Gutenberg 2018

25 October 2018


I was invited to speak at the Gutenberg 2018 conference in Madrid, which marked 550 years since the death of Johann Gutenberg. I was asked to contribute with an aspect of typographic history, and I revised and updated my earlier talk on the Hammersmith and Chiswick area, concentrating in particular on the Chiswick Press, the Kelmscott Press and the Doves Press, which I called ‘La Orilla Mágica’ – ‘The Magic Shoreline’. The Valencia-based publisher Campgràfic used the final section of the talk as the text of their beautifully-produced little 2019 New Year keepsake: the title translates as Shadows on the Magic Shoreline: the dispute between Emery Walker and Thomas Cobden-Sanderson.

Harry Ransom Center Fellowship

21 October to 21 November 2017


In 2017 I was awarded a Research Fellowship in the Humanities by the Harry Ransom Center, in Austin, Texas. The Center had been founded by Ransom, a faculty member at the University of Texas,
of which it is part, to be a Bibliothèque Nationale for the only American state ever to have been an independent country. It has a vast and growing archive of books, art and photographs, and the personal archives of cultural figures, particularly writers. 
I applied for the Fellowship as a result of my work with Emery Walker’s House. A large cache of Walker’s personal papers had been sold to the Center in the 1970s and 80s, and I wanted to go through them, to find out what exactly was there, and if any of the information could be useful in furthering what was known of Walker’s life.


I had a great time in Texas; Austin is a relaxed and friendly city, and I made some fascinating expeditions to other locations in the state. Everyone at the Center made me feel very welcome – my huge thanks to HRC for awarding me the fellowship.

A Talk for the Friends of St. Nicholas Church, Chiswick

The Brilliant Parade: Inspiration into print, Chiswick and Hammersmith 1809–1982


19 October 2017


St Nicholas Church, at the western end of Chiswick Mall, which runs along the north bank of the Thames, can boast the tombs of both William Hogarth and James McNeill Whistler in its yard and the adjacent cemetery. I was asked to give a talk in aid of the Friends’ fundraising for the Church, in which I looked at just some of the vast amount of creative talent connected with
the area, ranging across the Chiswick, Kelmscott, Eragny and Doves presses, through the ‘postcard queen’ Gabrielle Ray, to Island Records.


The talk was actually given in the church,
so we had a really good turnout in an atmospheric setting. Some of the audience members currently live in the houses that were once the homes or workplaces of key figures featured in the talk.

The Oxford Literary Festival

The Space Between
the Letters


30 March 2017


Bodleian Library Publishing arranged for me to speak at the Oxford Literary Festival to promote Type is Beautiful. I divided the talk into an introduction, then a piece on four of the 50 faces featured in the book: Pouchée’s 18 Lines No.2, Arnold Böcklin, Lushootseed and Garamond.


The venue was the Weston Library, across the road from the Bodleian; we had a

good turnout, and most of the copies the publisher brought along were sold, with

some signings. My thanks to Juliet Shen and Dave Sienko for supplying extra pictures for the Lushootseed section.

Watch Hill Press

In Letters Warde has written:


pour ma petite Kay

Freddy typographi

Watch Hill


And in The Enchanted Barn:


pour ma petite Kay

avec fidele =Freddy

Watch Hill =1930

I had a surprising gift in March 2013, which came from Canada after some ‘out-of-the-blue’ email correspondence from Wendy Weaver in Toronto. It was two books published by Frederic Warde and Broadway theatre producer Crosby Gaige at their Watch Hill Press:  The Enchanted Barn by Helen Pearce (1929) and Letters to Master Jeremy Gaige from his Uncles (1930). Both books were signed by Warde, gifts to Wendy’s mother Kay Skelton, who is mentioned in the first letter to Jeremy, by future New York Post publisher George Backer.

Letters also has, pasted onto the endpapers, pictures of Crosby Gaige’s son Jeremy. Two of them, taken in the garden at Watch Hill Farm, feature Kay, who was clearly a member of Crosby Gaige’s circle of friends.

I would like to thank Wendy once again for giving me the books, which have such a strong personal connection for her.

A Flag for Suffolk Coastal

During playtime I honed their drawings down to eight concepts, and in the second session the children formed into groups, taking one idea each, and developed the design. I then recreated the designs as Illustrator files, to make the colours and their juxtapositions conform to the competition rules. The school then chose one design, featuring a Martello tower, of which there are several along the coast, and a rising sun, to represent the eastern ‘sunrise coast’.


We were all very pleased that the design was chosen by a committee of MPs to be one of

In autumn 2014 children at Fairfield Infants School and Colneis Junior School in Felixstowe, Suffolk, were invited to enter a competition to design a flag to represent their parliamentary constituency, Suffolk Coastal. The winning design would be made into an actual banner that would fly with others in Parliament Square to mark the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta in 2015. I was asked to help the children with their project.


We looked at some examples of existing flags, then thought about things that might reflect the nature and geography of the area.

those made into a flag. In the first picture it can seen be flying in Parliament Square, in a prime position at the Whitehall corner. A second, smaller version was made, which was flown at the Magna Carta anniversary ceremony at Runnymede, which was attended by the Queen and the Prime Minister. The school received the big version. When unfurled in assembly, all the children gasped at the unexpected size of it. In the second picture, it is being held up in assembly with, to the right, Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey. Finally, we see it flying outside Colneis Junior School.