Monday, April 3, 2017
The Box of Disquiet
At the Bristol Artist Book Event over the weekend of 1-2 April 2017, the Bookartbookshop were displaying a fine press edition of selections from The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. Passages from the work had been hand-set and hand-printed on items of ephemera and presented in a box in an edition of 80, 50 of which were for sale.
The project was the work of Tim Hopkins at what he describes as his “back bedroom letterpress”, using a small, table-top Adana printer. It had been the work of many nights and days, sometimes using type so small that a magnifying glass was required in the setting of it. This is an inspired and extraordinary tribute to Pessoa's book, echoing the way his work was written on fragments of paper and kept in a chest. There will be an exhibition of the book's contents from 6- 20 April at the bookshop.
The edition has, not surprisingly, sold out before publication (mostly to libraries), but the bookshop also offered “relics” from the project – pieces that hadn’t made it in into the completed sets. It was a delight to sift through the box of these and select a few - well, all right, rather more than a few.
Here were Pessoa's words printed on a label from a bottle of port wine, a sheet from an old accounts ledger, the backs of maps and old photographs, filing cards, postage stamps, and other mysterious pieces of paper whose provenance and purpose was cryptic. The text, already strange and haunting, acquires a new lonely and bittersweet quality when it is read in this form. Each piece seems to carry within it hints of an untold story or a set of extra associations and possibilities.
There may possibly still be some relics left, though not, I suspect, for long. After that each of these Pessoan paper talismans will be leading its own life: and who knows where they may end?