James Joyce’s The Dead, illustrated by Robert Berry


A work of art and design

JamesJoyce The Dead CoverCaoimhe Mac Andrew of Stoney Road Press gives an insight into the design and making of their handcrafted limited edition of James Joyce’s The Dead, illustrated by Robert Berry, published in association with the James Joyce Centre, Dublin.

In the increasingly digital world that books inhabit there is a reawakening and growing awareness of the value and uniqueness of the handmade. It is in this area that fine art publishing house Stoney Road Press excels. Established in 2002 by David O’Donoghue and James O’Nolan in Dublin’s docklands, it is the first commercial studio of its kind in Ireland. In essence it collaborates with artists in the production of limited-edition fine art prints in both traditional and experimental media. Through a combination of expert knowledge of printmaking processes with business and marketing acumen, the Press has emerged as one of Ireland’s most innovative producers of limited-edition fine artworks, its practice expanding from prints and sculptures to tapestries and books.

Initially set up to produce handmade limited-edition prints, all that was required for the studio to start printing books was the acquisition of a hand-operated letterpress machine. After much searching, a suitable press was tracked down in the stores of the National Print Museum, which graciously offered it on loan. After restoration, it is now used most days in its new home.

The Dead_illustrationStoney Road Press has published a number of limited-edition handmade books. One for Seamus Heaney, Many Mansions, is a collection of poetry published in 2009 to raise funds for the Irish Chair of Poetry. Fighting Words is a collaboration with Roddy Doyle for his Dublin writing centre. This 2012 short-story collection features an impressive list of international writers: Russell Banks, John Banville, Richard Bausch, Anne Enright, David Mitchell, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Salman Rushdie, Sam Shepard and Colm Toibín. It also contains a Seán Scully etching. In 2013 At Sixes and Sevens was published, a long poem by Paul Muldoon illustrated by the Northern Irish artist Rita Duffy.

Its latest publication, a new illustrated version of James Joyce’s The Dead co-published with the James Joyce Centre, was launched on 15 June, the 100th anniversary of the original publication of Dubliners. Recognised as one of the most accomplished short stories in the English language, The Dead stands as a deft, subtle portrait of everyday life in turn-of-the-century Dublin. Unfolding over an evening in early January 1904, the story concerns the epiphanic revelations of Gabriel Conroy. The tale also presents an affectionate portrait of the social life of Joyce’s city, presenting an unforgettable cast of characters who have gathered at 15 Usher’s Island for the Misses Morkan’s annual musical gathering.

The Dead_plate no 7 Joyce struggled to have his collection published over nine years, submitting it eighteen times to fifteen publishers. Writing to the book’s eventual publisher, Grant Richards, in 1906, he stated that his intention was ‘to write a chapter of the moral history of my country and I chose Dublin for the scene because that city seemed to be the centre of paralysis’. This paralysis is perhaps best articulated in the masterful The Dead.

The James Joyce Centre approached us with a publishing idea to celebrate the centenary of Dubliners which took the form of republishing the 1914 text of The Dead, drawn from a first-edition copy in the Centre’s library, and marrying this with the work of a contemporary illustrator, Robert Berry. Berry, primarily known as an illustrator of comics, has been working on Ulysses Seen, a translation of the text of Ulysses into graphic novel form. For The Dead he made thirteen black-and-white illustrations combining hand-drawn ink sketches and 3D modelling to compose the story’s famous scenes. The book also features an introduction by acclaimed Joycean scholar David Norris.

The Dead_plate no 4An edition of books takes many months to complete. Initially, it was envisaged that the illustrations would be printed at the same time as the text, but the inking requirements proved to be very different. The blocks for the illustrations required a much heavier inking than the text blocks, so they were printed last. The press, a Swiss proofing press in the style of the famous Vandercook Press, was used originally for proofing hand-set foundry type before transferring it to a fully automated production press. Here it is used to print the entire edition of books, typically 150 copies, by hand.

Each double spread is printed in its entirety, averaging about four to five double spreads per week, using archival inks on 250gsm cotton-rag paper. Each copy is then hand-bound by Antiquarian Bookcrafts, specialist binders based in Dublin, and presented with a matching slipcase. Each book is individually numbered and signed by both Robert Berry and Senator Norris.

The result is a work of art and design, a combination of old and new technologies, a beautiful object in its own right as well as a book to be read and enjoyed.

The Dead by James Joyce, with illustrations by Robert Berry, is co-published by Stoney Road Press and the James Joyce Centre, Dublin. It is available from Stoney Road Press for €1,250. For details contact Stoney Road Press on 01 887 8544 or mail@stoneyroadpress.com.


Caoimhe Mac Andrew


September/October 2014

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