On Saturday, 28th January 2017, the Corsham Court campus of Bath Spa University, the Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture, and the Digital Research Centre and the Bath School of Art and Design held a launch event to celebrate the arrival of the Michael Turner Albion Press. The afternoon brought together poets and writers, artists and designers, printers and typographers, scholars and readers to view a wonderful exhibition of beautifully printed books and works of art, to hear new poems from the great J.H. Prynne, to learn about the fizz of creative collaboration—and of course to print on the press itself. Approached in the spirit of celebration and cooperation across various campuses, the launch was a vibrant affair that saw upwards of eighty guests with diverse interests participating and engaging throughout the afternoon.
Printing always makes an occasion of a text, and the arrival of the Michael Turner Albion Press at Bath Spa University enabled a celebration of poetry, art, and print. The event began with a welcome from Professor John Strachan, Vice Provost for Research and Enterprise and Dean of the Graduate College, followed by a lunch and wine reception in the Main House at Corsham Court. Guests were invited to view an exhibition, curated by Michael Pennie, Resident Artist at Corsham, and Dr. Katie Rickard, Subject Librarian for Graduate College and Creative Writing. Library and Learning Services (LLS) colleagues from all three of Bath Spa University’s campus libraries put together a colourful display of books and prints in support of the Albion Press launch, which attracted great interest from guests. The display included unique and rare examples from the library’s collections of early printed books and artists’ books, both used to support learning and research at the University, as well as beautiful examples of Albion Press printing – combining text and image – by various artists and print-makers, some made especially for the event.
Following the exhibition, the event moved into the Barn, where the Vice Chancellor, Professor Christina Slade, gave an address of welcome, expressing her delight that so many people had come together to make the event happen and encouraging our present and future creative collaborations. Our distinguished guest, poet J.H. Prynne, later praised her engagement with the launch, saying how refreshing it was to see Bath Spa University’s Vice Chancellor so involved.
Professor of English Literature, Ian Gadd, gave a talk on the history and importance of making books, establishing a vision for the Michael Turner Albion Press at Corsham. Just as any printing house is itself a creative, collaborative and social space, our press aims to bring together staff and students through teaching demonstrations, practical workshops, student and staff projects, and other creative and scholarly events. It offers students of art, design, literature, history, media communications, cultural studies, publishing, education and others the opportunity to learn not only about the craft and technology of printing but also about the press as a social and cultural agent.
Moving from book making to poetry, Richard Kerridge introduced J.H. Prynne, who treated guests to an incredibly rare treat: a reading from his upcoming book of poems. With much humour and wit, Prynne lent a glimpse into his creative process and acknowledged the inherent challenges of reading his work. His talk moved seamlessly into a conversation on the recent livre d’artiste, On Reading J.H. Prynne’s Sub Songs (2016), produced by QoD Press in Devon. Michael Pennie led a discussion between designer Bridget Heal, artist Bruce McLean and poet John James, whose project showcases what an Albion press can produce. The group discussed the working relationships that lay behind this beautiful and creative collaboration in bookmaking. We were treated to another poetry reading, this time by John James in response to poems by Prynne.
The afternoon concluded with the official launch of the Michael Turner Albion Press just outside the Gallery at Corsham Court. Ian Gadd dedicated the press to Michael Turner, before Penny Grist and Jane Shaw of Bath School of Art and Design gave guests a demonstration. This was followed by an opportunity for each guest to operate the press and produce their own souvenir as well as to receive a printed keepsake to take away: a booklet containing a print by Michael Pennie, poem by John Strachan and dedication by Ian Gadd—all written, designed and typeset specifically for the launch and printed by Penny and Jane.
We are very grateful to Michael Turner for his generous donation of Albion Press no. 1423 to Bath Spa University. This launch is only the first event in a series of many, both for the Michael Turner Albion Press and for the spirit of creative collaboration that it has inspired.
If you are interested in learning more about what’s next for our Albion, keep an eye on this Research Blog and the Making Books: Creativity, Print Culture and the Digital Research Centre website: https://www.bathspa.ac.uk/liberal-arts/research/making-books/.
Kayla Rose, Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Ian Gadd, Professor in English Literature
Join us for our upcoming symposium and exhibition, ‘Making Beyond Words – Intersections Between Text, Image, Display: Celebrating 50 Years’, which will be held in June 2017. Follow us on Twitter for more information: @KaylaRose6 @iangadd @BathSpaResearch