In September of 2011 Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood and Dan Richards travelled to southern Dorset in search of a hollow way.
Moving south a mist lowered itself, wet smoke pooling in valleys and encircling hilltops. Southward was a descent, disorientating gradients rising as they fell. Elbowed hills reared up and the hollow way began to reveal its intentions; it would remove them from the everyday.
In an attempt to escape from the fogs, they climbed to the top of Pilsdon Pen, a sharp-sided hill now inhabited only by depressed cattle, but once some vital part of a vanished civilisation. The hill was indistinct, the fog was thick, the level hilltop seeming to float in the mist like a half-formed green raft. There was silence from the cows and a sense of waiting from the hill.
The three of them stood looking out into the void, gazing in the approximate direction of the valleys of the holloways. But there was nothing there, only wraiths, only shadows. They descended from the hillfort, feeling their way, each yard of country having to be uncovered, and all the while followed, haunted by silence.
Towards the close of the day they perhaps found the hollow way which they had been looking for. The everyday had gone, and night was falling swiftly. Things began to happen secretly around them, and the past conspired with the present, and those that had found the holloway before them were part of that present.
A book by Robert Macfarlane, Stanley Donwood & Dan Richards.
Typeset and letterpress printed in Oxford by Richard Lawrence.
48pp in Royal Octavo format (234 x 156mm).
Five full-page line illustrations by Stanley Donwood.
Typeset in 12pt Monotype Plantin Light.
Printed on 115gsm Somerset Book Wove paper.
277 copies sewn and limp bound; £27.70.
27 specially bound copies in a slipcase; price on application.
Expressions of interest to:
50 Hurst Street
Oxford OX4 1 HD
Some time ago we made the decision to print Holloway using a Monotype caster, which essentially means that we use molten lead and a casting machine to make fresh lead type to print the book.
The font we chose is Plantin, a typeface named after the printer Christophe Plantin. It was first cut in 1913 for the Monotype Corporation, and is based on a face cut in the 16th century by Robert Granjon. Plantin is one of the typefaces that influenced the creation of Times Roman in the 1930s.
The type is made by using a huge keyboard to punch holes in a paper tape about five inches high; the roll of tape looks like something that goes in a player-piano. The text is input 'blind'; that is, the person doing it has only their memory to tell them where they are in the text and whether or not they've made any mistakes. All they have to show for hours of punching keys is a roll of white paper, speckled with small rectangular holes. The guidance for this task is provided by this slowly rotating drum:
...as well as arcane information such as this:
The roll of paper looks like this. In no way does this resemble a book, or text, or a typeface, or, in fact, anything much at all. But it's where the book begins, as it contains all the information that will be needed to cast the type, which is done on an adjacent machine which uses brass dies to impress the typeforms on the molten lead.
And that is something I will leave until the next time I can get round to adding to this dubious and ignorant account of our slow and laborious progress towards the publication of Holloway.