Anthony Baker and Sem Hartz
SHAKESPEARE AND CIVILITÉ
Bonnefant Press & Enkidu Press, 2015
Designed and printed by Hans van Eijk at Bonnefant Press, Banholt, Netherlands.
Published in an edition of 60 standard copies and 6 specials.
Back in my early months of collecting all things from Anthony Baker’s Gruffyground Press an acquaintance showed me their copy of a little booklet that I’d previously unheard of; a rare unpublished Gruffyground edition of Shakespeare’s The Phoenix and Turtle (also featured in my Books of the Moment section), printed in the mid 1970s by Sem Hartz at his Tuinwijkpers in Haarlem, the Netherlands, using a rare sixteenth-century Civilité typeface. Accompanying it was a somewhat bitter note from Hartz about the item and its originally intended publisher. What had gone wrong, and why the bad blood? In further discussion it turned out that Baker found the printing to be somewhat ‘under par’ and rejected the entire edition, sending them all back to Hartz.
Thinking that the letters between Baker and Hartz regarding the unpublished Phoenix would make for an entertaining book, Hans van Eijk, along with joint publisher John Cornelisse at Enkidu Press, have published this edition of all the known correspondence. Having already read it a through a couple of times in the short time I’ve had a copy, I can certainly say that it is entertaining, and then some!
Almost from the start of the five-and-half years of correspondence (for the Phoenix took that long) there are signs that the two parties involved were ideally suited to rubbing each other up the wrong way. There are the constant flow of letters from Baker containing all manner of ideas, suggestions and particulars on the finer points of the publication. This appears to irritate Hartz, and many either get unanswered or have the various thoughts and requests contained in them ignored. In turn, this lack of response, and indeed any real progress on the project, seem to agitate Baker. Despite the letters from both being generally genial and polite, the more you read, the more the signs start showing that each is becoming more and more unhappy with the other.
There are hitches, plan changes, shirty letters, appeals, and let-downs aplenty during the course of this book; all culminating in huge disappointment and bitterness! As if that wasn’t enough, there is also the added bonus for any Tuinwijkpers or Gruffyground Press collector that each copy contains a tipped-in original Tuinwijkpers-printed prospectus for the unpublished Phoenix.
Physically, Shakespeare and Civilité is a handsome enough edition. It is a simple and understated volume, printed on Magnani paper and case-bound in deep red cloth with gold text on the spine and cover. The presswork is clean and crisp, and the layout is orderly and clear. Using the eminently legible book face Bembo, set within good page margins, this is good, purposeful typography.
Although it’s a fine press edition, this book is all about the textual content rather than being one of extravagant ‘look at me’ ideals. It just happens to have been produced in a very fine way using good materials and good typography, which is a very nice added bonus.
Copies may still be available from the publisher here (email).
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