David Blamires, The Books of Jonah (Incline Press) £20 (£15 w/o insert poem)
This letterpress-printed short book was published in a limited edition of two hundred numbered copies to commemorate a special exhibition at Chetham’s Library in Manchester, England. The Books of Jonah contains Blamires excellent thumbnail history of the Jonah story in print and image, with chapters “The Bible text translated & illustrated,” “Literary versions up to 1815,” “Jonah as performance,” “Modern prose renderings,” Twentieth century & later poems,” and “Children’s books.”
From its first page, an illustration from John Hayes 1674 Bible to its last, a facsimile page of Siku’s 2007 The Manga Bible, the book contains a generous sampling of images, many culled and reprinted from the Chetham’s broad collection. Not only do these offer a great history of the Jonah story in image, they’re also a miniature history of letterpress imagemaking from the 1500s until today. All of the images are terrific, but my favorite is from the 1812 A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible; or, Select passages in the Old and New Testaments, represented with emblematical figures, for the amusement of youth, and a close second is a woodcut (above) from the 1557 non-religious sequence of monsters and prodigies by Konrad Lykosthene, Prodigorium ac ostentorum chronicon.
The Books of Jonah is more than an introduction to the literary Jonah: it’s a great example of a concise literary history, a beautiful letterpress collectible, and testament to the continuing relevance of Chetham’s Library exhibits.