Barbarian Press, 2013


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

Published in an edition of 60 boxed sets.


One of the items on the Barbarian Press stand at the 2011 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair was a handsome booklet called On Vermilion Wheels: Poems for Autumn. Picking it up I found it to be a beautiful anthology, with thoughtfully selected texts and refined typography from Crispin, and immaculate printing from his wife Jan. It was more than enough to have me happily reaching for my wallet.

I noted in the colophon that, out of the edition of a hundred and ten copies, twenty-six were to be kept back for inclusion in a special limited boxed set that would contain three more, as yet unprinted, booklets on the remaining seasons. I quickly put myself down for a set and patiently waited for the time when all would be completed. As other projects took priority for a while, it wasn’t until about mid-2013 when I finally heard from Crispin, informing me that all the remaining volumes had now been printed and a parcel would soon be on its way to me. I could hardly wait!

On opening the parcel, I found a deep green cloth-covered solander box decorated acoss the front with four strips of Ann Muir marbled papers in the colours representative of each of the different seasons. Contained inside was a broadsheet of four haiku, available only in the boxed sets, and the remaining three booklets. They were all equally as wonderful as On Vermilion Wheels, and well worth the wait. Each of the booklets has the main text set in Bembo and Fairbanks Italic, but each uses a different display face and different secondary colours. Each also features ornamental arrangements that vary from small to full page, with at least one of the arrangements in each booklet printed in two or more colours. The paper for each booklet is also different, with On Vermilion Wheels on Barcham Green Tovil laid in a wrapper of pale tan Barcham Green Robin, Stories of Snow on Biblio mould-made in a wrapper of mauve St Armand, Calice & Stem on Heine in a wrapper of grass green St Armand, and Sweet Hay and Gone on Rideau St Armand in a wrapper of butter yellow St Armand. The broadsheet is on a vintage Wookey Hole Invicta handmade.

All of the booklets were, and I believe some still are, available separately, and all are well worth getting hold of. Each booklet, apart from On Vermillion Wheels, which was printed in an edition of a hundred and ten copies, was done in an edition of one hundred copies, with the eventual number reserved for sets being sixty. Alas, the boxed sets are now out of print. The Elsted’s may well be best known for their larger books, but slighter items like these should not be overlooked. They are exceptional in all respects and merit a place on the bookshelves of the most discerning of fine press enthusiasts.




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