Shanty Bay, Ontario: Shanty Bay Press, 2013. Large Quarto, 36.8 x 25.4 cm. Cased in quarter calfskin, with title stamped in blind to the spine, and Japanese Gampi paper over boards; top-edges trimmed, others untrimmed. Housed in a brown cloth covered slipcase. , xi, , 3-133,  pp. A fine copy. Designed by Walter Bachinski and Janis Butler, set in Bembo type, and printed by Butler on 200 gsm Arches Cover paper. Pochoir initial letters open each of the sections, executed in red on a silver background. Each of the 15 stories comprising the Metamorphoses opens with a photogravure illustration by Bachinski; the text is illustrated with 16 photogravures in all, including the frontispiece. The drawings upon which the illustrations are based were completed over the course of a year, and were then made into photogravures by Jon Goodman, who also printed the plates. The text was taken from the 1715 edition of the Metamorphoses compiled by Sir Samuel Garth, and includes translations by John Dryden, Joseph Addison, Arthur Mainwaring, Laurence Eusden, and Samuel Croxall. One of 70 copies, of which this is number 26 of 60 regular states issued in quarter calf binding. Signed by Bachinski and Butler on the colophon page. Item #184
“I have long been interested in making a book of stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Many myths from the classical world are collected here and they have been a source of inspiration for paintings sculptures, books, poems, plays, operas and illustrated books over time. Shakespeare would have been aware of Arthur Golding’s translation of the Metamorphoses, published in 1557. The precedent of Romeo & Juliet was likely to have been the sad tale of “Pyramus & Thisbe”. In fact, these tragic lovers lovers also make an appearance in Midsummer Night’s Dream, reworked as a comic exploration of the theme. Renaissance artists, particularly the Italians, glorified in the human figure in painting and sculpture. Stories from the Metamorphoses provided new subjects, freeing artists to approach the human form in more inventive ways. With previous religious restraints removed, the beauty of the body was celebrated. What a release of energy for visual artists! Titian painted at least a dozen large paintings of mythic scenes from this book, including six for Phillip II of Spain. In Bernini’s sculpture of Apollo & Daphne, he embraces the aesthetic of both the male and female form, as the god desperately tries to catch the fleeing nymph…
From this treasury of ancient myth, I have chosen stories I could best illustrate, and I do hope they are familiar to the general reader. My approach to the illustration varied from story to story. For some, as in “The Story of Phaeton”, I picked a revelatory moment. The instant Apollo grants his son’s wish to drive the chariot, he foresees disaster & a tear rolls down his cheek. For others, I was guided by previous artists’ versions. My conception of Pygmalion was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly Burne-Jones. In his four panel Story of Pygmalion, his expression of the purity of the female form attracts me. Venus & Adonis were influenced by Titian’s paintings of the story. Another approach was to use telling portraits; the naive face of Io who was eventually transformed into a heifer, or the haughty one of Niobe, punished for bragging about her children. Bacchus has been depicted at the moment he discovers he is a god. Salmacis & Hermaphroditus are shown in a very soft, ethereal manner as they commingle & sink into the water. With Pyramus & Thisbe, the doomed lovers, I wanted to evoke their intense attraction in a foreboding atmosphere…
Our Metamorphoses is a black & white book, which is a new exploration for Shanty Bay Press, as colour has always been a very important part of the illustrations. Originally, I thought I would do woodcuts and pochoirs, in a manner similar to our earlier book, the Georgics. For over a year, as I worked on the charcoal & black pastels drawings for the woodcuts, they became more complex. If I was to use woodcut, I would lose the subtle transitional areas and the tonal variations. I was excited by the direction the drawings were taking but the challenge was how to preserve the delicate qualities.
Because I trained as a printmaker, I realized none of the techniques including intaglio, serigraphy, relief, or lithography would be suitable to edition these drawings. I discovered Jon Goodman, the foremost practitioner of the photogravure process, probably in the world. This technique has the substance & quality I needed… The results were stunning; it continually amazed me that he was able to hand-wipe the plates and still produce prints of complete consistency. The process of photogravure transformed the drawings into something unique for they became richer and more mysterious.”
Walter Bachinski, from the preface.