Alphabe Thursday N is for Paul Nash and Nonesuch Press
Oh dear, I had problems with ‘N’ last time around and was beginning to worry that maybe I would not have an entry. However I needn’t have worried; help was at hand. I am as you know interested in illustrating and illustrators and small private publishers. So this week entry fits the bill nicely.
Paul Nash (1889-1946) was one of the most outstanding British artists of the 20th century. He was an official war artist in both World Wars. His knowledge of European avant-garde movements and his links with other artists and writers placed him in the forefront of the Modern Movement in Britain.
Meanwhile this and his love of the mystical the English and his strong connection with Samuel Palmer and the Pre- Raphaelites proved to be a rich combination. This would be contradiction found expression in oils, watercolour and wood engraving kept him busy as a painter within the figurative tradition.
His interest in the abstract form and modern materials found their way into designs, for book jackets, textiles, ceramics and glass.
We have in our collections a book illustrated by Paul Nash and published by Nonsuch Publishers; which was a private press founded in 1922 in London by Francis Meynell, his wife Vera and David Garnett.
Although Meynell didn’t have any particular interest in printing during his schooldays he did receive excellent training from his father Wilfrid Meynell (1852-1848) who was responsible for the Westminster Press, a London printing house where according to Francis the style of typography and care of detail exceeded that of any other commercial press of the time.
Francis Meynell’s progression from his abandoned studies at Trinity College Dublin to founding Nonsuch is a good read; almost cinematic!
The Nonesuch Press thrived in the 1920s and 1930s and remained busy until 1960s. It was quite different from other private presses, because it used a small hand press to design the books, but then sent them to a commercial publisher to be printed. This method ensured that the result had the appearance of a well designed book for a wider audience at reduced costs. Meynell believed that the ‘mechanical’ means justified the fine end, he goes on to say that ‘the production of well designed and produced books was not the preserve of private presses such as William Morris’s Kelmscott Press who often expounded the virtues of the hand-pressed book.