Second Round: “The Life of Merlin” by Geoffrey of Monmouth

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Second Round: “The Life of Merlin” by Geoffrey of Monmouth

1consensuspress
Out 24, 2022, 2:27 am

“The Life of Merlin” by Geoffrey of Monmouth

“The Life of Merlin” was originally proposed to be made as a fine edition by LT user Hellbent2, see https://www.librarything.com/topic/320422#n7481229.
Unfortunately that project died. I propose that we revisit this project and publish ""Life of Merlin"" as Consensus Press’ first title.

This proposal received 50 yes votes in the first round.

The proposer has been notified of this discussion thread, and may receive help or advice in expanding the proposal.

2Dr.Fiddy
Editado: Out 27, 2022, 9:22 am

Thank you to all members for voting on expanding this proposal :)
I’m not a book designer, so I would like to leave enough room for the Consensus Press members and the Advisory Board to make the final decisions on all aspects of the book. Please consider the following as suggestions only, which for the most part are based on the original proposal :)

Vita Merlini, or The Life of Merlin, by Norman-Welsh author Geoffrey of Monmouth is a latin poem written around AD 1150. It tells the story of Merlin's madness, his life as a wild man of the woods, and his prophecies and conversations with his sister, Ganieda, and the poet Taliesin.

Its plot derives from previous Celtic legends of early Middle Welsh origin, traditions of the bard Myrddin Wyllt and the wild man Lailoken, and it includes an important early account of King Arthur's final journey to Avalon, but it also displays much pseudo-scientific learning drawn from earlier scholarly Latin authors.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vita_Merlini

INTRODUCTION:
Scholarly introduction of about 5-10 pages? Possibly an existing one, or if not relevant, maybe source a new one. I have not seen it myself, but wonder if Parry (see below) originally included an introduction...

TRANSLATION (no Latin):
John Parry´s 1925 translation has become the benchmark for those that followed, because it was the first to use both the early complete text and the fragments to produce an edition of the Life. Parry’s translation is also the one that best preserves the original Latin, although, at times it is necessarily interpretive rather than literal.

See: Translating the Life of Merlin

ILLUSTRATIONS:
5-6 full page black and white or two-colour (black and red) linocuts printed letterpress. Black and white or two-colour medieval initials.

John Abell already agreed with Hellbent2 to do the linocuts. So, if he is still up for it, that would be great. If not, maybe linocuts or wood engravings by Jenny Portlock, similar to the ones made for Tudor Black Press?

PAPER:
Thick mould-made paper; Magnani Pescia 300gsm white. Top edge trimmed and gilded, while the other two edges are deckled.

See: https://legionpaper.com/pescia

TYPE:
Doves Type for the main text (https://typespec.co.uk/doves-type).

Vale Press Kings Fount with medieval initials for display (https://p22.com/family-Vale).

BOOK SIZE:
Quarto, around 11 x 7.5 inches with generous margins with enough space for short comments, text quotes or notes.

PAGES:
About 80 (?) + illustrations (depending on the book size and type).

PRINTING:
Letterpress with a noticeable “bite” in two colours (black and red) throughout, including two colours on the title and half-title pages and initials. Main text in black. Margin texts in red. Pilcrows throughout.

Example of margin text, initials and pilcrows from News From Nowhere:


Example with Vale Press Kings Fount from Danae:


BINDING:
Half brown morocco leather over marbled boards with cover label like The Folio Press Fine Edition of Anglo Saxon Elegies, 1988. Brown leather tips at the corners of the covers. Gilt title and author lettering to the spine.

Handmade endpapers to convey the feel of Merlin’s episode in the wood, e.g. something like: https://maureenrichardson.co.uk/paper-samples/

Felt-lined slipcase.

3Shadekeep
Editado: Out 24, 2022, 10:59 am

>2 Dr.Fiddy: A solid proposal and a book I would happily support. The Vale Press Kings Fount is attractive, though perhaps doesn't scan quite readily at first blush. I think it would become easier as one continued to read, however, and it does suit the material admirably.

It's great that there is also an artist potentially ready to do the work. If for some reason John Abell isn't available, I would second the idea of trying to engage Jenny Portlock.

4Glacierman
Out 24, 2022, 3:40 pm

A digital version of the Vale Press Kings fount is available from P22 Type Foundry.

I like the proposal, although I think it would work as well with cloth instead of leather.

One caveat with suede lined slipcases is that dirt particles can become lodged in the suede and scratch the binding every time the book is withdrawn and re-inserted. Just so you're aware.

5allbummereverything
Out 24, 2022, 3:46 pm

This proposal sounds amazing, although I would probably prefer to save costs by going with a simpler slipcase (particularly given Glacierman's comment) and ditching the moroccan.

6Dr.Fiddy
Out 24, 2022, 4:17 pm

Thank you for your comments so far. I really like the font and think it’s a matter of getting used to.

I’m not set with moroccan, although it’s my personal preference.

>4 Glacierman: Good point regarding the slipcase. My thought was to protect the book as good as possible :) Would felt lining have the same problem?

7Glacierman
Out 24, 2022, 4:18 pm

>6 Dr.Fiddy: Yes, to some extent. Another option to consider is a chemise and slipcase combo.

8SebRinelli
Out 26, 2022, 4:12 pm

>2 Dr.Fiddy:
Lovely proposal so far!

Allow me a few comments based on my own predilections.

I really like Vale Press font (I brought that up myself in the thread of Hellbent) but would use it rather for display as in this example (post 37 https://www.librarything.com/topic/345367#unread). That could work really well with the initials.

Vignettes or even pilcrows might be a cost-efficient alternative to decorations on every page, which might become repetitive anyway if printed on every page.

Some of these handmade papers might work well as endpapers as they convey well the feel of Merlin’s episode in the wood: https://maureenrichardson.co.uk/paper-samples/

I‘d love single colour woodcuts or linocuts as the margin notes (for what do you want to use them? Scholarly annotations?) and headlines bring in a lot of red already.

300gsm might prove to be excessively thick for a book of this many pages but I leave that to the experts.

9grifgon
Out 26, 2022, 4:19 pm

>8 SebRinelli: The Magnani Pescia 300gsm is less of a problem due to thickness (I think) than size. The proposed size (12" by 9") is incompatible with the size of a Pescia parent sheet. It'd work better at 15" by 11" or 11" by 7.5".

10Dr.Fiddy
Out 27, 2022, 9:21 am

>8 SebRinelli: Thank you for your suggestions. I agree that the Vale Press Kings Fount would work better as display with medieval initials. In that case, I also think that Doves Type would work well for the main text.

I didn’t really know what to propose as endpaper, so thanks again for the suggestions.

Regarding margin notes, I was just thinking something to "liven" up the pages, like the examples from News From Nowhere or Danae in the updated proposal in post 2.

>9 grifgon: Oops, didn't notice the 30" by 22" size of the parent sheet, so changed the proposed book size to 11" by 7.5"

I have updated the proposal in post 2 according to your comments.

11Shadekeep
Out 27, 2022, 9:39 am

>10 Dr.Fiddy: Very much like the pilcrow'd approach as shown in your example from News From Nowhere. The result is attractive yet readable and retains the period flavor well.

I do think scaling back the use of Vale Press Kings is probably wise, and going with Doves Type or similar for the body is an improvement. While Vale Press Kings is a nice font, it seems more suited to title/design use than body text I feel. It reminds me of a font I have used in my own design work, Water Street. That one also has an approach of intermixing lowercase letters which resemble small capitals.

12Dr.Fiddy
Out 29, 2022, 8:36 am

>11 Shadekeep: Glad you like the pilcrow'd approach :) And totally agree wrt the Vale Press Kings (and Water Street as well) fitting better as display or titles than for body text.

13Dr.Fiddy
Editado: Nov 4, 2022, 7:40 am

The Life of Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth

Vita Merlini, or The Life of Merlin, by Norman-Welsh author Geoffrey of Monmouth is a latin poem written around AD 1150. It tells the story of Merlin's madness, his life as a wild man of the woods, and his prophecies and conversations with his sister, Ganieda, and the poet Taliesin.

Its plot derives from previous Celtic legends of early Middle Welsh origin, traditions of the bard Myrddin Wyllt and the wild man Lailoken, and it includes an important early account of King Arthur's final journey to Avalon, but it also displays much pseudo-scientific learning drawn from earlier scholarly Latin authors. It is also the first work to describe the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, as Morgen.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vita_Merlini

Introduction
Scholarly introduction of about 5-10 pages. Possibly an existing one, or if not relevant, maybe source a new one. I have not seen it myself, but wonder if Parry (see below) originally included an introduction...

Translation (no Latin)
John Parry´s 1925 translation, including footnotes, has become the benchmark for those that followed, because it was the first to use both the early complete text and the fragments to produce an edition of the Life. Parry’s translation is also the one that best preserves the original Latin, although, at times it is necessarily interpretive rather than literal.

See: Translating the Life of Merlin

Illustrations
5-6 full page black and white or two-colour (black and red) linocuts printed letterpress. Black and white or two-colour medieval initials.

John Abell already agreed with Hellbent2 to do the linocuts. So, if he is still up for it, that would be great. If not, maybe linocuts or wood engravings by Jenny Portlock, similar to the ones made for Tudor Black Press.

Paper
Thick mould-made paper, e.g., Magnani Pescia 300gsm white. Top edge trimmed and gilded, while the other two edges are deckled.

See: https://legionpaper.com/pescia

Book Size
Quarto, around 11 x 7.5 inches with generous margins with enough space for notes. Include all of Parry’s footnotes in the margins of the relevant page (not as endnotes).

About 80 pages + illustrations (depending on the book size and type).

Printing
Letterpress with a noticeable “bite” in black and red throughout, including two colours on the title and half-title pages.

Main text printed in black from Ptolemy, or similar Jenson type, with shoulder/margin notes in red Blado Italic, or similar Jenson type. Revivals of the early types are digitised and freely available from: https://typecache.com/news/3210/

Red, medieval style initials. Black pilcrows throughout.

Page design with shoulder notes and types similar to Ashendene Press’, Thucydides:


Binding
Half brown morocco leather over marbled boards with cover label like The Folio Press Fine Edition of Anglo Saxon Elegies, 1988. Brown leather tips at the corners of the covers. Gilt title and author lettering to the spine.

Handmade endpapers to convey the feel of Merlin’s episode in the wood, e.g. something like: https://maureenrichardson.co.uk/paper-samples/

Felt-lined slipcase with label on the back.

14NathanOv
Editado: Nov 1, 2022, 12:57 pm

>13 Dr.Fiddy: Great work! I particularly like the printing and typography choices, with the heavy bite, two-colors, margin text, pilcrows, etc., as well as your choice of endpapers.

With everyone debating the cost of Canticle, I'm curious though if this ambitious concept comes out any less.

15SyllicSpell
Nov 1, 2022, 12:55 pm

>13 Dr.Fiddy: Wonderful. I would be very happy to see this proposal come to fruition.

16ultrarightist
Nov 1, 2022, 3:12 pm

>13 Dr.Fiddy: Very nice and a worthy treatment of the text. I am strongly leaning toward voting for this proposal.

17Dr.Fiddy
Nov 2, 2022, 6:22 am

>14 NathanOv: >15 SyllicSpell: >16 ultrarightist: Thank you for your nice and encouraging comments! It’s been enjoyable to be part of this process and I really look forward to the rest of it, independently of which book makes it through in the end :)

18ChestnutPress
Editado: Nov 2, 2022, 6:59 pm

>13 Dr.Fiddy: I’d like to offer some thoughts on your choice of typefaces if I may, all of which are obviously just my opinion. I hope you might consider not using Doves or King as I feel both are inherently problematic. Firstly, the Doves type is too renowned a type to use for anything but a Doves-related publication. To see Doves used in any non-Doves book, particularly in any use that isn’t purely typographic in the Doves style would, I feel, just jar. I would instead suggest perhaps using one of the several other really fine Jenson-based typefaces out there, such as Cloister Old Face, Italian Old Style, Jenson etc. As for Vale’s King type, I would really hope you don’t use it. I think it is one of the worst ‘wannabe arts and crafts take on a medieval
type’ designs ever created. I understand the line of thought in using it, but there are so many other far more suitable ‘medieval’ types to consider, including some very fine revivals of early types digitised and freely available on this page: https://typecache.com/news/3210/

I will add that, despite my reservations on the typefaces, your proposal sounds absolutely superb

19Glacierman
Nov 2, 2022, 2:04 pm

Let me add my two bits here. I would have to agree with >18 ChestnutPress: on the Vale type. That is, to my eyes, very annoying. It wasn't a very successful design. And Doves? Yeah, maybe not. Doves carries the luggage of its history with it.

But....otherwise, dang! Nice proposal. It has my interest.

20ultrarightist
Nov 2, 2022, 2:16 pm

Others with more typographic knowledge have chimed in, but you may want to look into which types the Ashendene Press used. Its books have a medieval flavor to them.

21ChestnutPress
Editado: Nov 2, 2022, 5:50 pm

>20 ultrarightist: As it happens, digital revivals of both Sweynheim and Pannartz types that Ashendene based their types on are in the free collection of types that I linked to in my previous message. Both are really well done.

22grifgon
Nov 2, 2022, 7:35 pm

>18 ChestnutPress: I second Mark's recommendation here. Jenson and its "Jenson babies" are typefaces with medieval flavor but without the distraction factor. Doves is Doves.

23Dr.Fiddy
Nov 3, 2022, 11:31 am

>18 ChestnutPress: Thanks, I really appreciate your concrete comments regarding the typefaces and to >19 Glacierman: and >22 grifgon: for chiming in. After checking a bit around, I totally agree :) I especially like the way Ashendene Press did their Thucydides (thanks for pointing me to them >20 ultrarightist:).

So, I propose the following revisions (taking out the previous part on type):

Book Size
Quarto, around 11 x 7.5 inches with generous margins with enough space for notes. Include all of Parry’s footnotes in the margins of the relevant page (not as endnotes).

About 80 pages + illustrations (depending on the book size and type).

Printing
Letterpress with a noticeable “bite” in black and red throughout, including two colours on the title and half-title pages and initials.

Main text printed in black from Ptolemy, or similar Jenson type, with shoulder/margin notes in red Blado Italic, or similar Jenson type. Red, medieval style initials. Black pilcrows throughout.

Page design with shoulder notes and typefaces (Ptolemy and Blado Italic) similar to Ashendene Press’, Thucydides:


24ChestnutPress
Nov 3, 2022, 1:06 pm

>23 Dr.Fiddy: I'm very glad our thoughts were helpful. I like your new suggestions. Poliphilus and Blado are lovely faces, and the Ptolemy revival I pointed you to, which is thankfully an authentic revival of the original type design rather than Ashendene's version, is, I think, a handsome and suitable type. Mind you, a couple of those revivals from that link are really handsome and suitable. With all good wishes, Mark

25Glacierman
Nov 3, 2022, 1:48 pm

>23 Dr.Fiddy: Two thumbs up!

26ultrarightist
Nov 3, 2022, 4:19 pm

>23 Dr.Fiddy: and >25 Glacierman: I second that

27Dr.Fiddy
Nov 4, 2022, 7:52 am

The revised proposal has now been submitted, see post 13.
Thank you all for your helpful comments :)

28Shadekeep
Nov 4, 2022, 9:53 am

>27 Dr.Fiddy: Good luck with this, it's an exciting proposal!

29Dr.Fiddy
Nov 4, 2022, 10:27 am

>28 Shadekeep: Thank you, and good luck with The Voyage of Máel Dúin's Boat as well; it looks great!

30ChestnutPress
Nov 4, 2022, 10:45 am

>27 Dr.Fiddy: Good luck!

31Dr.Fiddy
Nov 4, 2022, 11:25 am

>30 ChestnutPress: Thank you, Mark, and thank you again for your clear and thoughtful comments :)

32SebRinelli
Nov 4, 2022, 11:52 am

>27 Dr.Fiddy:
A well-rounded proposal, good luck!

33TudorBlackPress
Nov 4, 2022, 2:19 pm

I hope this goes well for you. I liked all the ideas that you put forward and I think now you have the perfect mix. Good luck! H

34Dr.Fiddy
Nov 4, 2022, 3:03 pm

>32 SebRinelli: >33 TudorBlackPress: Thank you both, much appreciated! Like I said earlier, it’s really been enjoyable to be part of this process :)

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