Ron King was born in Brazil in 1932. He entered the Chelsea School of Art in London in 1951. He launched his Circle Press in 1967 with his work, ‘The Prologue’ from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. An innovative artist, he was also an innovative entrepreneur, and made many trips to North America where there was a ready market for his artist books. After many international exhibitions, and working with over one hundred artists and writers in the intervening years, and producing well over one hundred pieces of work, Ron King retired from publishing in 2009. He kindly donated his personal collection of artists’ books to Cardiff University in 2014.
“The idea for my first book came from a visit to the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum. There, for the first time, I viewed the French beaux livres, Matisse’s ‘Jazz’, Miro’s ‘A Tout Epreuve’, and Derain’s illustrations for a book by Rabelais”.
— Book, Art, Object 2, Codex Foundation, 2013. (p. 77). Eds. D. Jury and P. Koch.
“In New York on a trip in the early seventies I bought a pop-up version of ‘Pinocchio’, published by Random House, ostensibly for my children. It was to set me off in an entirely new direction as far as the concept of the book was concerned”.
— Book, Art, Object 2, Codex Foundation, 2013. (p. 79). Eds. D. Jury and P. Koch.
“The [Circle] Press has been highly productive for over forty years and has had a profound effect, directly and indirectly, on other artists working with books, for it has provided a continuity and a context against which such activity can be measured”.
“Ron King is a maker. He is not just an artist – though that is his primary identity – he is a craftsman capable of turning his hand to the ready solution of practical problems … It is in this quality of inspired fabrication that his real genius resides”.
— Andrew Lambirth, Introduction, p. 13, Cooking the Books: Ron King and the Circle Press. Yale Centre for British Art, 2002.
“An artist’s book is a book produced under the direction of an artist. The word ‘artist’ is used broadly: the artist may be a visual artist or a text-based conceptual artist; he or she may normally work with other media or they may be an artist solely on the basis of their work as a ‘book artist’. An artist’s book may be produced by a fine press but also as easily by the artist or by an associated studio, gallery or collective”.
— British Library, ‘Fine Presses, Artists’ Books, and Book Arts’.
Cardiff is the only UK university to receive a donation of nearly all of the Circle Press works – Ron King’s other main collection is at Yale University in the USA, in the Yale Centre for British Arts. Cardiff University is also a leading UK centre for research in illustration studies for 19th century printing, and it is home to one of the largest arts and crafts Private Press book collections in the UK.
To order copies of Circle Press books please visit their website for further contact, availability, and ordering information.
Some methods used in image or illustration production in artists’ books –
- Screen printing: pressing ink through a mesh, using stencils to block off unprinted areas.
- Embossing: to shape an object which is pressed into paper to create raised areas.
- Linocut: cutting into lino to create raised ‘relief’ images, which are either inked and pressed onto paper, or embossed into paper.
- Engraving: the incision of a design or image into metal, using tools or acid. Ink is pushed into the incisions, and the surface of the metal is cleaned before pressing it onto paper.
- Aquatint: applying a fine dust of particles to an indented metal plate prior to engraving, which gives texture to the metal and creates tonal effects in the final print.
Items displayed in the exhibition include:
- Ron King, The Song of Solomon (King James Bible text). Circle Press, 1968.
- Ron King, The prologue – prints edition. Circle Press, 1978. (King, Crozier, Fisher, Please, Power).
- Ron King & Richard Price, Gift horse. Circle Press, 1999.
- Ron King, Echo book. Circle Press, 1994.
- Ron King, Turn over darling. Circle Press, 1990.
- Ron King & Roy Fisher, Left-handed Punch. Circle Press, 1986.
- Ron King & Roy Fisher, Anansi Company. Circle Press, 1992.
- Ron King and Roy Fisher, Bluebeard’s castle (based on Bartok’s opera). Circle Press, 1972.
- Ron King, Hick, Hack, Hock (Scissors, paper, stone). Circle Press, 1996/97.
- Ron King, Hollow log (log books). 1996.
- Ron King, Alphabeta concertina. Circle Press, 1983. (Two editions of 1,000 copies)
- Ron King, White alphabet. Circle Press, 1984. (150 signed copies).
- Norman Ackroyd and Jeremy Hooker, Itchen water, Circle Press, 1982.
- Ron King and George Szirtes, The burning of the books. Circle Press, 2008.
- Willow Legge, An African folktale. Circle Press, 1979. (With blind and intaglio screen prints).
Special Collections and Archives wish to thank the Art and Design undergraduates from Cardiff Metropolitan University who helped create the Circle Press artist book exhibition, for their work in selecting, prioritising, and organising the works which were displayed; namely – Miriam Davies, Adam Wright, Daisy Burrell, Emma Harry, Sarah Thomas, Jemma Schiebe, Molly Lewis, Maya Holthuis, Naomi Morgan, Ruby Fox, and Beth Morris. Beth has written an excellent account of the experience on her blog.