Short Notice


Harwich (UK)

Harwich (UK)

It is ferry time again: we are headed for the Cotswolds once more.


It is Whittington Summer Show on September 5th. If you’re anywhere near Cheltenham come and enjoy a lovely afternoon with the Whittington Press having their open day with three of the presses working and a wealth of nice books and prints on show. I’ll have a table there, too.




Whittington Day at Whittington Court

Burford - Cotswolds

Burford – Cotswolds


Escaping the Embers


We did have a TV-Set when I was a child. I remember the news about wars and bombings in Northern Ireland and the Near East. I am not aware of the exact moment but at some point I must have tried to imagine what it must be like to be a child growing up in a war zone. I don’t seriously think you can imagine it without having been forced to go through the experience. It is about losing loved ones, running for dear life, losing all you ever had, your toys, your home. And it is all about living in an atmosphere of hatred and devastatingly real threat. But it is also about being bereaved of your future. There will be no schools or no time to attend lessons because everybody is occupied with hiding, finding food, staying alive. There will be no paper to write your homework on, there will not even be homework. There will be no books to study from, because they have been burnt down together with the libraries.


When we, as a family, went for a swim, it was familiar that there was a crater as wide as a flat hand in my father’s back. It was a large deep scar where the bullet had struck and almost killed him in WW2 when he was barely 20 years of age. It was his largest scar, but not the only one he had. He would not answer questions and I felt I’d better not ask. He lost one half of his lung and almost all of his joyance. He would say he had unlearned to laugh. This, also, is something war does to people.


It is difficult to resist passing on the hatred if you have been affected by it in the depth of your heart. It is much easier to give way to vengeance. It will need much effort to not succumb to revenge. In this effort knowledge will be of great help. To know about foreign people and their countries. To know about ways of living different to your own. Knoweldge about other times in history, other cultures, other religions. Knowledge can calm down fear and will support understanding. Studying will make friends in that we can see that there is not just the one way, but that there are many ways of living a good and happy life. These are pretty old findings. People of all cultures have realised what the essentials of a good humane live are millenia ago. First they passed them on to the next generation by telling them, in myths and fairy tales. Later they wrote them down on parchment, and still later they printed books to have them spread to still more people. All the books tell of the longings and sufferings, of how to overcome misery, and how to succeed in living a peaceful life. It is the means by which this can be achieved where the argument starts. The deliberate demolition of books, libraries, schools, bookshops, publishing houses, archives is unpardonable. Precious knowledge will be lost past recovery. People are depredated of the possibility to study and become educated. People won’t be able to form an opinion if they are denied free access to information. If they are at the mercy of censored messages they will have their minds manipulated and are prone to be turned into instruments of war and hatred.

To deliberately keep people ignorant is a serious criminal act and will perpetuate war.


Escaping the Embers: My print for the „Absence & Presence“ project

Prior to printing I painted the sheets individually in the colours of flames and ashes, with paint prepared from soil pigments. Into the zone of the ashes I printed the astronomical coordinates of 33 libraries that have been burnt down over the centuries, from Alexandria in 391BC to Tripoli in 2014, marking places where wisdom and cultural heritage have been destroyed deliberately. Rising from the embers of the burnt down libraries of the world two pairs of scribbled pages, like a butterfly’s wings, take flight in a flurry of ashes. Handwritten on those pages are the fundamental ideas of mankind, the essentials of wisdom, believes and knowledge, the writings‘ characters resembling the alphabets or scripts used in the world: Arabic, Latin, Hebrew, Asian …


The butterfly carries these ideas as if they were its precious eggs. In butterflies the eggs will become caterpillars, which develop into cocoons and further into new butterflies. With written ideas it is similar: they are laid into their readers‘ minds to hatch into thoughts, grow, cocoon and eventually hatch as new beautiful knowledge – be it as poems or novels, scientific work or philosophical wisdom – and new books.

In the end nothing will be lost. Arson cannot win. And with the flap of its wings this very special butterfly will change the course of things in this world eventually. Over and over again if need be.

My print is a print of hope.

Butterflies are fragile and vulnerable, but with their swaying flight they escape risks just by following their nature. A butterfly seems to be absent at times, but some of its live’s stages might be present without us being aware of it. Also, the butterfly motive refers to the butterfly effect as known in chaos theory: Small differences, like the beat of a butterfly’s wing, may result in an overall big difference in the course of things.


Absence & Presence: A Printmaking Response to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street“:

With this project one complete set of prints of all participating artists will be donated to the Iraq National Library in Baghdad. Three copies will be part of touring exhibitions worldwide. The fifth copy will, together with work from the project at the Herron Art Library (Indiana, US), be digitised to become part of their permanent collection.

Last year I was invited to be part of „Absence and Presence: A Printmaking Response to the bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street“. My deadline to hand in my prints was 11 October 2014. The day before Malala Yousafzai was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize. Two years ago, aged only 15, the Pakistan teenager was shot and almost killed for promoting and fighting for the right of education for all children, boys and girls, wherever they live.


If you wish to know more or to become involved, e.g. with readings, talks or activities connetced to the „al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here!“ projects, you might want to check any of these:

Facebook Group

The coalition’s website

The online gallery at UWE in Bristol (UK)

The German-English website of the al-Mutanabbi projects

Photos of al-Mutanabbi Street

The coalition published an anthology to which 125 writers and poets have contributed. You can purchase it.


There is a catalogue of the exhibition of the Inventory project at the Center of Book Arts in New York 2013. You can purchase it.


Find more on the Inventory project on this Blog at May 2013 „John Rylands Library Manchester“



Matrix 32 Featuring Kurt Tucholsky


Check in for the ferry to Harwich was in the evening of April 30th at Hoek van Holland port. So far we had been on the route before but only on a trip at daytime. In that case you’ll disembark around 8pm at Harwich port. That was last year and we had booked a room in a small B&B not far from Harwich, the Sleepy Fox which is in the back of the Layer Fox Pub. We got there rather late almost starved, and even though the kitchen had closed already they didn’t hesitate to serve us whatever hot they could make as late as that. So we were facing a medium size mountain of all sorts of finger food plus a huge bowl of chips each. We had been experiencing a challenging journey through what in daylight would turn out to be a wonderful countryside with colourful pheasants popping out from virtually every bush or hedgerow. However, that first evening we had to find our way tired and whith dusk closing in. What was even more challenging: as we had not yet adjusted to having left the continent it felt as if we were going on the wrong side of the road all the way.


This year we decided we might quite as well choose the ferry trip overnight and book a cabin to sleep in, so we could face the challenge of driving on the left side of the road after a good sleep. We didn’t regret it in any way. We loved the large window to look out on the sea and we got off the ferry at Harwich early in the morning taking in the scenery in full day light on the route to Norwich. It was Turn The Page time again and I was one of the lucky ones who had been chosen to exhibit there. We spent three wonderful days in Norwich. The fair was in The Forum again, a stunning building right in the middle of the city centre housing the library. It was great to meet everybody at the fair, colleagues we met last year and others we hadn’t met at all so far, or whom we hadn’t seen for years, like Martyn and Angela who are running „The Old School Press“.


When the fair was over we were headed west. Next stop on the way was Oxford and we were lucky to pick a pretty warm if not to say hot spring day with bright sun. We got into Oxford on the Sunday and everybody was out relishing their ice cream cones or enjoying a boat trip or having a look inside the colleges. Our B&B was even further west and we got there in the evening. Given the choice we did take the room to the back even though the one to the front offered the full view of the Cotswolds. The room on the back was facing towards the garden which was just beautiful and filled with bird song. Right in the back they were keeping hens. They were all re-homed as they had not been kept porperly at the place they were before. It was their eggs we were served for breakfast.


We went to Oxford one more day strolling the streets and lanes, visiting the Bodleian, spending hours at Blackwell’s bookshops and having tea and cake in the Queens Lane coffee house („serving quality coffees since 1654“). I had come to love this place when I was here in 2011 visiting the Fine Press Book Fair and seeing Oxford for the first time – after having been here as a teenager and not rembering all that much apart from that I had been taken to some then famous ice cream shop. (And as I simply love Oxford’s Covered Market that was of course where I ended up in.)


We had  just one week’s time all together and we spent the days we had left in the small Cotswold villages around where our B&B was. This included a visit at Whittington Press in Whittington. The press is on the premises of Whittington Court. Infact, the old gardener’s cottage has been giving home to the press ever since it was founded back in 1971 by John and Rose Randle. A group of American woodengravers was staying on their tour visiting colleagues and we had been invited to join in. It was a wonderful sunny spring day, a nice multicoloured Comfrey was in full bloom and everybody was cheerful. We did have a nice and relaxed picnic lunch beneath those large trees in front of the press‘ home. This was on May 5th and the first copy of Matrix 32 was lying on the table to browse. The more than 600 copies of the limited edition were still at the binders then. Meanwhile they are out and a fascinating read.



Matrix is an annual review for printers and bibliophiles. It is made the traditional way: letterpress using metal type. Issues come with a wealth of thrilling articles about people, places and activities in the field of fine printing and book arts from all over the world. Every issue not only comes with articles it also brings original prints as inserts made by various presses and artists introduced in the articles.


I am happy beyond words as an article on my artist’s book on Kurt Tucholsky is part of Matrix 32. It all began at the „Norddeutsche Handpressenmesse“ in Hamburg in 2013. This was where we all met and John suggested having an article on the art work in the upcoming issue of Matrix. Plus he thought it would  be nice to have an insert as well. My heart sank when I heard we’d need 700 copies. I am working with proofing presses that are operated by hand. I am feeding every sheet in myself one by one. My editions usually range between 6 and 20. Printing cards I might do around 40. Never ever had I got anywhere near 700. I considered the task and decided the only way it could work was to print the inserts on the younger of my two presses. It is a Grafix with a motorised inking system. The printing is done by hand still.



But there was more to the task than the printing of the sheets. I choose a text in which Tucholsky describes why he is writing. I handset the text from Optima. It is printed on a white Zerkall deckle edge paper. The insert was supposed to be in the same style as the prints in the original artist’s book. So the insert wanted stickers giving the year the text was first published. Now these stickers had to be printed on a pretty old fashioned gummed paper in fading orange, moisted and glued to the prints. Additionally the prints had to be stamped and embossed. In the end they looked really good and off they went in a cardboard box addressed to Whittington nr. Cheltenham.


Now if you wish to have one of Matrix 32 or any back issues for yourself you can easily order them at Whittington Press. Or come to their Open Day on September 6th. You’ll find all information on their website.


Here goes a huge heartfelt Thankyou to John and Rose and everybody else involved in making Matrix 32 such a wonderful read. I am ever so glad that I was given the chance to be part of it.

If you wish to read more about „Norddeutsche Handpressenmesse“ or on „Turn The Page artists book fair“ find a blogpost for each of these events in the category „Fairs and Markets“ here on this blog.


John Rylands Library Manchester: An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street




! June 7th talk+reading by Beau Beausoleil at the library – details at the end of this blog!

We found ourselves a lovely B&B right in the middle of fields with horses grazing in the peace and quiet of the countryside on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border. After nearly two weeks of gorgeous spring weather with sun and blue sky wherever we went – be it Norwich or Chester – during this early May we watched a colourful sunset telling us the weather was about to change. We woke up to a cold morning with a rainy sky on May 9th.


We could have left the car in Crewe and taken the train into Manchester but tried to find a Park&Ride in some of the outskirts of the city. We left the car in Trafford (the P&R there did only exist in the memory of our SatNav but we found a place for the car some yards down the road) and took the tram from Cornbrook into Manchester Victoria Station where free shuttle busses take you to a stop just opposite John Rylands Library. It was still raining but the building was none the less impressive.


The exhibition of „An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street“ spreads out on three floors with the major part in the Historic Reading Room, one display case on the ground floor café and a number of them in the little cloister.


Entering the Historic Reading room from the far end makes you face it almost in its entire length with the stained glass window in the back far above your head. The stone masonry in the cathedral-like room is breathtaking. All the show cases are being watched by the statues of the famous of the past. Homer, Skakespeare, Newton – representing the cultural heritage and pursuit of knowledge ever since we learned to speak and write, thus literally reminding of what this project is about: Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here.


Stepping into the room and walking along makes you realise that his is not a cathedral but a library. On either side there are a great number of recesses which either are furnished with a table and chairs or with large card index boxes. The walls of the recesses are covered from floor to ceiling with wooden shelves filled with books. Students have their laptops out on the tables working. The very specific quietness of a library in which work is being done sweeps gently through the room.


With respect to the copyright of the exhibiting colleagues you will not find any close ups of artist’s books on this blog. Of course you will have a much more intense experience of the books with being in the room and seeing them yourself. This blog is to say: It is more than worth while to go and see this exhibtion in this very special and extraordinary place.


For all who cannot come to Manchester: you can either try to find a venue nearer to where you live on one of the projects‘ websites or: there is an online catalogue of the books in the project at the galleries pages of the CFPR in Bristol:


And when you’ve seen it all and taken in and are about to leave, before you step out onto the roads in Manchester again in whatever weather awaits you: when still in the library’s shop and facing the door, turn right and look for the donation box with Mrs Rylands having tea with the dragon. Go there, put in a coin or two and watch – it’ll make your day, if the library and the exhibition have not done so already.

The exhibition will be on until July 29th.
The library is open
Mondays 12 noon – 5pm
Tuesdays – Saturdays 10am – 5pm
Sundays 12noon – 5pm
Last entry 4.30pm daily


This is where you want the free shuttle bus to take you to: Deansgate, Spinningfields, John Rylands Library, it is the green line No 2 that takes you there from Victoria station.


More information on the library’s website:

Safe the date: June 7th from 6-8pm
Beau Beausoleil, the founder of the al-Mutanabbi-Street coalition, will be at John Rylands Library speaking about the project and reading from the award winning al-Mutanabbi Street anthology. He’ll be joined by Sarah Irving, a blogger of the Middle East and North Africa.
If you are anywhere near: don’t miss it!

The projects‘ website with a list of all upcoming venues of An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street:

A German/English website of the project:

The exhibition has moved to a further venue in Newcastle (UK) and opened August 5th. Find a blog with details here:






John Rylands Library, University of Manchester (image credits: Katie Donlon)

Let’s imagine there was neither written nor printed word (as the printed is just a shortcut to the written). The only way to keep information, experiences or thoughts and ideas was to memorize them. And the only way to pass them over to others was to tell them, leaving them to memorize what they just have heard. Such was man’s situation before written signs like alphabets had been invented.

In a community like this the death of a knowing and experienced person is equivalent to a library burning down. All memories are lost: experiences, history, ideas, knowledge about wildlife, edible plants or treating illnesses, songs, myths, fairy tales – a whole cultural heritage and the basis of gaining further knowledge by building up upon what has been learned over generations will be gone.


Normally, we assume that with the invention of the written word all knowledge is conserved and kept for following generations.
It is not. The written and printed word has been hunted ever since it came into man’s hands.
Libraries get burned – like only days ago in Mali – or over and over again in the past.
Books get burned – like in the 1930ies during the Nazi reign in Germany, of which Markus Zusak told us so brilliantly in his „Book Thief“ novel – or over and over again in the past.
A street of booksellers gets bombed – as happenend on March 5th in 2007 in the centre of Baghdad.


Baghdad’s al-Mutanabbi Street has been the intellectual heart, the centre of culture and thought and book trading for centuries. It got destroyed by a car bomb in 2007, it was rebuilt and bulldozered again.

When books get burned or bombed it is first of all for ideological reasons be they religious or political. With reading a book a person can gain knowledge totally by him- or herself. They do not need the help or assistance of anybody – they just need to be able to read and they need to have a book. And it is these two aspects weak and unconvincing rulers will fight first:
They will keep the young from going to school and learn to read, and they will keep those who already can read from reading by destroying their source of information or by changing the alphabets thus following generations will not be able to read the writings of the past.


By reading we learn about history, our own and that of others, about ideas and philosophies, about other places, other people, about war and peace, love and hate, about music and poetry, about literature and science, politics and religion – we learn that the world can be different from what we have so far known.
Any force that tries to keep people from learning and gaining knowledge is preventing them to be able to make up their minds by themselves. It is an act of manipulation.


One way to oppose against the burning of books is to make new books.
On 6th February 2013 the first complete exhibition of „An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street“ will open at John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, UK. 260 book artists from all over the world have been making new books commemorating the car bombing of al-Mutanabbi street in 2007 – standing up against the deliberate destruction of books and the cultural heritage they preserve.


Imagine: al-Mutanabbi street starts here. In Timbuktu. In Baghdad. In a girls‘ school that is about to be closed for ideological reasons. Everywhere on this planet where people are kept from learning and reading on account of their own free will.

An Inventory of al-Mutanabbi Street
February 6th to July 29th 2013
John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK

More information and further venues on:

An English/German webspace:

The project’s webspace:


Atelierwinter 2012

Einladung zum Atelierwinter 2012.

Traditionell lädt das Atelier bleiklötzle im Advent zum „Atelierwinter“. Die Ausstellung in den eigenen Räumen zeigt die neuen Werke, die übers laufende Jahr entstanden sind und gibt die Möglichkeit, sich in aller Ruhe umzuschauen. Dieses Jahr wird der „Atelierwinter“ am Samstag, den 24. November eröffnet: selbstverständlich mit dampfendem Samowar.
Das besondere in 2012:
Bis zum 2. Advent sind die Türen des Ateliers jeden Tag für Besucher geöffnet.
Das Jahr 2012 stand und steht beim bleiklötzle ganz im Zeichen der zahlreichen alten Bleilettern, die hier im Atelier in gut 2 Dutzend Setzregalen auf ihren Einsatz warten. Die meisten der ca. 100 Bleischriften sind mittlerweile als Alphabete in der neuen Edition von Künstlerkarten in Szene gesetzt. Mehr dazu auf

Beste Grüße und bis bald

Annette C. Dißlin