Turning and turning in the widening gyre/ The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/ Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/ The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/ The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/ The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.
These flint stones, small, able to be held easily in the palm of one hand, were collected on the south coast of England perhaps in the 1990s. For someone obsessed with time and memory I regret I cannot be more precise. Nevertheless, I did pick them from a beach, and they fitted nicely. At this [undefined and undefinable] time, I was inspired by HM and others like. Some decades later, the flints rest in my Australian garden, and shared.
Nearly 10 years ago [December 2010], so not long after I commenced this blog, I wrote about the demise of the printed newspaper [see here]. I forecast that the print media did not have long to go, maybe 5 years [I was wrong], at the most 10. Here in Australia, the end of June 2020 saw a swathe of publications, most community-based, many with heritage spanning some 100 years, fall silent.
In my part of the world the print edition of the Tweed Daily News ended. Though the masthead proclaimed ‘daily’ to the bitter end, the paid-for print edition had been weekly [Saturday] for many years, with a free community weekly also hitting the front lawn on a Wednesday.
The end of print was longer coming than I first thought in 2010, but inevitable. I source my news mainly from the online edition of The Guardian where [still for free] I can read the latest from the UK, US and anywhere in the world, and access informed comment [if often not impartial].
Do I miss print? Hell yes – I was brought up on it, the smell and the sound of it, and for many years ran my own letterpress print workshop. But reflect more on the content of journalism today, than the production. Fewer news outlets, and the concentration of those in the hands of managements pushing a bias [which news ownership has ever been] can/does lead to misleading and inflammatory editorialising. Be mindful in the twists and turns of digital.
There’s this slim book on the shelf in front of where I sit typing away on the MacBook Air. Distracted, I pull it out. It’s approximately A4 size and titled Future Books, vol III. There’s no date but from advertising at the rear and the selection of articles I’d make a guess at 1946. The title page/contents page states: Published by Collins / Produced by Adprint / Distributed by Leathley Publications. Editor: Marjorie Bruce Milne.
I scan the contents. One takes my interest – From Hieroglyphics to Isotypes. Turning to the article I notice at the bottom the name PAUL ROTHA as author. Wow! I know that name. [Even if I don’t the inventor of Isotype, Dr Otto Neurath.] Why?
My career as a journalist [more exactly reporter] starts in January 1978 at a local newspaper [more exactly a community free sheet] based in Marlow, Bucks, UK. I am 21. I have no recollection of how this event unfolds, expect being present when Paul and his wife were evicted and somehow getting them into my car [more exactly my editor’s, I think a Ford Escort, yellow], then driving through country lanes pursued [I think] by what was then called collectively as Fleet Street.
Paul Rotha left this place in 1984. ‘He was a major pioneer figure in the British documentary film movement.’ Though I never knew that in 1978.
How often do you draw an O? How often in this age of keyboards do you pick up a pen, pencil or brush and draw an O? How often do you give thought to the creation of an O? Here are some of mine. Now, these are not necessarily an O – yes it is a circle but an O is more than that. An O has style and grace, and is not a pure mathematical or geometrical ‘form’. Nevertheless…without more ado here is my [rather primitive] selection
Why this interest in O? It comes from having picked up Vasari’s Lives of the Artists [Penguin Classics, 1965 (reprinted 1976), trans. George Bull] who describes the artist Giotto picking up his brush when asked for a sample to give to the Pope. This is the relevant section – ‘The courtier told Giotto for a drawing which he could send to his holiness. At this Giotto, who was a very courteous man, took a sheet of paper and a brush dipped in red, closed his arm to his side, so as to make a sort of compass of it, and then with a twist of his hand drew such a perfect circle that it was a marvel to see. Then, with a smile, he said to the courtier: ‘There’s your drawing.’ As if he were being ridiculed, the courtier replied: “Is this the only drawing I’m to have?’ ‘It’s more than enough,’ answered Giotto.” [p.64.]
Well, the Pope saw the O and was mightily impressed and Giotto got the commission. Vasari continues: ‘And when the story became generally known, it gave rise to the saying which is still used to describe stupid people: ‘You are more simple that Giotto’s O.’ This is a splendid witticism, not only because of the circumstances which gave rise to it but also because of the pun it contains, the Tuscan word tondo meaning both a perfect circle and also a slow-witted simpleton.’ [p.65.]
As an encore, here is an O from the Rev. Catich’s The Art of the Serif:
Isn’t that so beautiful? How about we all take time out to draw some O’s?
Ian Hamilton Finlay. I first wrote about this wordsmith/polymath in December 2010. You can read it here. To add to this, I now show two pieces that have been in my collection for decades. First:
This is printed on card [75mmx220mm] and somewhere I also have a lapel badge. The second item is perhaps much rarer – a screen printed poster [450mmx590mm], with the inscription: Ian Hamilton Finlay / Designer: Jim Nicholson / Wild Hawthorn Press 1967.