Thursday, 9:30am
1 August 2013

Ink on paper

Francis Atterbury’s Hurtwood Press takes a high-tech approach to publishing short-run books for photographers, designers and artists

Francis Atterbury’s Hurtwood Press is a new kind of publisher with a old name, writes Andrew Robertson.

The original company was founded by Francis’s father, Rowley Atterbury, owner of Westerham Press, to publish several titles in the 1970s, including Robert Harling’s 1976 book The Letter Forms and Type Designs of Eric Gill.

Top and right: cover, box and spread from limited-edition book of food photography by James Murphy (2012).

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However the emergence of high-quality digital printing presses that take larger paper sizes has encouraged Atterbury to revive the imprint – in partnership with Jo Hilton – as a consultancy that enables people to produce casebound books in small editions.

Monet catalogue for Helly Nahmad Gallery (2010).

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Many of Hurtwood’s clients are photographers, artists and galleries, who require small quantities to sell at exhibitions. Titles include the Monet catalogue made for the Helly Nahmad Gallery (which was named Art Catalogue of the Year by the Financial Times) and Humphrey Ocean – A Collection, with text by Desmond Shawe-Taylor.

Atterbury is particularly proud of photographer John Riddy’s book Palermo, recently added to the permanent collection of the National Art Library at the V&A.

Palermo by photographer John Riddy (2013).

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Nearly every element of each book is printed digitally, but Atterbury applies a level of perfectionism and finish that evokes an earlier era of publishing, hand-sewn and case-bound, with foil blocking and carefully chosen paper stocks. The books are usually packed in sturdy slipcases or boxes.

However Atterbury’s chosen method of putting ink on paper is the most contemporary imaginable, using brand new printers such as the HP Indigo 10,000, whose large format (up to 750 x 530mm, greater than B2) makes it possible to produce folded and sewn sections at decent sizes. Both Palermo and Portraits, a lavish photo book by John Swannell have trimmed page sizes of 330 x 300mm.

Spread from Palermo.

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Some titles presented special challenges. For the reprint of Gilbert and George’s 1972 book Side by Side, each marbled cloth cover is different, hand made by the artists.

A selection of hardback Hurtwood and Artisan Books titles, most of which are in cardboard slipcases or boxes.

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Many of the books, including monographs by celebrity photographer John Swannell (spread and cover, below) and food specialist James Murphy, are produced under the aegis of Artisan Books, which is a bespoke service for authors, galleries, photographer and artists who want to produce short-run books of their work.

Spread showing portraits of Rowan Atkinson transforming into the character of Fagin for Oliver! Photographs by John Swannell from his Artisan book Portraits (2012).

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Atterbury can be reached at the Hurtwood Press / Artisan Books offices, which are based in Oxted. His blog contains some entertaining essays about printing and the graphic arts by his late father, Rowley Atterbury.

For more information contact Hurtwood Press, Station Rd W, Oxted, Surrey RH8 9EE.

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue.

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