Thursday 2 August 2012

The Gaberbocchus Press

This afternoon, invited by Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley, I went round to the Themerson Archive to talk about what books might be on the Gaberbocchus Press table at the Free Verse book fair on 8 September. If the name’s unfamiliar, the draft of a note about Gaberbocchus, to go into the book-fair programme, is below. I have a list of around 30 books – all rare, out-of-print editions – plus cards and catalogues, which will be not just on display but for sale. This is a piece of history; for book addicts, it’s a pretty exciting piece of history.

The Gaberbocchus Press – named after a Latin translation of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Jabberwocky’ – was founded by Stefan and Franciszka Themerson in 1948 in London and ran until 1979. All publications were individually designed, on the principle that design should be an expression of content. Their titles, many of them illustrated by Franciszka, included work by Kurt Schwitters, Raymond Queneau, C. H. Sisson, Bertrand Russell, Anatol Stern, Stevie Smith, novels by Stefan Themerson and drawings by Franciszka, and the first English translation (1951) of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi by Barbara Wright – who wrote the text directly onto litho plates, on which Franciszka then drew 204 illustrations. Franciszka Themerson’s continuing involvement with Ubu Roi culminated in a comic-strip version (1967–70) comprising 90 one-metre-long drawings.

The Themersons’ films included a 10-minute anti-war film denouncing the destruction of Polish national culture under the Nazis, and a translation of sound into images based on four songs by Szymanowski. Both Stefan and Franciszka Themerson died in 1988.

The Themerson Archive, maintained by Jasia Reichardt and Nick Wadley, comprises books, manuscripts, drawings, paintings, films, photographs, audio tapes, cards, posters and memorabilia. For anyone interested in the history of small-press achievements, it is one of the richest resources in the UK.

Flyers, press release, readings programme, etc, for the book fair will be available next week.

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