How to cure withdrawal symptoms from a shortage of Fine Press Book Fairs: go to Ludlow Race Course, says Griselda Heppel

At the Ludlow Fine Press Book Fair, 6 - 7 November 2021
A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I did something we haven’t been able to do for nearly 4 years. 

No, not paragliding. Or kitesurfing (as if). Or ringing doorbells and running away (run, at our age?) Something far more exciting. 

We went to a Fine Press Book Fair. 

There, I knew you’d be jealous. 

Book lovers, letterpress printers, wood engravers, paper specialists, traditional binders and other craftsmen – all have been suffering withdrawal symptoms as a result of the sad but necessary cancellation of the biennial Oxford Fine Press Book Fair in March 2020. It will now be held on the weekend of 5 and 6 March 2022 – fingers crossed – but meanwhile lots of exhibitors were missing the chance to get together, and the clever people at Ludlow Book Binders came up with the idea of holding the first ever book fair at the Clive Pavilion, Ludlow Race Course, on 6 and 7 November 2021. (Not a place you’d normally expect to find bookmakers. Oh, you would? Ah.)

Beautiful handmade books at the
Ludlow Fine Press Book Fair.

2020 Vision: Nineteen wood
engravers, one collector
and the artists who inspired them
by Nigel Hamway & Peter Lawrence.
Having last year brought out a stunning fine press book, 2020 Vision: Nineteen wood engravers, one collector and the artists who inspired them,  beautifully printed by Pat Randle at the Nomad Letterpress, my husband, mourning the cancelled Oxford Fine Press Book Fair as much as anyone, brightened considerably at the prospect of Ludlow. So off we went. 

While he delighted in meeting up with friends in the fine press world he hadn’t seen for ages – wood engravers, designers, printers, writers, book dealers and collectors – and catching up with their work, I sneaked a box or two of my own books into the pavilion. The Shropshire Star had thoughtfully highlighted the Fair as a Christmas shopping opportunity and, well, you never know…. 

Griselda Heppel invading a corner of the Nomad Letterpress
table with The Fall
 of a Sparrow, Ante's Inferno and 
The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst .

Pat Randle generously allowed me to invade a corner of his Nomad Letterpress table. 
With gorgeous covers designed by Peter Lawrence from illustrations by wood engraver, Hilary Paynter, Ante’s Inferno, The Tragickall History of Henry Fowst and my latest, The Fall of a Sparrow, did not, I’m proud to say, look out of place among all the other stunning books.

Most exciting of all, I was able to launch the elegant keepsake Pat had just printed for Ante’s Inferno, created to mark this year’s 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri in 1321. (Having plundered the Inferno so shamelessly for my children’s book, the least I could do was pay homage to the great poet who inspired it).

And did I sell anything? 

Er, yes, quite a bit. The fair was full of book lovers – people who valued books as pleasing to look at, touch and hold as well as to read. I even sold out altogether of Ante’s Inferno in hardback (though it’s still available in paperback). Many other stall holders did well and there was a generally joyous atmosphere at being able to get together again at last. 

Roll on March 2022 and the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair! 

Nomad Letterpress printed keepsake of Ante's Inferno
by Griselda Heppel, commemorating 700th anniversary of
Dante Alighieri's death in 1321.
Dante Alighieri keepsake open to show extract
from Ante's Inferno by Griselda Heppel
and wood engraving by Hilary Paynter.

FINALIST in the Page Turner Awards 2021
by Griselda Heppel, author of 


Peter Leyland said…
Fascinating Griselda. A wonderful display of the creation and design of beautiful books. In another life I might have done all this! As for Dante Alighieri, I remember learning Italian at a school named after him in Siena - another auto-fictional journey perhaps...
Reb MacRath said…
What Peter said. Heartening to see the indie spirit so alive and well.
Griselda Heppel said…
Ah I love Siena! Haven't been there for decades but such a stunning town, with that amazing stripy cathedral. What a great place to learn Italian. I did an Italian course in Florence in my gap year which set me on the road to loving Dante, as well as allowing me to revel in all that glorious art for a couple of months.... che bello.

Thanks both for your comments.

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