Whittington Press, 2016
Designed by John Craig and John Randle and printed by John Randle at Whittington Press, Whittington, Gloucestershire, UK.
Published in an edition of 185 standard copies, 40 special copies, and 15 extra-special copies.
There is a bit of a running joke regarding fine press announcements of imminent or forthcoming books that take forever to actually see the light of day, and this particular volume from Whittington Press is a very good example. I’d not known about its intended publication straight away, yet even I’ve known about it for several years. As it turns out, the artist had been working on the engravings for it for the last decade and a half, so it really has been in the pipeline for a very long time. But then Whittington has, I think its proprietor John Randle would agree, a bit of a history when it comes to such things. Not that this is an issue, as editions from Randle’s press are well worth the wait, no matter how long. Venice, the latest particularly special edition from Whittington, is no exception. It is a book I’ve wanted since I first learned of it in planning, and now that I finally have a copy I’m absolutely thrilled.
Among the most sought after back catalogue titles from Whittington Press are the two previous John Craig publications; The Locks of the Oxford Canal and Britten’s Aldeburgh. This is with very good reason; both are utterly stunning. Now, much to the joy of those eager for more books by Craig, they have been joined by a third, with Venice being a masterful example of bookmaking at its finest and most pleasurable. Like the previous two books, the typography and layout are by Craig himself, and he has done an outstanding job with his refreshing and vibrant take on asymmetric design. From start to finish, Venice is magnificent; a visual feast with every turn of the page. The multitude of Craig’s wood engravings are all-but artistically and technically flawless, and I find it difficult to find fault in his work. View upon view of Venice is revealed, whether a glimpse up an obscure sidestreet, or gondoliers on the waterways (as exemplified by one particularly stunning spread where the main illustration is printed in two parts across both pages in a brilliant aquamarine). The resulting volume is visually spectacular. How I wish there were more books by John Craig!
The text, which is impeccably printed in Centaur and Arrighi, is also written by Craig. He clearly knows and loves Venice intimately, and the wonderfully poetic prose style of his writing throughout make for a thoroughly enjoyable accompaniment to the wealth of his illustrations. But, regardless of the excellent text, there is no getting away from the fact that this volume is all about showcasing Craig’s wood engravings. And when they are this good, why not!
With Venice, Whittington Press have yet again published a rich and worthwhile exemplar of the finest of fine press that will no doubt be highly sought after in years to come. And deservedly so, too.
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