Back in the summer of 2008, I was up visiting my family in the Seattle area, and managed to talk them into making a road trip up to Mission, British Columbia. My main objective was to drop by the Barbarian Press in nearby Steelhead but I sweetened the trip with the some white water rafting on the Chiliwack River. So my Dad, Brother, and my teenage niece and my son drove the couple of hours up to the beautiful Fraser River Valley area. The rafting was fabulous and I highly recommend Chiliwack River Rafting for setting up a fabulous time. I expected to leave my family to amuse themselves while I went off to the press but to my surprise they all wanted to tag along. Jan and Crispin Elsted, proprietors of the Barbarian Press, were probably more surprised than me to see the big group but were gracious hosts nonetheless.
The press is out in the country around Mission and would be impossible to find without some good directions from Crispin. He graciously gave us a tour of the pressroom, showing us the typesetting area, the presses, and the bindery while entertaining us with amusing anecdotes from their years in the fine press business. They had recently finished their wonderful book Amours de Voyage by Arthur Hugh Clough with engravings by Abigail Rorer and were at work on their highly anticipated edition of Shakespeare’s Pericles that should be shipping as I write. So we got a peek at some type set for Pericles and also some of the illustrations and after having one of the first copies in my hands at CODEX 2011, I’m anxious to get my copy. Look for a review as soon as I can tear myself away from it and write one. The Elsted’s also do work for other presses, so Crispin was able
to show me the amazing Il Bosco de Tamarindi by Carlo Toselli they did for Le Grazie This book must have been a challenge for him to design as is a tri-lingual edition with each poem printed in Italian, with the French and English translation on the facing pages. It is also strikingly encased in a plexiglas(?) slipcase, a treatment I haven’t run across before.
Next Crispin showed us into the house where we interrupted Jan tutoring a student from the local college. Crispin showed us some of the out of print Barbarian Press books from their own library as well as some books from other presses that he wanted to show us. He showed us what I believe was the last remaining copy of Under Strange Sail, which is amazing portfolio of broadsides of poetry in translation. I would assume that this is now out of print. He also showed us some of the editions from their Endgrain Editions series featuring various masters of wood engraving. They are currently working on the fourth volume in this series featuring Gaylord Schanilec. Previous volumes have featured Gerard Brender à Brandis, Abigail Rorer, and Peter Lazarov. I’ve seen the latter two in rare bookstores so they are available and well worth seeking out.
I’m very thankful for the hospitality the Elsted’s showed me and my family in our little impromptu visit and have had the luck to chat with them a few times since at the CODEX shows. I missed Jan and Crispin’s presentation on Pericles at the CODEX Symposium but have managed to read a few of the articles and reviews they have done for various publications. Crispin is a regular contributor to Parenthesis, the Journal of the Fine Press Book Association. Their books are regularly nominated for fine press awards, including:
Venus and Adonis (shortlisted for the Gregynog Prize for Letterpress Book Design, Oxford, 2005)