Lights in the bookcases of the Burns Library’s O’Brien Fine Print Room were recently updated to LED (light-emitting diode) technology. Due to this renovation project, a number of previously uncataloged books and pamphlets were discovered – some of which turned out to be quite unique. Amongst this category was a small 16-page essay by the renowned English sculptor and typeface designer, Eric Gill (1882 – 1940).
Entitled “Clothing without Cloth: An Essay on the Nude,” this 16-page monograph nicely typifies the beauty and quality of a fine-press item, in this case a work published by The Golden Cockerel Press, of Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire, England. Printed in 1931 in a run of 500 copies (Burns owns no. 398), the work extols Gill’s notions of the beauty of the human body and the inherent equality of men and women in a state of nudity. As was common with Golden Cockerel Press efforts, this little work is adorned with four wood-engravings, in this case by Gill himself.
But what really made this item stand out amongst all the other Golden Cockerel Press books is the fact that the Burns Library owns the offprint that Golden Cockerel Press created for the author to annotate. To create the offprint the Press pasted (“tipped-in” is the library term) the 4.5 by 17 cm. printed text on sewn pages that are 12.5 by 25 cm.
This left Gill with plenty of room for editorial comments. As you can see he carefully edited and annotated his work for clarity and emphasis. Just compare pages 15 – 16 of the final printed edition (pictured on the right) with the same pages in the offprint (pictured on the left). Note, for example, at the foot of pages 15 – 16 of the offprint, Gill’s lining out of the phrase “more than subtle even than woman’s” and compare this with the same pages on the printed item. Also note at the foot of page 16 of the offprint Gill’s initials and the date of the corrections.
The Burns Library has a rich selection of offerings by both Eric Gill and Golden Cockerel Press, all housed in the O’Brien Fine Print Room, which is located on the left side of hallway as you enter the Burns Library from the Ford Tower. From little-known items like “Clothing without Cloth” to the rare and valuable “The Canterbury Tales with Wood Engravings by Eric Gill,”(Call Number: Burns Fine Print Room PR1865 1929) the offerings of this press and many others are waiting for your own personal discovery.
- David Richtmyer, Senior Cataloger, Burns Library