The Small Publishers Fair in November 2017 concluded the Windham Papers, and enabled us to view both books together for the first time, before delivering them to the exhibition. We also had the opportunity to talk face to face and reflect together on the project; we concluded that whilst we had initially resisted the idea of an altered book project, writing and responding to the instructions through research and making had given us an opportunity to expand individual practice within the confines of a set brief, and the end result was something that we would not have produced within our established practice. Having noted this change, it was decided to further explore this process through the undertaking of a second project based on an existing book.
Using the reasoning behind the Tom Phillips book project The Humament as inspiration, two decisions were made immediately, the first was that the book should be blue (as a gesture to the Windham Papers) and secondly that the purchase would be made from an Oxfam shop (a previous project had resulted in coincidental purchases from Oxfam), so it seemed pertinent. Following these decisions, a series of text messages attempted to formulate the book theme and book price, however before we had the opportunity to complete these tasks, a chance conversation revealed that we had both already purchased an autobiography, so the decision was made to use these books as the starting point.
P: At this stage I had purchased two books – the autobiography for £1.99 – a purchase based purely on the title and name of the author – Venture to the Interior by Laurens van der Post. The other book The Comanche Scalp by William Colt MacDonald costing 99p was a novel and a nicer blue, however it was the title and book jacket design that were driving force behind the purchase. I suspect that if I had the choice I would opt to use the The Comanche Scalp as my chosen book – however, as with the Windham Papers, I like the fact that the decision has been made through theoretical reasoning rather than through personal selection. It is also intriguing that with this project the book size, structure and content is unlikely to align in the same way that the Windham Papers did, therefore there is an even greater sense of the unknown!
T: Around the same time, I purchased two blue books – the autobiography also for £1.99 – contains a map on the end papers, reference to being rendered ‘from the original Irish’ and an intriguing title: Twenty Years A-Growing. The other book – A Constable guide to the birds of the coast costing £3.99 contains photographs, diagrams, maps and factual data. With no idea about the subject matter of the books P was purchasing, I enjoyed the limitation of searching out a blue book – I could have bought loads!
Although our initial aim for the Windham Papers was to achieve a total of 10 instructions, the exhibition deadline arrived sooner than anticipated, and the final books feature responses to 8 instructions.
Meeting with T at the Small Publishers Fair in London in November was the first opportunity for the books to be reunited since the project began – and the subsequent photographs* show how the altered state of each edition contrasts and complements its opposite number. There are some similarities between our working practices, which is perhaps to be expected considering the range of projects that we have undertaken on a collaborative basis; but it could also be that the nature of the altered book and working within the confines of a large volume – this meant that we both drew upon similar processes and media, such as stickers, rubber stamps and collage to develop the project.
The books will form part of the Ex Libris exhibition at Bucks County Museum from 9 December until 24 February 2018
*book photography by Donald MacLellan
Text from TM to PW 18.31 – 15 October 2017
Drawing upon the oratory brilliance of Windham himself, convey the contents of each section of the Windham papers with image or anecdote.
At this stage in the project, with seven out of ten instructions already completed, it is easy to reflect on what has been successful, and what has been less so. With a relatively open instruction like this, I am reminded of Instruction 4 – the decoration of recipient illustrations – I consider this my weakest response; on reflection, a system should have been used to offer a sense of unity and cohesion, therefore this will be the main aim and focus for this task. I continue to be impressed by T’s level of research, so I will also endeavor to engage with more in-depth research and testing of ideas rather than my usual reactionary approach.
The first task is to analyse the meaning of the instruction by referring to key words – convey/section/anecdote. I start by trying to define the difference between a section and a chapter, however it would seem that the Windham Papers are an exception to the usual rule which is that a section is a topic area within a chapter, this is not the case with our editions where chapters are part of sections. However within the section content pages of Windham, short sentences are used to précis the chapters; when I explore the meaning of anecdote, one definition a short, obscure historical or biographical account resonated with that of the contents pages and seemed an appropriate starting point. I looked at the work of the RSC – Reduced Shakespeare Company who deliver condensed versions of the historical plays in a humorous way, whilst making the plot easier to understand. I have to confess that I find the political content of WP difficult to navigate, and with the definition of convey being to express a thought, feeling, or idea so that it is understood by other people, it seemed a similar approach to RSC could be used to translate and convey meaning in a simplistic way; this became the basis of the idea.
The first task was to translate the chapter descriptors into something that defined and summarized Windham, this became a list of bullet points which I then categorized using five headings – political position, political action, personal life, factual info and location. I became influenced by the work of Morag Myerscough and through the development of ideas and defining the space to be used within the book, I produced a system that uses colour and pattern to express Windham, supported by typed labels of the bullet points, which act as a key.
Text from PW to TM 12.07 – 6 September 2017
Identify and/or highlight any margin marks within the WP.
The first action was to identify each page within my edition that had a note or mark in the margin. With the exception of one page, all marginalia takes the form of a vertical pencil line to select a specific passage of text. I started to develop ideas based around the idea of book-marking and finally settled on the simple idea of folding the corner of each designated page. Each fold conforms to a system, its depth is dependent on where the marked line appears on the page. To further highlight the pencil marks I wanted to show the number of lines per page that the reader had selected. I developed a scale system based on the number of lines in relation to type size of the overprinted numeral.
This is the first time that an instruction and my subsequent response has started to affect previous workings and adaptations of the book; I was initially quite concerned about this but quickly realized that this is the notion of the project – I could have re-worked my idea to avoid affecting the work already carried out, but this seemed too controlling, so instead I applied the idea and accepted that it would have a cause and effect on the book.
Progress on this instruction has been relatively slow considering it was first set in July. I have now got to the stage of using cellulose thinners and cutting rubber stamps for block colours. The texture of the laid paper has had an effect on the success of the images, similarly working on bound pages within such a large volume sometimes makes it difficult to get a flat surface. However I like the immediacy of the process and having only one chance to get it right, this means having to accept imperfections and mistakes!
Text from TM to PW 07.24 – 30 July 2017
With reference to the contents of the Introduction or Epitaph construct decorative end papers to embellish and inform.
I find working on the instructions from T far more challenging and interesting than my own, this is because we don’t tend to question or discuss the meaning of the task so there is naturally a certain amount of ambiguity involved. Our responses are a personal interpretation – and I enjoy the fact that I may not interpret the instruction as it was intended. This is the case with instruction 6. At the back of my book, beyond the index is a blank page, which would be classed as the endpaper – I am assuming that this is where T intended the response to be placed – and do I use the same blank page at the beginning of the book, even though I have no introduction to interpret? Whatever the case, there is no right or wrong and it will be interesting to compare the books when we eventually see them side by side.
My starting point to interpret the Epitaph was to research into Georgian death notices; whilst I was familiar with Victorian mourning cards that were sent in envelopes edged with black borders, it was difficult to establish if this was a custom during the early 19th century, however I did find some interesting imagery that had similar qualities to a rubber stamp or lino-print and this was perceived as a potential visual style. Similarly decorative borders in various styles were also a familiar feature.
Naturally the epitaph itself offered lots of plaudits and a list of adjectives to describe Windham’s character – ‘pious’ was one visual starting point; as well as the epitaph within the diary I found testimonies from friends and colleagues of Windham – one from the writer Samuel Johnson used the latin phrase ‘inter stellas Luna minores’ – the moon among the lesser fires – this also resonated as a possible visual starting point. I looked at the repetitive nature of decorative endpapers and developed ideas for a step and repeat pattern based on visual connections with Windham.
Written note from PW to TM posted 10.15am – 12 July 2017
Develop a system to catalogue the known addresses from where Windham wrote his letters.
Having identified each page where an address was in evidence – 89 in total with 14 different locations, my first task was to work out the percentage of letters sent from each particular place. I researched into each location and in many instances was able to pinpoint the actual number of the street where Windham lived, however this information was incomplete as sometimes he listed just a place name not a full address, so this was sadly not a route I could develop further. Instead I considered how each place could be categorized; whilst colour-coding seemed an obvious starting point, I quickly realized that this may be confused with the system adopted in instruction 2. Next I started to explore the potential of using actual maps, and by reflecting on the methodology adopted in instruction 4 – which had been relatively successful – began to examine how I could use a similar system to depict the hierarchical nature of the addresses.
Using a modern road atlas I highlighted each place name within approximately a 2.5cm square section; the number of times that the location appeared within the book determined the percentage by which the square section was then enlarged. The colour copies of the map were then wrapped around the edge of each relevant page using a system of alignment. What is perhaps less successful than the way this process worked in the previous instruction, is the fact that incrementally the difference between each place name is at times limited, therefore it doesn’t allow a real sense of scale to be established.
Having used the covers of the book for a previous instruction, I wanted to use the spine as a vehicle for cataloguing each place, the numeric value of each location is represented by a small roundel punched from the same map section used within the book pages.
Text message from TM to PW 15.24 – 19 June 2017
Using the portraits of non-recipients, illuminate/amplify their connection to the life, loves and letters of William Windham.
I viewed this instruction as an opportunity to develop a set of more unified illustrations than those produced for instruction 3 which lacked cohesion and identity; this was a chance to
revert to previous (more successful) practice by putting in place a series of systems to develop a visual style.
The first action was to identify the non-recipient portraits and how many letters each person had sent to Windham – surprisingly three people had sent no correspondence to WW at all, therefore it was decided to deal with these portraits in a separate manner. This left 4 portraits to work with. To get an understanding of their relationship with Windham, I read each letter several times to determine its tone of voice – one major problem with this was that some of the letters had been heavily obliterated in response to instruction 1, so working with what was still readable I identified those correspondents who I considered friends and those who were considered foes. Having ascertained how many letters each correspondent had sent, I was able to work with this information to develop a system. The portraits were photocopied onto either blue (friend) or pink (foe) paper, at the same time each image was enlarged by a percentage that correlated with the number of sent correspondence; for example Canning sent 8 letters to Windham, so his portrait was enlarged to 180%, whilst the Duke of Gloucester only sent 1 letter so was enlarged to 110%, and so forth.
This system helps to communicate the direct relationship each person had with Windham. I also wanted to portray the relationship each person had with others within the book by
using the hierarchy of the British peerage system in some way. By identifying all the names (that again were readable) within each letter, I typed each one onto a colour-coded piece of paper to represent their rank/title. Using a system of placement, each name was sewn onto the illustration in a position that represented its place on the book page; the thread colour was defined by the same hierarchical system of rank. Working on copies then attaching them into the book enabled me to avoid some of the problems encountered with the previous illustrations and opened up opportunities to work with machine stitching. A key to identify the
system hierarchy was placed on the page opposite the first non-correspondent portrait.
Despite the various ups and downs of the intersect project, we now seem to be back on track. With my sections of the book typed and sent to T – using recorded delivery (to ensure against further losses!); I have been able to move on to the covers, whilst T begins the typing of her sections, whenever she gets some spare time… thanks to the portable typewriter!
We are using the covers from my book but the (new) title has been taken from the title page of T’s book. The initial idea for the front cover was to translate the title using code, however the symbols +*=:/ are not all available as wood type, therefore it was decided to overprint the full title using black ink to reflect the typed code of the inner pages. The inscription from T’s original book was also letterpress printed, this time using red to reflect the second colour of the typing, it was placed in the same position as the original book – the inside front cover; these processes continue the concept of intersect.
Text message from PW to TM 11.52, 22 May
Using the portraits of recipients, depict/illustrate/communicate some aspect of
Windham’s correspondence with the individual. Deadline 12 June.
Highlighting a particular aspect of Windham’s correspondence was reasonably straightforward as in the majority of cases the illustrations within volume 2 depict recipients who
received limited letters from Windham – the exception being Lord Grenville who received 23! However finding a common theme in each of his 23 letters was not as difficult as anticipated.
Working on illustrations that are bound within such a large volume was challenging, and as suspected the folded pages from instruction no.1 also impeded some production methods.
Rubber-stamping, letterpress (albeit hand printing) and collage techniques were adopted to develop a range of individual solutions rather than a thematic approach. The final illustrations are not wholly successful due the restrictive nature of the bound pages. With hindsight more effective pre-planning would have helped improve both composition and technique – photocopying each illustration to practice upon prior to beginning would have been advantageous, however as with the first instruction, I worked directly onto the pages after only limited testing of media and techniques.
Unlike instructions 1 and 2, this was the first time that a system was not put in place
in response to the instruction, instead each of the 8 illustration pages is an individual reaction to the topic of correspondence.