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Circle Press ~ England
(Ronald King)

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Circle Press: "CIRCLE PRESS, formed by Ron King in 1967, is both part of a tradition and a breaker of tradition. The stages of its life are marked not only by the individual natures of those whose books and prints it has published but also by the differing character of the decades through which it has passed. … The name Circle Press was chosen by Ron to suggest his vision of a group of like-minded persons working within a shared, supportive framework, a circle which over the period of time has enlarged to include over 100 artists and poet."

Alphabet Books


Antony & Cleopatra
By William Shakespeare.
Guildford, England: 1979. Edition of 300 + 40 proofs.

40 x 32cm. Designed and produced by Ronald King with notes & introductory essay 'The Elusive Absolute' by Keith Please. Text in 10 pt Baskerville. Paper is pure rag-made 250 gsm. Velin Cuve Rives Blanc. 11 eight-page unstitched sections contained in a specially designed canvas cover portfolio. Production involved over 200 hand printings. In beige & blue folding box designed by Paul Haskell.

A beautifully rendered edition of Shakespeare's play with King's own marginal notes and lustrous contemporary illustrations.

Cooking the Books: "Antony & Cleopatra is a departure from King's other illustrated classic texts. He himself likens it to a contemporary film script in that it flits from place to place, the scene rapidly changing from Rome to Egypt and back again. Something of this hectic quality permeates King's imagery. Here is the dangerous red of a stag party to convey Pompey's Roman galley scene, there the crap game through which Antony stands to lose so much. Elsewhere is the Shirt of Nessus, arising out of King's research in Plutarch and other sources, used here in allusion to death, murder, and suicide. The book's presiding mood is flux, the outcome catastrophe.

"Instead of the mask designs which had distinguished
The Prologue and Macbeth, King introduced the shapes of kites into this particular text. Some variant masks still appear – the 'portraits' of Cleopatra, for example, or of Caesar – but the visual drama is mostly provided by kites. On the first double-page, a spear-shaped kite cut-out is glued down over loose ends of rough string protruding from either side. A frieze of writing runs along the bottom of both pages. The next image evokes a soothsayer, with images of palmistry and the zodiac. Two intertwining sinuous lines, one brown and one blue, stand for the respective rivers of Rome and Egypt, the Tiber and the Nile. Later in Act IV at the beginning of Scene 3, what looks like a box kite dangles its ribbons across several lines of text.

"The blue textual notes in King's handwriting enhance the film-script look of these pages. The writing is a commentary on the play by Keith Please …, often in the apparent form of marginalia, like the annotations on a 17th-century manuscript, footnotes as it were to the smallish letterpress text …"

$2,400 (Last Copy)

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Through the years Ronald King has produced several alphabet books in pop-up form. The first was "Scenes from the Alphabet" in 1978. In 2007 he produced three new versions.

Ronald King produced three new double-sided concertina alphabet books in 2007.

Circle Press: "Each is artwork, typographical experiment, and feat of paper engineering. They utilise delightful pop-up techniques in tribute and meditation on the alphabet, the visual DNA of languages...."


little but often
By Ronald King
Richard Price
West Sussex, England: Circle Press, 2007. Edition of 350.

56 pages, 16.5 x 11 cm (6.5 x 4.3"). A red and white double-sided concertina alphabet book with the new miniscules (designed for alphabeta concertina miniscule) combined with Richard Price's poem. Cut and creased onto Heritage Book paper and glued to silk screened Heritage Museum end-boards.

Circle Press: "... a collaboration with poet Richard Price. It pairs King at his most elegantly minimalist and sculptural with a new suite of love poems by Price at his most witty and tender."

Books on Books Collection – Richard Price and Ron King : “little but often plays on the 52 weeks of the year, this time with its front and back covers illustrated with a playing-card suit of hearts, “numbered” a-m and n-z, and with two pages allotted to each week, each letter and each brief poem — as the title says, little but often. … “Of the few other pairs of couplets in the book, none is as back and forth as the letter z’s. Paired against one another, rhyming ab ab, each line beginning alike with its N-z phrase, the two couplets echo the back-to-backness and balance of the dos-à-dos structure. The phrases self-righteous space and tender absence can be read as allusions to the cut-out space around the letters. Or vice versa. Again, back and forth. ‘Angry’ and ‘tender’ bat each other back and forth, just as the final phrase turns the dos-à-dos sweetly back on itself.”

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SOLD / Out of print Items for Circle Press:


By Ronald King
West Sussex, England: Circle Press, 2007. Edition of 500.

56 pages, 16.5 x 11 cm. A red and white double-sided concertina alphabet book of 26 pop-out capital letters. Cut and creased onto Heritage Book paper and glued to silk screened Heritage Museum Board.

Circle Press: "A new version of ALPHABETA CONCERTINA, King's classic capital letter 1983 version, reprised here to correct its long 'out of print' status and updated with newly modified designs for some of the letters."



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alphabeta concertina minuscule
By Ronald King
West Sussex, England: Circle Press, 2007. Edition of 600.

56 pages, 16.5 x 11 cm. Blue and white double-sided concertina alphabet book with 26 pop-out small letters. Cut and creased onto Heritage Book paper and glued to silk screened Heritage Museum end-boards.

Circle Press: "alphabeta concertina minuscule with its gently unfolding letters is in a sense a 'reply' in lower case form to the original 'cap' version published in 1983."



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Anansi Company
By Ron King and Roy Fisher
London: Circle Press, 1992. Edition of 130.

45 x 34 x11cm. Made up of 15 colorful unbound sections with thirteen screen printed removable wire and card puppets. All loosely inserted into card wraparound and held in large colour-blocked solander box. Each book involved over 500 hand workings. Introduction and accompanying verse printed letter-press in 14 & 18 pt Walbaum.

This is the seventh collaboration of King & Fisher. The content was derived from Walter Jekyll's 'Jamaican Song & Story 1907,' a contemporary rendering of some familiar tales central to Caribbean culture, brought by slaves from Africa, concerning Anansi the spiderman and his company of friends.

"The Artist Turns to the Book", " In Anansi Company Ronald King created 13 silk-screened pages featuring large removable puppets. In a format similar to a pop-up book, it enlists viewers' participation. Working with King, Roy Fisher derived the text, written in verse in Jamaican English, from material collected by Walter Jekyll for his book Jamaican Song and Story (English Folklore Society, 1907).

"The bright colors and anthropomorphic animals suggest a lighthearted story, but King uses them here to create a sophisticated underworld with messages about contemporary consumerism, political issues, and deceit."

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Click link for Anansi Company demo by Auckland Libraries


A Book of Postcards
By Sophie Smallhorn
London: Circle Press, 1999. Edition of 1000.

15 x 10 cm (5.9 x 3.9"); 17 leaves. Paper: thick card stock. Concertina structure. Printed offset lithography. Wraparound cover attached to first leaf.

This multicolored concertina book with 17 tear-out postcards featuring colored stripes is a co-publication of Circle Press and artist Sophie Smallhorn. Smallhorn, a British artist specializing in sculptural pieces, studied furniture design at Brighton College and uses colored off-cuts from her designs to create her art.

Sophie Smallhorn: "[My} work explores the relationships between colour, volume, and proportion"


A Book of Postcards book
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The Burning of the Books
A poem sequence by George Szirtes based on Elias Canetti's novel 'Auto da Fé'

illustrated by Ron King.
London: Circle Press, 2008. Edition of 30.
(Editioned copies sold, Artist Proof Copy available)

10.25 x 14"; 15 etchings (13 full page, one double spread, and one quarter page. Text letterpressed printed in Walbaum type from polymer plates. Housed in solander box.

Prospectus: "Back in 1971 Ron King at the press in Guildford tried to obtain permission from the publishers to illustrate Elias Canetti's great novel Auto da Fé. Permission was denied to him, as to all others who had requested it, as the author did not wish his work to be illustrated or made into a play or film. In 1981 the novel won Canetti the Nobel prize for literature but still the writer would not release his tight grip on the copyright. Canetti died in 1994 and ten years later King took it on himself to persuade George Szirtes winner of the Eliot prize for poetry 2004, to make a book with him on the theme of Auto da Fé. Within a short time poem after poem of a powerful sequence directly related to or inspired by his re-reading of the book, the poems living as it were, in the crevices of Canetti's text, arrived at the press from Szirtes."

George Szirtes, Introduction: "The sequence is titled 'The Burning of the Books' since that is what happens at the end of Auto da Fé. The scholar's library burns in anticipation of the Nazi book-burnings to come. The poems are fuel for King's visual symbiotic-organisms, joining them in a mutual homage-cum-conflagration."

The Burning book
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Circus Turn
By Ronald King
London: Circle Press, 1993. Open Edition.

20 x 15cm, with 24 pages embossed onto hand-made paper on an etching press. Six drawings in wire, folded & juxtaposed in sequence make 11 changing circus scenes. In blue paper covered slipcase.

The embossed and debossed images of circus scenes and animals create playful pages.

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Claim Claim Claim
a book of Poems

By Anthony Conran
with six prints by Ronald King
Guildford: Circle Press, 1969. Edition of 250.

30 x 25 cm (11.8 x 9.8"); 60 pages. Six original screen prints. Printed letterpress in 14 pt Modern by Des Jeffery in Suffolk. Printed on Glastonbury Book paper. Sewn into card cover with a green paper wrapper.

Welsh poet Anthony Conran supplies the poetry, Ron King the images.

Ron King, Cooking the Books: "My first collaboration with a contemporary poet whom I met through Ian [Tyson] (after an exhibition at Bangor University where Conran taught)."

We recede from each other. The child distinguishes, the lover withdraws, the man of decision is afraid.
It is twilight. Entropic dusk in the heavens.


Claim Claim Claim book
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Cooking the Books. Ron King and Circle Press
Commentary by Ron King
Essay by Andrew Lambirth
New Haven, Connecticut: Circle Press/Yale Center for British Art, 2002. Unstated.

6 x 9" with 179 pages. In stiff pictorial wraps with inside flaps.

With essay by Andrew Lambirth. Descriptions and Commentary by King. Published on the exhibit of King's work at Yale June 15 - September 8, 2002. Includes an example of his pop-up alphabet with one black letter E. Lots of illustrations and commentary on his work and methods.

A nice presentation of Ron's work and career in fine press and book arts showing his inventive and creative spirit through the years.

Cooking the Books
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Delicious Babies
A poem by Penelope Shuttle
with intaglio designs by Willow Legge
London: Circle Press, 1996. Edition of 85.

30 x 20cm (11.8 x 7.9"); 16 pages. Eight blind-embossed illustrations carved from linoleum. Letterpress printed in blue and red in 12 pt Baskerville. Printed on 250 gsm Somerset rag-made paper. Sewn into a thick card cover with handmade paper wrap-around.

Ron King in Cooking the Books: "Willow [King's wife] heard this poem read by the poet on a radio programme and, obsessed with babies as she is, wrote to the author for permission to illustrate her text. My wife can never resist drawing babies, especially new-born ones, and has modeled and carved them ever since we had our own. Someday, someone perceptive enough will give her a show on the baby theme."

Poem was taken from Taxing the Rain (1992) by Shuttle with the permission of the poet & publisher (Oxford University Press).

Because of spring there are babies everywhere,

sweet or sulky, irascible or full of the milk of human kindness,

Yum, yum! Delicious Babies!


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Heart Book VI
By Ronald King
London: Circle Press, [c. 1996]. Series variant.

7 x 9 x .75"; 78 pages. Altered book. Painted covers. The text block has been cut in a half-heart shape. Signed by King.

Cooking the Books: "A range of Heart Books were made as original items for the V&A [Victoria & Albert] gift shop for Valentine's Day. Discarded books of different size and thickness were cut right through with a jig-saw. Some hearts were hand-painted inside and outside and are removable from the main book block."

This Heart Book uses a discarded Song of Solomon trade edition (Circle Press, 1990) as its base.


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Les Bijoux
By Charles Baudelaire
London: Circle Press, 1996. Second unsigned edition of 75.

7 x 11” closed. Letterpress printed in two colors and "drawn" in wire on blue-black Khadi handmade paper. Board covers and handmade paper wrapper.

With a "free variation" in English by Kenneth White entitled "The Lady of the Jewels." The text of the poem and Ron King's wire-pressed illustrations are printed on alternating panels. The accordion-fold book opens from the top to reveal the translation and images. Then the book opens further, into a triptych in which the bejeweled lady fills the large central panel. Side panels are printed in French and show the reversed images from the English side.

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By William Shakespeare
Guilford, England: Circle Press, 1970. Edition of 150, 15 proofs.

50 x 35 cm, 60 pages in 15 unstitched four page sections. Printed on J. Green mould-made paper. Housed in a natural canvas covered folder and black slipcase. Ten silk screen mask designs, all titled and initialed with the entire text of the play printed letter-press in 14 pt Plantin.

William Shakespeare's tragedy with King's illustrations make a wondrous combination.

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By George Szirtes
London: Circle Press, 2005. Edition of 100.

11.75 x 8.5" 8 pages with foil head shaped insert.

Szirtes' poem reflects on what it will be like to be 98. The poem is accompanied by a reflection by Ron King. The mid section of the book opens to a foil silhouette of a head. An open eye is on the left page which is reflected in the silhouette to show a pair of open eyes. On the right page is a closed eye so that the reflection then shows a pair of closed eyes. The reflecting silhouette is non-gender.

       When I am ninety-eight I shall listen to music
       For a very long time and I will think
       Of your shoulder as you stand in the doorway.

       Whether I will be man or woman then
       Will not matter much because at ninety-eight
       A person's gender is of little importance, ...

Mirrors, by George Szirtes, winner of the Eliott prize 2005, designed and produced by Ron King.
(SOLD/Out of Print)

Mirror book

The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
By Geoffrey Chaucer.
Guilford, England: Circle Press, 1978. Second Edition of 250.

111 x 16"; 72 pages. Letterpress printed in Monotype Plantin seires 110. Printed on paper 190 gsm Queen Anne Antique White. Screenprints printed on Bockingford 190 gsm. Bound in blue cloth with slipcase. Original print of "The Nonne" in separate paper folder.

The original edition of King's "The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales" was first designed and printed in 1966 by the artist for Editions Alecto in a limited edition of 125 unbound books. This was the first publication of Circle Press.

A facsimile edition of 5,000 was printed in 1978 (approximately 1500 copies were rejected due to faulty binding). At the same time 250 copies were set aside to include a newly designed print and specially written poem segregated in a separate folder.

Ronald King, Cooking the Books: "This second edition was produced for Martin Ackerman of Sovereign Arts to be given to colleges and collections across the U.S. The budget was originally set for ordinary four-colour reproduction. I volunteered to produce a facsimile edition in silk screen and letterpress for the same price. Marty was so pleased with the result that extra folders with prints were added to make the production even more special."

Kevin Power, "Introduction" [to this Prologue]: "Ron King's illustrations make no attempt to convey the psychological aspects of each pilgrim but deal with their function in society. He blends symbolism and mediaeval heraldry to give us the mask they wear. It's an intriguing idea to use the African mask since many of its rituals revolve around notions of social balance, of how a person can function both as an individual and as part of a tribal unit. Being a person is also being mystical, being endowed with a rightful thirst for the transcendence of human limitations. The masks set out to maintain the balance between the real and the transcendent. This, indeed, was the aim of the strict hierarchies within Chaucer's own society."

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By King, Ronald
London: Circle Press, 2001. Edition of 50.

33 x 23 x 23 cm., seven-drawer black cabinet.

Designed to celebrate seven generations of printing in the King family.

Case I: "Hole", a bound book with verse, graphics, and history concerning the first three generations and a foreword by George Szirtes (44 pages, signed , 28 x 21 cm).

Case II: "Horse", a double-sided folding print with verse, graphics and history covering the remaining generations (in 16 sections, 71 x 54 cm).

Cases III & IV: Contains two sets of magnetized letters one black (50 magnetized letters reproduced from the original 'found' box of type onto a 10mm base) and one red (60 magnetized letters reproduced).

Case V: Contains a set of rubber-stamp letters (64 rubber-stamp letters cast from the originals and glued to a solid base 16mm high for printing with dye ink or oil paint).

Case VI: A Folding double-sided metal-based display and storage box for use with the magnetized letters.

Case VII: "Hell-box", a folding display box for one of 56 unique montage designs made from left- over material.

Tabernacle book
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The White Alphabet
By Ron King
Guilford, England: Circle Press, 1984. Edition of 150.

5.25 x 11.5" with colophon letter-press in 14 pt Gill Light – 56 pp – 29 x 14 cm in canvas box and slip-case. With title in gilt capital letters across spine.

A double-sided concertina alphabet book, without text, cut onto RWS hand-made paper and bound between inlaid wood boards.

"The elegant simplicity of this work comes about through sophisticated and refined paper engineering that takes subtle heed of texture and tone. Through thoughtful variations on the theme of white paper, King explores the idea of emergent form in its avatar of a sculptured alphabet: this, while three-dimensional, shares with its self-frame a smooth (i.e., worked on), texture that contrasts with the rougher matte of the fuller page background and, ultimately, the deckled - 'unfinished' - lower edge. Two wood covers, sensuous to the touch, call to mind the creation of paper from wood, and are designed, front and back, with forms of positive and negative relationships. Since alphabets ordinarily contrast in color with paper in order for words to be read, through an intriguing irony, the title opens the mind toward appreciating other kinds of contrasts." [Beyond the Text: Artists' Books from the Collection of Robert J. Ruben by Yvonne Korshak and Robert J. Ruben]
(SOLD/Out of Print)

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Page last update: 03.03.2023


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