I follow Letterpress printer and fine book maker Phil Treble via instagram. He prints from Calf House Studios in Bishop Burton in East Yorkshire. Last month I was overjoyed seeing Phil’s production of his latest book Tamlane. The craftsmanship is glorious so I reached out to learn more about this gorgeous book.
'The Young Tamlane' is an old Scottish ballad concerning the rescue and disenchantment of a childhood lover from the fairy Queen. It is a letterpress printed limited edition of 50 hand typeset in Monotype Centaur, with a 4 colour reduction lino print on the title page, and hand bound by Phil.
In your opinion what about letterpress makes this such an enduring medium?
Aside from the inherent quality and tactile nature of pressing type lightly into paper, I think for me it's about having the means of production. When I started letterpress printing I wanted to take control of my creativity back and begin to make my own things. Having my own press and choosing my own paper and ink colours enables me to do that.
Do you have a press or piece of machinery you favour?
I have three presses at the moment but I mostly print on the Vandercook SP-15. I can print larger formats up to around A3, and get two pages of a book printed at a time. Overall it's a wonderful press.
Your most recent book uses both Handset type and linocut, do you have a medium you prefer to print with?
I do prefer printing type, but then I am from a typographic background. I started making my own lino prints out of necessity! I found I was held up with projects waiting for potential collaborators so I thought -- just get on with it! I would like to explore image making more through lino printing now.
Why did you choose this ballad to publish what about the words resonated with you? And why did you choose centaur for Tamlane?
This particular book has been on the list since I started printing 8 years ago. I have always loved the song, 'Tamlin' on the 1969 album 'Liege and Lief' by Fairport Convention, and really wanted to make a book of the lyrics. Since their version was in copyright I decided to do a bit of research and traced the text back to the Francis James Child editions of 'English and Scottish Ballads' from 1857.
Centaur is one of my house faces. I was lucky enough to get quite a few sizes of the type when I started printing so stuck with it. In that time I have grown to love its calligraphic quirks, such as the diamond-shaped full stops. I am still learning about its use. There are certain letter pairs which require additional spacing or kerning. Kerning metal type for display sizes is on my list of skills to learn.
What else are you working on right now?
I'm currently working hard to get my website into shape and then start offering workshops. Next on the press is book of poetry -- it's a collaboration with a friend of mine and will be set in 11pt Monotype Grotesque bold and 10pt Bembo.