Thoemmes Press published the history of ideas from their offices just off Park Street in Bristol. Elegant hardbacks , some typeset others painstakingly prepared facsimilies from original 17th/18th/19th century tomes to scholarly thought, burst out into the world of academia. I worked in the Production Department from 1998 to 2005, to qualify this collection of flashes from the engine-room (Production) I need to say that this job was one of the best jobs I’ve had, and that was definitely due to the people who came and went at Thoemmes Press, as much as the work.
In a sort of celebration, to toast the arrival of another set of books from the printers, both Paul Tompsett and I would concoct advance notices which we would send out to announce their approval to colleagues in the building … Here, with other items, are some of my efforts.
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Good news, advances for Portraits of Linguists, 2 vols, and Dictionary of Industrial Administration, 3 vols are in – and looking a little overdressed in their splendid crusher panels – but both seemed in great spirits as they laid waste to our large supply of gloomy speculation and pricked our balloon of despondency, before settling in the corner – still grinning… If they weren’t so cute I’d smack them in the mouth.
Smollet, dressed to kill in the most wonderful blue tux – the crushed orange waistcoat belching from his chest in a magnificent contradiction – with his hair slicked forward, eyes darting around the room, he appeared magically from the blue box, oozing ‘rock n roll’ – his thick–soled crepe shoes allowing him to quiver and shimmy effortlessly. The boys, transfixed, looked that look of amazement and awe that can only come from years of being subjected solely to their own company and waited for him to sing…
1 Advance here, 51 to Japan – Rest to Alton
December 1999: the text from a Flyer for Dan, the production manager, on the occasion of his leaving…
THIS BOOK is a must for all insomniacs; the life, work and play of Daniel Broughton is spread before us as a technicolour yawn in a blessedly short book. Dan joined the Thoemmes workforce at the age of 5 as chief head-butter on the door. Through careful toadying, and flamboyantly sporty dress sense (which, by the way, has made him a fashion icon in Bristol), he rose above the other planks to become, at 8, the youngest ever manager of the vastly over-rated book production works.
In human resource circles his manner of management was a revolutionary breakthrough and much wasted time was spent by all trying to fathom its ‘mystery’. His method, secret until now, was to reduce all to silence with his unruffled hair and witty asides. His style was minimal to say the least. The classically understated, yet disdainful, glance at the clock in response to an underlings’ early departure is a living memory no words can describe. He was the king of the one-liner and truly wicked at the art of demonstration. None could but marvel or be in awe as he flashed his mouse and clicked his pointer, his hand a blur – his directness and bluntness at coming to the point, eclipsed narrowly by his sheer spunk! By this example he proved to be a worthy adversary to the verbosity of the editorial department.
His design work was exemplified by his clever choice of colour and the full use of any gimickry available: why say it once in a small voice… This truly magnificent attention to detail and ‘sort of swirly photoshop flash’ runs throughout his work: sadly, and happily, it is punctuated with the occassional glaring error only a human being can make – thereby saving him from the smug horrors of being elevated to god-like status. Nevertheless, he is a living legend!
Asked to comment on this timely book his response, ‘What’s it got to do with me?’ was typical.
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… And another couple of Thoemmes’ sets passes on to the world of academics and, by default and possibly on merit, I’ve ended up as Production Manager at Thoemmes Press.
Yesterday, stooping with elegant emphasis to clear the lintel, their huge frames blocking out the falling sun for just a moment, the Le Grand twins entered Thoemmes Towers babbling in tongues, whooping to an imaginary backbeat and clutching their ‘Entire Body of Philosophy’ boldly a la Michael Jackson! They had been eagerly awaited by a small crowd of Thoemists, who had forgone attending an anti–war demo, and now swooned at the LGs suave manner and synchronized steps – and the size of their macaroons. For some though, as the event wore on, the Le Grands were exposed for the slippery characters they are – just another front for ‘Enlarge your penis’ junk emails! If you want to catch them, the Le Grands are still in the grotto flashing their smiles at anyone interested in their literature.
1 set here, Rest to Alton on 19 March
…Sumptuously attired in scarlet, the artistic Cardinals swished this way and that, heavily redrawn eyebrows painfully arched – belching in unison they turn to give us a glittering view of their spines. And then leering and oathing in a grotesque parody of the offensive GG in his prime, but to the delight of the Thoemists, they launch into ‘Do you wanna be in my gang…’ One might uncharitably assume that their flawed choice of pop idol gave some inkling as to their private doodlings, but to be fair, they do look good – catch them while they are still fresh on the lower level of TP Towers!
1 advance here (plus 6 vol 1s), rest to Alton
After weeks spent in detention, new boys, Green and Tucker, have just visited matron for their bjoekwerm jabs. Tucker, sombre and proper but incensed by the taunts of the older boys who tried to implicate him in a rhyming slang conspiracy, dressed himself all in black. Whereas Green, completely lacking any imagination or sense of irony, outfitted himself in green slacks topped with a green blazer – it could have been a suit but the cut and styles were completely at odds. Both were welcomed by the Thoemists into the main hall with hugs and mugs…
TH Green, Misc Writings, 1 vol, 1 here, rest to Alton, Abraham Tucker, The Light of Nature Pursued, 4 vols, 1 set here, rest to Alton
True Bristolian Dave Stephenson, who claimed there never was an idea in Bristol, only ideals… leaves Thoemmes
Alone and fearless, contemptuously shaking off the grasping attentions of other men and women, A Weismann’s ‘Germ–Plasm’ has seductively entered the inner–sanctum of Thoemmes Press. He has arrived below stairs and can be briefly admired there vainly posing in his posing pouch… that is, until Rudi whisks him off.
40 printrun, 2 here, the rest will just have to go to Alton.
The Thomists had provided the disrobing marquee, the ‘T’ logo a healthy sign that the marketing department were doing their bit. People had arrived in all kinds of conveyance, some even taking advantage and in risqué fancy–dress (I assume because for all I know this may be how they always dress…). All eyes scanning the horrizon for Walt Rathenau, the cross–channel writer who swims on his side. A sudden commotion on the far side of the beach, heads turn to be dazzled by a man covered in goose–fat with adhering sand, wearing a gold lamé tutu and pink lipstick, outrageously sashaying along the waterline to a slow handclap. Rathenau had come out, a quick wave and then into the tent to be rubbed down by the eager production boys
Walther Rathenau, 1 set here, plus 6 vol 1, rest to Alton
Our saving grace, The Four Biblical Geezers, late, but still miraculously in time for Easter, have just barged in to show off their fake tans and the effects of metabolic steroids before setting off for the House of the Rising Sun (and the big money). See them glow at your local one–stop copy shop as they denounce Satan with rants of ‘There’s orangey!’ and ‘Cheap as chips!’
Delivery: 41 to Japan, 1 here and rest to Alton
In as much as loose words could cause harm, Ekra–Agiman, ever the thoughtful one, has arrived silent and safe in cellophane. Recognised only by his bright yellow jacket which has his name running all down his spine in black, and keeping clear of the dirty hands brigade who only wanted to leave their mark, his gesture for 2 sugars was accepted and acted upon. Even after drinking his tea he refused to speak… or sing, preferring to strum his fingers, stare at the ceiling and smile innately – and as my granny always said, ‘You’ve got to watch the quiet ones…’
3 vols Print run 70, Taka 35 (Babs?) Rest to alton
Looking rotten and left for dead, but really scrupulously clean and totally irksome, ‘Rustle’ Wallace (for it is he! – famous for his backrow appearances at the Roxy) sloped into the Jane Williamson Suite at Thoemmes. He claimed he was now a windowcleaner, but his optically challenged trousers made crazy shapes above Paul’s head as he shimmied his chamois, his voice trailing away at the mention.
Writings on Evolution, 1843–1912, 69 to ORCA
All eight Locke’s have entered the building through a keyhole, looking splendid, flashing their teeth a lot whilst they sprechenden Deutsch, shrugging their shoulders in an uncomprehending fashion – except for a couple showing off their Latin footwork to a French chanson singer looking for an audience – anyway, they can’t understand why they have been dug up and have now barricaded themselves in the toilet, waiting for Rudi to give them an explanation… feeble I know, but its the truth!
Locke in Germany: Early German Translations of John Locke, 1 set here plus 6 x vol 1. Rest to ORCA
Latest news from Thoemmes Production Department: Alf, our esteemed below–stairs book checker, has taken to wearing a blindfold when checking in–coming books – his lick and sniff technique has finally been approved by the powers that be (who?) and is now his main checking process, this, after his excessive tongue and drool had pulped a couple of Paul’s sets.
Alf’s report: Reprint of ‘Emergence of Business Ethics’, 22 vols in the brightest pink buckram with a hint of marjoram – close enough to be taken seriously…
29 sets, plus overs(?) to ORCA
Gorgeous George has arrived in Bristol, however, I must warn anyone who will be coming down to the old Locarno Ballroom – maybe to gaze at his quiff, or perhaps to indulge Mr Grote in his favourite leisure activity, ‘poke the wart’ – that he has a sensitive side … anyone caught tickling his funny–bone will be ejected immediately.
Classics in the Nineteenth Century: Responses to George Grote
Their creosoted endpapers playing havoc with the politically correct, the slightly winswept and overtly racist Novels crept into Bristol four days early – too cream-crackered to appear at the window, but very able to consume vast quantities of puff pastry washed down with lashings of gingerbeer – eventually dozing off to the mellow-phonic sounds of Harry Connick and his Orchestra as they diddled and daddled… ah bless
Victorian Novels of Oxbridge Life, 5 vols
Socrates and Bentham met up in the vestibule of St Verity the Cheesemaker’s Blouse, a cuddly priest shouted, ‘Owze it hanging… you cheeky monkey?’ – forced to check each others garb by the remark, they fell out big time and both were arrested for flashing their egos.
Advances of: Reprint of Jeremy Bentham’s Auto Icon and Phaedon, the Death of Socrates, here and OK
More Late news:
Amid scenes of bouyant jubilation, Thomas Hobbes Leviathan advances on Bristol. Arriving too late to make any impact on the October Festival of Books, this monstrous title is now blocking the narrow doorway of number eleven and leaving us no option but to get out our puny pen–knives and start whittling away at this autocratic monarch’s nethers… his Whale of a Tale … his Moby Dick!
1 Advance and 6 x vol 1 here in Bristol, received, thanks
Erasmus Darwin has, at last, made a welcome appearance down here in the ballroom – but then gave us a right wibalin as he floated one at knee–height, tardy flatulence is hard to forgive in a sealed room…
The Collected Wrythings of Erasmus Darwin, 9 vols
The Bibs, twin sisters – legless in Bristol without even the taxi fare to the station – flashed their scarlet endpapers as they sauntered up Great George Street to Thoemmes Towers. Still locked in that awkward, but seemingly natural, embrace, all the while maintaining that hidden rhythm known only to those who exceed 3 Holsteins and still know how to sway…. Then, being greeted with disdain in Reception they smothered Alan with kisses, mistaking him for Paul….
1 advance, approved, and 6 sets for Libraries
Their manners worse for the time they have been kept from the sight and company of scholars, delivering an astonishing catalogue of etiquette foopahs to the gathered throng at the bottom of the stairs – the reprints are now melodically belching and farting a cappella to the forgettable (but now suddenly very catchy) ‘Show me the way to Amarillo’ – whilst attacking, with a relish, the mixed–leaf salad that had been laid on for them by the cheesy floor manager, his unwashed hands dug deep in his crusty pantaloons and a knowing smile playing hide–and–seek at the corners of his mouth – you just had to be there…
Balance to Orca
William Warburton marched on his stomach, all 13 vols of him, his perpetual motions have kept rooms warm at Thoemmes Towers throughout this cold spell – and his bloated tales of religious infidelity have kept the production boys amused and high for months. But the ulterior and, some say, sinister reason for his appearance in Bristol at all, is to keep the vindaloo suspended between the taste bud and sphincter – or, to paraphrase William in a moment of desperation – to keep the shit from hitting the fan (please excuse the anglo saxon coarseness, not used in the original quotation, but now deployed for effect)
Collected Works of William Warburton, 13 vols Advances here and looking very nice
Rudi Thoemmes, on the occasion of Thoemmes Press being swallowed by Continuum (who were later gulped down by Bloomsbury)
‘A cabbage is truthful or not truthful (or both at once). Therefore by infallible demonstration a cabbage is a liar. For otherwise it will be both at once, which we know it cannot be, or else it must be truthful, which we know it is not. QED’ F. H. Bradley disappearing up his own arsehole, taken from volume 2 of Collected Works of F. H. Bradley, published by Thoemmes Press 1999.
A leaving card for Charlie Blacklock, IT and website manager, who sadly died not long after leaving …