Winter evenings with Thomas Tusser

As mentioned in my last post, one of my projects for the coming year is to produce  a  booklet,  title to be “Thomas Tusser: the husbandman his Calendar”.

Thomas Tusser was a writer living in Tudor times. You could call him one of the first popular authors to appear in print. He wrote a book called “500 Points of Good Husbandrie”. The subject was how to run your farm and house, month by month. There is a lot of information and it is all in verse.  This would have made it more memorable – certainly a few phrases from the book live with us still, notably “April showers, May flowers”.

I realised that for a first foray into booklet printing, a month by month format could be a good way to start, because if you print octavo, giving 16 pages from one sheet, you have 12 pages for the main bit and four pages over for the inner and outer covers.

I  took from the text a short verse from each month and prepared a picture to go with it, as well as a “colophon” or endpiece to go on the final page. The blocks are cut to size and ready to carve.  So now on these winter evenings I have something to work on each night. Here is a rough proof of the first one completed: for December. A blue ink pad was all I had to hand.tusser-december

There is plenty of other preparation to do, since this is a much more complex task than anything I have attempted so far. Crazy as it sounds, since I have had the press, this will be the first time that I have printed both sides of the page! I also calculated that  2,200 new pieces of type are needed: Garamond 12 point, of which I presently have none.

The other night I had some fun with imposition.  That is the art of making sure that the pages you print are properly placed so that when you come to fold up the sheet of paper into a booklet, all the text and pictures will be the right way up and page 2 following page 1, etc. Old printing manuals would show various schemes.  Here’s one produced by Plantin in the 16th Century…

Octavo scheme by Plantin

From, showing Plantin’s 16th century scheme for imposition.

and by my man Moxon.

moxon octavo

Octavo and twelves imposition shown side by side in Moxon’s manual. “Reteration” means the second side of the paper.

By trying to replicate these schemes, I soon got into a pickle, not understanding why page x was next to page y… Then I realised that of course the paper is the mirror image of the forme.Duh! By holding up the scheme to a mirror, it then made perfect sense.

Registration is also a newish concept in my printing career- the last time I did registration was for a reduction colour lino cut nearly 20 years ago , so I’ve never done it for letterpress. That was the reason it was important to get hold of those pins mentioned last month.

There will be lots of teeth-gnashing and tears before I’m through with this project. But just now I am a bit excited.

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