Michael Mitchell

I learned last week that Michael Mitchell, the great printer, typographer and book designer, had died in November 2017, without my having known. I greatly admired him. We got to know him in the early 1990s when he was still working as a dentist in Newbury, but had begun to produce books on a press in the front room in his house on the north side of the Green in Marlborough. He produced an annual catalogue, copies of which are available on Abe, and I see from Abe that he produced poems selected by Christopher Logue in 1984 and an essay on Cats by L.P. Hartley in 1986, illustrated by Richard Shirley-Smith, who had taught art at Marlborough and gave Mitchell his first Albion Press. We bought a copy of Portable Pleasures by Margot Coatts, illustrated by Ian Beck, which he published in 1992. I first used him as a printer to design and print THE RESEARCH POLICY OF THE VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM, which was published in 1993 and exists in two editions, the first of which lacks Alan Fletcher’s then new logo, which I was reprimanded for not using. It’s a beautiful piece of intelligent typography, which helped give the pamphlet authority. I used him more when I went to the National Gallery. He printed David Cannadine’s 2002 Linbury Lecture on Kenneth Clark: From National Gallery to National Icon (the then new logo of the National Gallery included) and my own essay on the Mond Bequest. By this time, he had teamed up with Christopher MacLehose and had become at least as much a book designer as printer, working on the design of books for the Harvill Press, including W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants and The Rings of Saturn. I think, but have been unable to verify it – in spite of the huge literature about Sebald – that Mitchell’s typographic style is evident in the layout and visual qualities of Sebald’s books, which, if true, would give Mitchell, alongside Sebald, a form of immortality.

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