The Florio Society, Magdalene College, Oxford
book design / illustration / painting
Introduction
The Florio Society of Magdalene College, University of Oxford meets to appreciate its members’ own poems: Anonymous contributions on a set theme are invited, duplicated, circulated at the meeting and read aloud, followed by critical discussion.
I  designed The Florio Society's first anthology, entitled 'Not Altogether Ripe'. The design features original paintings and bespoke hand-drawn ink illustrations. The project is intensely concerned with the interplay between image and type; and with the intersection of literary and visual history.
John Florio was an old member (1553?-1625) of Magdalene College, principally known for his translation of the Essays of Montaigne (1603) and for his Italian dictionary, entitled ‘A Worlde of Wordes’ (1598).
Challenge
The challenges facing us were numerous and vexing: how to communicate the intricacies and complexities of rococo garden design when many people don't even know what the word means? How to capture the 18th century pomp and frivolity of rococo design, but retain broad appeal to a wide-ranging audience base in a digital age.
Original painting 'Unripe'
Acrylic on canvas, 30x40cm
This painting was a visual response to the title and concept of Florio's First Fruits: Not Altogether Ripe . The notion of presenting works of poetry as self-consciously, playfully, even riotously imperfect things (as opposed to the conventional presentation as lustrous, edenic fruits and flowers) had an appealing underdog quality. Being 'not altogether ripe' suggests both under and over-ripeness; both prematurity and decay; coyly unyielding hardness and self-destructively extravagant excess. These are the two poles which all nervous, tentative poets oscillate between in their self-conception, and there is something joyously grounded in recognising this so brazenly in the title and visual styling of a collective anthology. 

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