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GWASG GREGYNOG42NADFAS REVIEW / SUMMER 2010www.nadfas.org.ukGwasg Gregynog, near Newtownin Wales, is one of the UK'sforemost private presses.Collectors across the world revere itslimited-edition books because of themarriage of traditional crafts, such ashot-metal typesetting, letterpressprinting and hand-binding, with beautifulillustrations by acclaimed artists. David Vickers, Controller at GwasgGregynog, has worked at the presssince it was resurrected in 1978. Beforethat he'd worked as a compositor (theperson who composes the pages readyfor printing) in newspapers: "I saw thecharacter going out of the industry; theonset of computerisation. Working atGregynog was a way of preserving myskills; producing something worthwhile."The press was set up by sistersGwendoline (1882-1951) and Margaret(1884-1963) Davies, the granddaughtersof David Davies of Llandinam, a wealthyindustrialist. When Davies died, he leftthem each £500,000 - money they usedfor philanthropy and the promotion of art.It is thanks to the sisters that Wales hassuch an outstanding Impressionist artcollection - among the 260 works theybequeathed to the National Museum ofWales are three Monet waterlily paintingsand van Gogh's Rain at Auvers.In 1920 the sisters bought GregynogHall, determined it should be the hub ofinitiatives that would help rebuild aWales shattered by WWI. In 1922, theyLasting impressionsIn an age when the written word is ubiquitous it is easy to forget the tactile delights of a beautifully boundbook. Susanna Clarkefinds out more at a unique press in rural mid-Waleshas published The Romantics in Wales,an anthology of the writings of theRomantics who visited Wales in the 18thand 19th centuries. Edited by Glyn TegaiHughes, the book is illustrated withwood engravings by Hilary Paynter.David thinks it is the attention to detailthat makes Gregynog's books so fine."You can take the extra care to product an object of beauty. It is bothpart of the heritage of Wales and theprinted word." www.gwasggregynog.co.ukFor details of a book offer forNADFAS members, see page 54Pictured:Traditional craftssuch as hot-metal typesetting(above) and handbinding (left) arepreserved atGwasg Gregynogset up the Press ('Gwasg' in Welsh),part of their vision for the creation ofemployment -a place where artists,printers and bookbinders could producebooks that would set high standards ofprinting, wood engraving and binding.But it was shut with the onset of WWIIand didn't reopen properly until 1978,when the University of Wales set up alimited company to run it. For manyyears it received a grant from the WelshArts Council, but this stopped in 1998,and in 2002 the Press was registered asa charity. Today it relies on the generosity oforganisations and individuals as well as theskills of all those involved to createdesirable and beautiful books.The process is fascinating. "The firststep is to read the text, for a 'feel' forthe kind of book it could make," saysDavid. "Is it a traditional Gregynogedition limited to some 150 copies inquarter leather, or a smaller, cloth-boundedition in perhaps larger numbers?"Decisions are also made about pagesize, paper, binding and illustrations. Thebooks are letterpress printed, a processthat involves rolling ink onto a reliefsurface of even height, laying paper ontop, and applying pressure. Each letter in the text is cast from amolten alloy of lead, tin and antimony ina process called hot-metal typesetting.David gets satisfaction from "creating avery readable and pleasant page oftype. It's the little extra bits that thereader won't really see, but willappreciate, such as controlling thespacing between words, the length ofthe line, the size of the type and theword breaks. In a sense it's aboutputting people in touch with the author." It is the illustrations, though, for whichGregynog is perhaps most famous. Onemagnum opus was Of a Feather, acollection of collective nouns for birdscompiled, designed and illustrated byrenowned wildlife artist Colin See-Paynton, and with a foreword by SirDavid Attenborough. Recently the Press