Sterne’s seeming contemporariness is perhaps as a result of the dislocated narrative of Tristram Shandy. With its use of various visual devices, its gradual publication over a period of time, it might seem a fore-runner of some of the work to be seen at the Small Publishers Fair, and the wider stream of current publishing.
In 2008 artist and poet Simon Cutts curated the exhibition Certain Trees: The Constructed Book, Poem and Object 1964 – 2008 for Centre des Livres d’Artistes,
St Yrieix La Perche. The exhibition also came to the V&A, where Elizabeth James, Senior Librarian at the National Art Library Collections wrote the gallery guide.
This short excerpt from James’ guide sets out ideas that are relevant to the work of many Small Publishers Fair participants.
“…they (the artists and poets) act as the editors, and often printers too, for their own short-run, self-funded small presses. Self-publishing is considered ‘not a vanity but a freedom’, a ‘critical alternative’ to the commercial mainstream. In the absence of wealth or patronage, economic constraints are embraced as creative conditions.
Here, the material nature of the book becomes central to its content. Size, colour, the fold of paper, the page and its turn are consciously deployed. The same approach applied to a pamphlet, broadside, postcard or standing card, or other kind of object. The aim is to find the right form for the idea.”