Art, I’m not so bothered. I can take it or leave it. But things that artists design and then get reproduced – I like to take and not leave them.
Patterned papers have been close to my heart for a long time. I worked impecuniously but happily at the Incline Press in Oldham for a while when I first graduated. The big title I worked on there (and in which I tipped many many paper samples) was called In Praise of Patterned Papers. Before and since, anything paper and patterned has always been my silver to a magpie. This little booklet was bought for its cover and then I became interested in its content and the serendipity of the choice of cover.
The booklet is a privately printed copy of a poem called Smile, Ichabod: A War Poem by Hugo Manning. In 1944, the year this booklet was printed, Hugo Manning had been wounded in North Africa (where he’d served in the Intelligence Corps) and had started up a correspondence with Henry Miller, to whom the second part of the poem is dedicated. I like to think this was a recuperation project for Manning.
The thing was printed at the Curwen Press, from whence came the patterned paper cover designed by Paul Nash. Now, if you were going to pick an artist designed paper in 1944, Nash would have been on the list. At this time he was working for the Ministry of Information and the Air Ministry as a war artist. Producing his own poetry on canvas and paper. And at this time, too, your private printer of choice would have been Curwen. Evidently he had taste, did this Manning chap.
As a private printing, this booklet neither needs nor has any writing on its cover. Just the paper and nothing but the paper, with its Nash-ful repetition of wood engraved blocks printed in a deep, dark black.