Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Words (San Francisco: Manic D Press, 2010).

Bousfield, Neil (2010) Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Words (San Francisco: Manic D Press, 2010). [Artefact]


Bousfield’s novel, originally titled The Cycle and produced with support from the Society of Wood Engravers, extends traditional skills and processes using contemporary materials such as modern vinyl and engineering plastics to extend and reinvent engraving and letterpress printing techniques. The visual narrative explores authorial illustration, drawing upon Bousfield’s experiences of teaching socially excluded teenagers, to highlight barriers that exclude young adults from education, employment and society, and inhibit social mobility. The social-visual narrative extends the genre, building directly on the work of Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, Otto Nuckel and Giacomo Patri. Although there are many ‘silent’ contemporary novels all but a few practitioners worldwide seek to reinvent traditional skills, social genres and hand-based production methods in contemporary contexts. Printed directly from the vinyl blocks on a Vandercook letterpress and hand stitched into an artists’ prototype edition of 12 copies, Bousfield challenges the role of letterpress printing as an accessible means of artistic prototyping. The book gained commercial publication as Walking Shadows: A Novel Without Words in 2010. A fine letterpress edition of 125 copies was also developed in collaboration with printer Richard Lawrence. The research has been widely reviewed and referenced, disseminated internationally, and acquired by the Billy Ireland Research Archive Collection at Ohio State University, USA and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Blending new materials and processes with traditional craft production and prototyping methods, the publication bridges the gap between small fine press production, artists’ books and the contemporary publishing industry. The novel was produced using traditional hand engraving tools and skills to engrave upon modern vinyl blocks. The innovative use of vinyl circumvents the use of expensive end grain woodblocks creating an accessible process. The use of modern solvents to transfer photo mechanically reproduced drawings to vinyl required experimentation and innovative working processes, which connect historical and contemporary working practices.

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