Sometimes I feel slightly abashed, in these hard times, that I am employed as an MEP in the public sector at the tax-payers’ expense. But I console myself with the thought that for the first three quarters of my long career, at least, I had proper jobs, in the private sector, creating wealth of one sort and another.
I worked for a number of companies, but I have to admit that there was only one of those employers where I felt any real affinity for the product, rather than merely for the business. After all, it’s difficult to feel too warm about soap powder or sewing thread. But Scotch whisky is another matter. I spent a number of years in South East and East Asia with what was then Guinness/United Distillers, and is now Diageo, and I found that whisky is something that one can feel warm about — both figuratively and literally. For some years I was Mr. Johnnie Walker in Korea, and very pleasant I found it. (Government health advice: consume in moderation!).
Now as an MEP, I spend a fair amount of time visiting companies, and sometimes I have the opportunity to visit a company about whose products I feel very warm indeed. Ten days ago I was with Jaguar at Castle Bromwich, for example.
And last Friday, I visited the Fine Book Bindery (www.finebinding.co.uk) and Logan Press, at their new premises in the village of Finedon, in Northants (in my East Midlands Region). The company was founded under a different name in 1966, and is one of very few UK businesses that can do work of this exceptional quality. It is a small operation with the timeless feeling of an atelier, and some of the machines are timeless, too. One dates from 1845. While I was there, they were working on the Centenary Edition of the Book of Sark, with many stunning colour reproductions of paintings of the island using actual printing plates made in 1907.
I have a great love of books, and I first learned of the Fine Book Bindery when reading the publication details in my Folio Society edition of Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner. Such books are the work of many hands, and this one carries credits for the type face; the Society; the illustrator; the paper-maker and the printer; the plate-maker (for the prints and engravings); and another paper-maker (for the prints). But the endpapers and limitation page were printed letterpress on Hahnemühle Bugra-Bütten by the Logan Press in Finedon. And it was hand-bound in vellum by the Fine Book Bindery.
The overall result is quite splendid, as is the uniform edition of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, pictured above.
They tell me that electronic devices like Kindle will soon sweep the market, and that physical paper books will be a mere dusty curiosity from the last century. But with splendid editions like those from Finedon still being produced, I don’t see books being replaced by mere digital information any time soon.