Conversation Tree Press is proud to accounce its first publication:

A single volume collecting Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter & Wendy by J.M. Barrie. Lavishly illustrated with 9 full colour plates and over 25 pen and ink drawings by Charles Vess, this edition hearkens back to the Golden Age of Illustration. It is limited to only 726 copies across three states.

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Our Letterpress edition of Peter Pan comes in three States

The boy who wouldn’t grow up

Peter Pan’s first foray into the public imagination was quite different from the mischievous young boy that most of us are familiar with today, and not often remembered. This edition of Peter Pan is proud to collect both his original appearance and the novel which helped catapult J.M. Barrie’s creation to enduring, worldwide fame.

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Introduced to the world through a handful of chapters in The Little White Bird (1902), and later adapted into its own novel as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), Peter is a seven-day-old baby who, “like all infants,” used to be a bird. He escapes his nursery through the window and makes his way to Kensington Gardens. Now caught “betwixt-and-between” a boy and a bird, he lives in the Gardens where he spends much of his time cavorting with fairies and going on adventures.

Peter & Wendy

The second part of this edition is Peter & Wendy (1911), J.M. Barrie’s novelization of his celebrated and immensely popular play from 1904. Here, Peter is the free-spirited, innocent, but mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up. He spends this never-ending childhood having adventures in Neverland as the leader of the Lost Boys, interacting with fairies, mermaids, pirates, Native Americans, and, of course, a very special group of quite ordinary siblings from outside Neverland.

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The Great Ormond Street Hospital

J.M. Barrie gifted the rights for Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in 1929. Since then, GOSH has been granted the unique right to royalties from all performances and books of Peter Pan in the U.K., in perpetuity.

A portion of proceeds from the purchase of every copy of Conversation Tree Press’ edition of Peter Pan goes to Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, helping the Hospital to deliver life-changing care to patients and discover new treatments and cures.

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The Illustrator

Charles Vess’ fantasy artwork has won acclaim and awards around the world. His rich palette, striking compositions, and lavish detail has graced the pages of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and Stardust, Susanna Clarke’s The Ladies of Grace Adieu, George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea, and innumerable other books. Along the way he’s won the World Fantasy Award four times, the Chesley Award twice, and the prestigious Eisner award twice.

His art is breathtakingly singular while recalling the Golden Age of Illustration, when paint and brush were the vessels that carried readers to distant lands, bygone ages, and realms of the imagination.

Charles is contributing:

  • 9 full colour plates
  • 23 unique chapter head pen and ink illustrations
  • 1 full-page pen and ink title illustration
  • 2 half-page pen and ink title illustrations
  • 2 double page spread maps of Kensington Gardens and Neverland
  • An illustration for foil stamping the Standard slipcase and boards of the Deluxe and Lettered states
  • A remarque on the colophon/signature page of all copies of the Lettered state

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The Introducer

Professor Maria Tatar is a researcher, author, teacher, and the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Folklore and Mythology, Emerita, at Harvard University. Over the course of a long, distinguished career, she has written many scholarly articles and books on folklore, children’s literature, and cultural studies, including books about the Brothers Grimm. She has also edited The Classic Fairy Tales and Annotated Editions of African American Folktales, Hans Christian Andersen, and Peter Pan.

The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she has also written for the New York Times, the New Republic, and the Harvard Crimson.

Like all great myths, the story of Peter Pan is alive with contradictions, animated by paradoxes that draw us into its narrative orbit and make us think more and think harder about a range of subjects vital to the human condition. On the one hand, the story is about the joys of childhood, fantasy, play, and imagination, but it is also about abandonment, loss, and mortality.

Professor Maria Tatar

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The Typeface

While Peter Pan has achieved enduring popularity, becoming a part of the cultural zeitgeist the world over for generations, the tale remains firmly British and required a quintessentially British typeface to be told.

With this is mind, Peter Pan is set in Austin Text, a member of the Austin superfamily designed by Paul Barnes of Commercial Type. It is based on the serif typeface designed and cut in 1788 by Richard Austin for John Bell of the British Letter Foundry.

Revivals of Richard Austin’s typeface have long been a letterpress staple, with Monotype’s revival, Bell, enjoying widespread use since its commissioning in 1931 by Stanley Morison for their hot metal typesetting system.

Morison described Richard Austin’s typeface as the first typeface developed in England to show effective harmony between the roman style and the italic. It featured two departures from what was traditional at the time—dropping both the “long s” and replacing oldstyle figures with lining figures that were all the same height. Inspired by the work of the French Didot family, whose work helped define the style of “modern” typefaces around the start of the nineteenth century, historians claim it as the first English modern face.

The Austin family was first designed in 2003 for the elegant display typography of Harpers & Queen. Austin Text, which was added later, was specifically designed for smaller sizes and is a highly personable text face firmly in the British tradition, modeled very closely after Richard Austin’s original text faces, and the elegance of his italics.

Different printing methods make for different requirements in the overall “colour” of the text on a page, and Austin Text has the added advantage of having two weights in the roman to accommodate this. Austin Text Roman is lighter and airier, working well at text size on uncoated paper with the impression of letterpress, while Austin Text Roman No. 2 is noticeably darker and works better for offset printing on coated paper.

In setting Peter Pan, we’ve strayed from Richard Austin’s preferred lining figures and used oldstyle figures, which in our mind makes them less obtrusive when reading longer bodies of text. We’ve also imbued the text with a sense of playfulness, well-suited to our protagonist’s sense of adventure, with the use of alternative characters throughout—the swash Q and alternate curly leg R in the roman, and swash alternates and discretionary ligatures in the italic.

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Printing for this edition will be done by Pat Randle of Nomad Letterpress on his Heidelberg cylinder press (Standard and Deluxe) and FAG cylinder proofing press (Lettered) using magnesium plates. Pat has a long history of printing Matrix magazine, a book arts periodical, for Whittington Press, along with his own editions. Most recently, Nomad has published 2020 Vision, Oiseaux de France, and Coastline, while work continues on Whittington Press’ Pages from Presses 2.

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All three states will be bound by Ludlow Bookbinders, who have been keeping the craft of English bookbinding alive for generations.

Ludlow executed the bindings for a number of Folio Society Limited Editions, including Liber Bestiarum and more recently the highly regarded Aurora Australis facsimile, along with the binding for the 2017 Book of the Year at the British Book Design and Production Awards—Havana by Leslie Gerry Editions. Ludlow is also the home of Rich Tong, who has received widespread acclaim for his bindings of Lyra’s Books’ Stardust and Arete Editions’ The Case of Death and Honey.

The edition will be approximately 224 pages with a trim size of 170mm x 240mm (6.7" x 9.5") and all states will include head and tail bands and ribbon markers.

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