"40 Years Later: A Retrospective Exhibition"

by David Esslemont
Preus Library
September 2 - October 16, 2009

David Esslemont

David Esslemont is an award-winning British artist, designer, printer, bookbinder, and publisher now living in America. Born in Newcastle upon Tyne, England in 1953, Esslemont studied Fine Art (painting) at the Central School of Art and Design in London (now The University of the Arts). After leaving college he established his own press in Newcastle where he hand printed, bound and published a number of books about eighteenth-century wood engraver Thomas Bewick and his contemporaries. These were illustrated with prints from the engraver’s original wood blocks.

From 1985 to 1997 Esslemont was Controller (managing and artistic director) of the University of Wales’ Gregynog Press. At Gregynog he designed and printed several prize-winning books including Giraldus Cambrensis for which he won the Felice Feliciano international award for book design in 1991. He commissioned artists to illustrate the books and many have become sought-after collector's items. At Gregynog he was responsible not only for the design and printing but also the strategic development, marketing and general management.

As a designer Esslemont has worked on a variety projects: from a book stamp for the Bodleian library in Oxford to a whole new visual identity for the University of Wales Swansea, including design guidelines and the application to signage and marketing. Many smaller commissions such as bookplates have been undertaken for private individuals and the design of stationery and logos for associations and small businesses. Digital typesetting and design projects include Parenthesis, the journal of the Fine Press Book Association, and books for the British Library.

Besides printing and binding his own publications Esslemont also undertakes commissions. For example: All in Good Time, the autobiography of handmade watchmaker George Daniels, for the Peoples Archive, and The Prelude for the Wordsworth Trust. From the outset Esslemont has also bound his books himself and most are also issued in leather bindings: full leather, quarter leather and designed fine bindings, often with gold tooling.

He was invited in January 2005, to be an Artist in Residence with the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere in the English Lake District. This provided a unique opportunity to pursue watercolour painting and work on illustrations for a projected new edition of Wordsworth's poem, The Prelude.

Esslemont has lectured widely in the U.K. and U.S.A., and his work can be found in both private and public collections worldwide. His archive is held at the University of Iowa. His recent work includes illustrated editions of John Keats' poem To Autumn, Wordsworth's The Prelude, and Barack Obama's inaugural address.

This exhibition is presented in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Preus Library.

For more information about Esslemont's work, please visit his personal website.

2009-2010 David Esslemont