Matrix. Manor Farm, Andoversford, Gloucestershire: 1981-1993 for the present collection. Matrix is still being produced by the Whittington Press and is up to issue 34. Matrix is what many professionals consider the finest book arts production of the 20th century and was first published in Autumn 1981 by the Whittington Press and edited by John Randle. The timing of the introduction of Matrix was fortuitous, as market pressures were forcing many letterpress operations out of business. The bankruptcy of the Curwen Press in 1984, one of the most creative letterpress printers of the 20th century, spelled the end of an era. Issues have included articles written by noted printers, wood engravers, publishes and illustrators along with reviews of the previous years’ private press books. Due to the strong response to its introduction, copies of the early issues became scarce and led the press to reprint the first two issues, with the reprint of Matrix I coming in December 1985 and containing an index of the first five issues. Matrix I was produced in a limitation of 350 copies and has grown to 1,100 copies as of the recent issue. Deluxe editions of each issue have also produced in a very limited limitation. Each issue contains tipped in specimen leaves along with a profusion of illustrations, including reproduced photographs. Articles on various luminaries such as Eric Gill, Robert Gibbings, Stanley Morison, Brooke Crutchley, Roderick Cave and many others are interspersed among articles on private presses both current and historical.
The issues offered here include: Matrix I (reprint), Matrix 2, Matrix 2 (reprint), Matrix 6, Matrix 7, Matrix 8, Matrix 9, Matrix 10, Matrix 12 and Matrix 13, altogether 10 issues. The early issues are hard to find, with only one copy of Matrix 2 available on-line. Many issues have the announcement for the next issue laid in. All are in stiff paper covers with dust jackets, many with illustrations on the covers or jackets, with Matrix 10 the most attractive and colorful in this writer’s eye. Each issue has numerous tip-ins of specimen pages, printing samples, along with bound-in photographs. Matrix 2, for example, includes twenty-one chapters on various aspects of printing, private press, illustration and papermaking with articles by Adrian Cunningham on Eric Gill, John Biggs on wood-engraving in Russia, James Mosely on Eric Gill and the Golden Cockerel Type, John Randle on the Rampant Lions Press and many others. Also included is a reprint of a 1918 letter from Eric Gill. Each issue, with its profusion of type styles and paper types, is a true visual and tactile experience. All issues are in very fine condition and appear unread. The early issues were particularly prone to tearing due to the thinness of the cover stock. The collection offered would be a good start towards forming a complete run, although no copies of Matrix I are available on-line. The first six issues were numbered, with subsequent issues of a larger limitation not so.