Hunting of the Snark

A centenary edition of Lewis Carroll’s poem

Lewis Carroll’s epic poem was conceived in Guildford, as indeed was I. This epic poem deserves to be better known, and I wish my version of it did it better justice. I made two production mistakes in particular. The first was not spending out on typesetting.

Whole generations have now grown up without realising that there was a dark past when it was not possible to summon up text on a personal screen in a font, size and format of your choice. You had to type it on a typewriter, take the resulting typed pages to a person called a typesetter and pay them for clean text which you then pasted on a layout along with your letrasetted headlines and specially made photos of your artwork, ready to be photographed to make a litho plate. And when I started out, even that process was a recent replacement for having everything reduced to pieces of metal for letterpress.

I had avoided the cost of typesetting with my first book Jabberwocky by hand lettering the text. It was foolish to think I could get away with lettering something as long as the Snark too, but I was quite foolish at the time. It made reading this delightful poem quite an effort.

My second mistake was, I think, to use the mechanical tint transfer Letratone to fill in all the grey areas in the illustrations. Introducing grey into my black and white work was a recent thing; I felt it was necessary here in order to create a Snarkish mood, but I wish I had had better techniques up my sleeve than Letratone.

Having said all that, I had no trouble selling the book, and I was invited to join Quentin Blake and Ralph Steadman, who had also done centenary editions, in an exhibition of our originals arranged by the Folio Society.