Exquisite Editions

Pictured above: Jamie Murphy of the Salvage Press.

Pictured above: Jamie Murphy of the Salvage Press.

Dublin bibliophiles would be wise to take note of Exquisite Editions, an international exhibition of finely printed books currently being showcased in the National Print Museum in Beggar’s Bush Barracks.

The exhibition takes 25 outstanding books from the world’s leading fine press printers and is accessible from March 4th until April 18th. This is the first time that a showcase of such diversity and scope has taken place in Ireland.

All the books are leather press printed and are illustrated using traditional techniques such as wood engraving, linoleum, platemaking and other processes. All are either hand set or machine set, with more recent technologies used in some cases.

The books in question come from the UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and the Netherlands. However, the exhibition also features several practicing Irish bookmakers, like Stoney Road Press, Mary Plunkett, the Salvage Press, Distillers Press and Ithy’s Press. Many of the displayed works are also available to purchase.

The exhibition has been curated by Jamie Murphy of the Salvage Press. The idea for the exhibition originally stemmed from a visit to an Oxford book fair, where there was a representation of leather press printers and bookmakers the world over, and it was then decided that the National Print Museum would be the perfect venue to air this type of presentation to an Irish audience.

“At the opening, we got a lot of positive feedback from people who have been collecting this type of work, and the museum is now on the map,” Murphy tells NewsFour. “There’s been a steady flow of people to the exhibition, which is great because it creates footfall for the museum, but also it will increase the profile of the artists and bookmakers as this has never been done in Ireland before.”

These 25 books were ultimately accumulated through Murphy contacting each international press on an individual basis, looking to acquire specific books according to its own value and approach, with emphasis on any books clashing in terms of colour or design, which would prove detrimental to the overall presentation. Ireland still has some catching up to do with countries like the United Kingdom and the United States, which have much larger press fraternities and easier access to the essential materials.

Murphy’s background is in leather press printing and graphic design. He was initially involved in the Distiller’s Press in NCAD before his position in book production for the Salvage Press and being opened up to fine press printing. Many of the books on display at Exquisite Editions are books that Jamie himself studied in the mastery of his craft.

“The important thing to take away from it is that paperbacks and books on the Kindle are all well and good, but this is the book in its traditional form, as a crafted object, as a work of art,” Murphy said. “When people come to this show they will see what can be produced by hand, on handmade papers and bindings produced by hand.”

By Craig Kinsella