the Barnfield sonnets, part 2: the dummy copy


Above: image for Sonnet VI

Below: a detail of a page from the project book, showing the way I planned to dispose the five colours… yellow ochre, turquoise, mid-blue, green and brown… throughout the edition.

Each rectangle denotes a page, the letter followed by a number being the abbreviation for the type of image and its number within its group. The types of image are as follow: P = portrait, L = landscape, N = nude (full figure), HF = half figure. Below each rectangle is the sonnet number. The red dots were added as I completed images, so that at a glance I had a sense of where the project was. (I stopped adding the dots as the book neared completion.) The colours were chosen to help create various seasons and moods. The mid-blue… printed quite heavily on white… defines the images as though by silvery moonlight. The green is spring-like, optimistic and youthful, while the turquoise suggests the blazing light of high summer. The yellow ochre conjures the sun, and the brown, the sense of shadows on warm skin and stone.

Above: a double-spread from the book showing text and image for Sonnet II. Early morning light gilds a pollarded tree while the moon still hangs high in the sky.

To guide the process of the project, once I’d finished making the page images, I provided Nicolas with black and white photocopied copies of them. He in turn made photocopies of the text lay-out, and then pasted a to-scale dummy copy of the book on the paper we’d selected, so that we could get a feel for how it would eventually look and feel. The sonnet numbers in red on the following images were just to guide us, and didn’t appear in the edition.

Below: Sonnet IV. I’ll never know how this one slipped past all of us, incorrectly numbered by me. It’s in the finished book, and so went un-noticed by everyone concerned throughout the compilation of the dummy and proofing, the manufacture of the blocks and the printing. Between us all, Nicolas, Frances and I must have looked at it a hundred times before the book got to completion. If any of the others noticed they said nothing to me. (Maybe everyone is distracted by the lissome-looking young man.) When I finally spotted the error a year or so ago, I could hardly believe my eyes. Strangely I find myself not upset by it. I should be, but I’m not. I’d be upset about a misspelling in the printed text, but the incorrect Latin numeral is in fact a quite typical error for me, and makes me smile at myself. I just know that I would have been so happy when I made those four, elegant downward strokes, sandwiched top and bottom by horizontal lines and finished with a stop, that the actual meaning would have been secondary to my satisfaction at the placement of the marks. It’s like a little temple sitting on a hill. Would I change it now, if I could wave a magic wand? I think perhaps not.

Below: the image as it appears in the book.

A daub of oil pastel on each image of the dummy copy indicated to Nicolas the colour required for it. The images were created in two blocks… colour overprinted with black line… and there were carefully-judged misalignments between the line and colour blocks to create the effects I wanted.

This vignette of a glove with an elaborate lace cuff sewn with bells, seen here in the dummy copy, is the first image of the book. The glove, like the shoe and the boot, has historically held a place in the iconography of sexual desire. A sixteenth century gallant might sport the glove of a paramour pinned to his hat, a conceit I’d illustrated in my earlier Barnfield book for the Old Stile Press, The Affectionate Shepherd.

The glove vignette from the Barnfield Sonnets was cleverly reworked by my brother-in-law, Andrew Wakelin, into a repeat pattern for the endpapers of my monograph, published in 2011 by Lund Humphries.

I knew from the start that I wanted the book to be chunky in the hand, with a generously-sized text. I wanted too a heavy paper, rather like the paper I remembered from some of the books of my childhood. The particular book of my early years that became my model for the project… though I never showed it to Nicolas as I imagined he might think me mad… was this one, published in 1947. (I was born in 1951, but books stayed on the bookshop shelves for longer back in those days.)

The images were black line, printed over a single colour per page.

Sonnet VIII: black line over a single colour per page

Thirteen years after I made the images for it, I still enjoy taking down and reading my copy of Richard Barnfield’s Sonnets, which is a good sign.

Above: endpaper design for the book

The book is available directly from The Old Stile Press, and may be found on the Press website HERE

9 thoughts on “the Barnfield sonnets, part 2: the dummy copy

  1. Pingback: Barnfield in new clothes | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Having finally got to part two, this was a thoroughly enjoyable peek into the process, Clive, with a most welcome surprise at the end. What a fantastic book to use as inspiration! That use of colour is very special, and would surely have captivated me as a child (as indeed they are now). Doing it in turquoise was just the cherry on a very impressive cake…

    I’d love to see and read more of this sort of thing. Genuinely fascinating.

    • I guess the experiences of youth stay with us. From the start I explained to Nicolas of The Old Stile Press that I wanted the pages of the sonnets to be quite heavy, and the feel of the edition in the hand to be almost that of a children’s book of the 1950s, with the same satisfyingly thick pages and two-colour images. I knew exactly the kind of thing I was aiming for, but couldn’t quite pin it down. (It didn’t matter, because Nicolas had already understood and was busy building the dummy to match my description.) Then one day while looking for something else on my shelves, I came across the Toby Twirl book and immediately realised that it was the memory of it that had guided me to the way I wanted Barnfield’s Sonnets to appear, right down to the black-line-over-colour illustrations. I had loved the annual as a child, and in making the new book was striving for those early sensations of its feel and appearance. Even now when I open the annual the illustrations in it make me go quite tingly with recognition and delight.

      • Reading this post, I think we get a very clear snapshot of your delight from what you have made as a result. It’s a very sincere, personal tribute in that respect.

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