeit hurried proof reader, I am partly to blame! I happen to rather like such errors for they show the flaws of human process that inevitably occur when time is of the essence. Ornata was not a planned out book, but one that grew quite randomly, page by page, and in no particular order. It is, I have to admit, quite surprising that the book is as cohesive as it is, for the manner of its creation was certainly not!
Click here to see more of the edition on the Evergreen Press website, where copies may still be available.
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