Now Westlin Wind
It's always a reasonable aim to have a big new book for the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair, and not too much to aim for, either, since the fair only comes around every other year. So, of course we have a new book. Just that it's not big. In fact, it is clearly a new small book. At first Now Westlin Wind was going to be a miniature book, but the rules for miniature books are set, and our typeface was a tad too large so making the line a tad too long to make a decent miniature page, so we ended up with a small book instead.
The idea for the book grew out our annual search for something to print for the Burns Night festivities. We usually print a broadsheet poem to celebrate the night, although one year our menu for Burns Supper with the Oldham Version of the Selkirk Grace on the cover sufficed. Last year we took the occasion of Copperday, a Dutch printshop tradition for the first Monday after Epiphany, to begin printing broadsheets for Burns Night (180 copies of which have been set aside for inclusion in our forthcoming book of broadsheets, handbills and flyers; something to look forward to.) We have not, though, printed a book of Burns' poems since Nick Sadnytzky was here as an intern from Bennington College in January 2013, so it felt like time.
As the 25th of January approaches, our various Robert Burns CDs make their way to the front of the pile of music in the workshop. This year our favourite has been by Dick Gaughan, which includes his singing of 'Now Westlin Wind'. Such a fine interpretation that he has revisited frequently since first recording it on his LP (now a CD) Handful of Earth, in 1981. You can find several later live versions of his on YouTube.
Robert Burns wrote the song when he was a 16-year old schoolboy studying mathematics in Kirkoswald in 1775. In five lyrical eight-line verses, he sets out the four main themes which can be found through all his subsequent output, songs, verses and letters: a love of all nature; an abiding opposition to all forms of oppression; a keen appreciation of the meaning of hard work, especially farm labour; and a happy delight in being charmed by joy in other people.
The illustrations are Bewick's engravings of the nine birds mentioned in the poem, taken from the two-volume British Birds, first published in 1797 (vol. 1) and 1804 (vol 2). Here printed from line blocks, they are reduced to quarter-size to suit our page, although the two vignettes are both the same size as the original tail-pieces.
The type is Eric Gill's Joanna in 10pt roman and italic, newly cast for our cases at the Effra Typefoundry in Yorkshire. The paper is 90gsm Zerkall-Bütten, and the cover paper over the boards was handmade and decorated in India. We have shared the binding with Roger Grech at his Papercut Bindery in Shipley. The edition is of about 180 numbered copies, with sheets for hand binders available.
About 25 copies of our 2017 Burns Night broadsheet 'Up in the Morning Early' will be available as a gift to those who buy a copy of Now Westlin Winds at the Oxford Fair.