Editor’s note: When the Folger acquired the lovely artist’s book Storming Shakespeare from Jan Kellett last year, Erin Blake asked if she would be willing to share some information with our readers about the making of the book. The post that follows is Kellett’s account of the inspiration and physical process of creating Storming Shakespeare.
After working for a while as a book conservator I started to write, illustrate, and bind miniature books. Making anything in miniature is a challenge, and I enjoy finding solutions to some of the trickier situations miniatures present. When I had the idea for Storming Shakespeare, there was a wealth of material I wanted to include so my solution was to make a triple dos-à-dos binding, which could encompass the text, quotations, and illustrations all in the same book.
This is the finished book, showing the three parts: the first part is the essay about Shakespeare’s use of storms in Julius Caesar, King Lear, and The Tempest; the second part, (facing front on the right side of the picture) consists of quotations from Julius Caesar and King Lear with drypoint and monotype illustrations; and the third part in the center (here facing away from us) deals with the storm in The Tempest, using quotations and illustrations, and bound in such a way as to convey the ethereal dreamlike nature of the play.
The covers are fastened with ribbons (front) and a silver hook and loops (back).
The first major task was to research, write, and edit the essay, which I then computer typeset in Brioso typeface. I also selected and typeset the quotations and sent the digital files to the photo lab to have positives made, from which I would make the photopolymer plates for printing on my small iron hand press. These processes took some months to complete. The photopolymer plates are cut apart and adhered to a base for use in the Craftsman jobbing press. Two pages are printed at a time, then after drying are printed on the other side. (The platen on this press is too small to print 4-up.)
Pages are folded, trimmed, and arranged into signatures (gatherings). They are then pricked up for sewing, with the made endpapers. I sewed the essay part of the book on ramie band, which is strong and flat. The bands are then trimmed, the back is glued up, and waste sheets trimmed and pasted down.
I made pastepaper for the endpapers, and scattered the damp pastepaper with real gold flakes.
The essay part has two illustrations—original drypoint prints. One is of the drunken Trinculo crawling under Caliban’s gaberdine, used as a frontispiece (see the full book view at the top of the post). The second illustration is of the Globe circa 1616 (after Visscher’s engraving), an original drypoint print with chine collé. The two prints are tipped into the book (i.e., on a separate piece of paper, attached with a thin thread of paste along the top edge.)
The second part consists of quotations from Julius Caesar and King Lear, and I created two drypoint/monotype images for each play. For the text pages of the quotations I made monotype colored prints (which I thought of as stage lighting) and then printed the quotations on top. The pages were printed on one side only and made into a drumleaf binding: pages are folded, trimmed, knocked up square, and the spine glued up. Each page is then drummed (by gluing together the edges all round top, fore edge, bottom, and spine) so that each side of the new page is printed. End papers are made and similarly attached.
Using the drumleaf form of binding allows for a double page spread with no stitching to spoil the view.
I modeled the face of King Lear in this image on a photo of Christopher Plummer playing the role. I used gold leaf for the lightning, and burnished it.
For the third part, “The Storm in the Tempest,” I decided to use a fine handmade Japanese gampi paper on which to print the quotations and the drypoint images, and suspended them over the monotype printed “stormy” pages. The gampi is translucent and is intended to convey the dream-like illusory and magical qualities of the play. To make this binding work, I made gampi guards for each page and sewed the pages individually onto two ramie bands to give extra stability to the book block. A guard is an extra strip of paper at the spine, to compensate for the thickness of the suspended page.
The colored pages are printed on both sides with monotype, where the color is created anew on the plate for each printing. Each page is different.
This center section of the book is fastened with a hook and loop, as you can see on the image above.
After the three book blocks have been made, the cover is then constructed. It consists of four boards, joined in a zigzag to provide three places for the book blocks to sit. Materials used are binders’ millboard (a hard-rolled traditional book board), vegetable-tanned goat skin from Hewit’s in Scotland, grosgrain ribbons, and a silver ‘S’ shaped hook to fasten the center section. The title and cover design are blocked using 23-carat gold mounted on a heat-sensitive backing. The four squares represent the four elements shaken by the events in the plays.
Boards are cut to size and shaped, leather is cut to pattern and pared, the two front boards are joined, leather edges and corners turned in, and the front cover is gold blocked (hot stamped) on the antique press shown. Above you can see the copper block (engraved plate) which has a raised surface in mirror image of the design, in the chase on the right of the platen. The heated chase is fitted upside down in the top platen and when the handle is pulled the upper and lower platens meet, impressing the design on the cover. A cover, already stamped, can be seen in the makeready which here consists of strips of board keeping it in the correct position.
For the loops, leather is pared and folded around a strip of ramie band. Slits are made in the spine leather and the leather strips positioned then glued down onto the inside covers. Shown above is a Brockman parer, which uses a low-tech double edged razor blade to split off the surplus thickness of the strips.
The turn-ins are trimmed out evenly and the inside is filled to take it up to the same level as the leather, so that the whole surface is level and smooth. The ribbons are fitted, passing through the cover leather, before the front and back covers are filled.
Once the cover is complete, the book blocks are fitted to it, and end papers stuck down. The silver S hook is fitted to one loop, to close that portion of the book.
The slipcase is made using binding board, pared contrasting leather and the paste paper I made for this and the end papers. It is shaped to make it easier to get the book out of the case.
Here is the completed book in its slipcase. The book itself is 73mm high, 65mm wide, and 28 mm in thickness. It is a Varied Limited Edition of 20, signed and numbered.
“I enjoy the variety of elements that make up a book: text, illustrations, printing and binding are designed to complement each other and make a cohesive whole. Making miniature books is particularly demanding as each part has to be scaled down and thoughts distilled to make a functioning book that appeals to the eye, mind and
the sense of touch. They present the ultimate challenge, both creatively and technically. Because they are small, I can use luxurious materials and create books that will give lasting pleasure. Their small size makes for an intimacy between reader and book, giving the impression of an almost secret pleasure, something that is to be savoured rather than swallowed whole.”
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This is a stunningly beautiful piece and I would love to see it in person if it is ever on display…Given the slim chances, I just want to thank you for all the detailed photos of the process. I can just imagine how much cherishing went into each aspect of this work.
Anne Seiler — December 18, 2014
Thanks, Anne. You’re right, it was a labour of love.
Jan Kellett — December 22, 2014