The New Arcadians - The New Arcadian Press

'The Writer in the Garden', British Library exhibition, London 2004–2005

The New Arcadian Press publications are distinguished by the quality of their design, which cleverly integrates text and image, and by the thought provoking nature of their content. The aim of the Press to generate a continuous programme of artistic, scholarly and poetic research into cultural landscape is successfully fulfilled in its historical appraisals of gardens, parks and estates, and in its more lyrical or polemical contemporary response to a more general sense of 'place'.

The New Arcadian Press publishes the annual limited edition New Arcadian Journal (NAJ) and its accompanying broadsheets. The NAJ is the unique fine press hybrid that combines art and scholarship to emphasise the landscape garden as a work of art and a site of intellectual engagement. Although the NAJ primarily investigates the cultural politics of historical landscapes (architecture, gardens, monuments, sculpture), it also exploresthe garden works of contemporary artists (especially Ian Hamilton Finlay) and has been known to celebrate the poetics of 'place'. Over the years the NAJ has made a significant contribution to debates about garden history, and has also been the catalyst to the re-interpretation and even conservation of endangered landscapes. The broadsheets are text-image prints published as serial pages of a Book-in-Progress. Overprinted onto the press's A4 letterhead paper, these numbered broadsheets comprise pithy comments upon the cultural and political environment, and are variously commemorative, lyric, whimsical or polemic.

Jack Chesterman, 'The New Arcadian Press', Parenthesis [Journal of the Fine Press Book Association], no 6 (August 2001)

The New Arcadian Press has through its Journals and Broadsheets produced a remarkable body of work which enables us to see our man-made and natural landscapes with new eyes and insights… The New Arcadian Journals are witness to the fact that when a generosity of co-participation occurs, remarkable fusions of concept and outcome can result… The external appearance of the New Arcadian Journals and Broadsheets is one of quiet and simple elegance. Text and imagery comfortably occupy unfussy layouts. Tricksy typography and self-conscious design are nowhere in evidence and the material properly speaks more loudly than its presentation.

The New Arcadian Press flourishes under the direction of Patrick Eyres, who has benefited from the 'invisible' support of Wendy Frith (copy editor) and Chris Broughton (bromides and digitised imagery). Between 1981 and 1987 the press was known as New Arcadians. The co-founders were Patrick Eyres, Ian Gardner and Grahame Jones. Between 1981 and 1986 Eyres and Gardner co-edited a range of publications that were produced alongside the quarterly journal (broadsheets, cards, small books, print folios and exhibition posters). The journal was successively titled New Arcadians (1981–1983), New Arcadians' Journal(1984–1986) and, from 1987, the New Arcadian Journal which, in 1988, became the annual edition.

Tom Williamson, 'Arcadian Greens Rural', The Follies Journal, no. 3 (Winter 2003)

The New Arcadian Journal … looks like a limited-edition fine art book, with striking illustrations and stylish print face … is refreshing and exciting … [and] belies a content more firmly rooted in the normal conventions of academia … Each of the articles is well written, informative and original … slightly quirky, erudite and fresh … Particular praise must go to the artists whose line drawings - original, usually informative, sometimes evocative, occasionally just odd - help to give the volume its distinctive feel … The editor's evident enthusiasm for strongly themed, coherent volumes also marks the NAJ out clearly from most academic journals … The New Arcadian Journal is a good read and is a stimulating experience.

The title 'New Arcadian' was coined to intimate a contemporary engagement with landscape, especially the landscape garden, and to compliment Ian Hamilton Finlay's Little Sparta (the name he conferred on his garden at Stonypath in 1980). Ian Gardner, who had long been one of Finlay's collaborators, introduced Eyres to the poet at Little Sparta, c. 1978. This meeting established the lifelong affinity that led Finlay in 1999 to ask Eyres to become a member of the Little Sparta Trust (the charity that seeks to conserve the garden in perpetuity). The NAJ has featured numerous works by and about Finlay and, throughout the 1980s, championed his cause during the Little Spartan and other Wars. The Finlay tribute edition of the NAJ was published in 2007, the year after his death, and focused on his permanent landscape installations in the UK, mainland Europe and the USA.

From Jennifer Potter, 'New Arcadian Journal', The Times Literary Supplement (31 October 2008)

One of three co-founders and now sole editor and publisher, Patrick Eyres has stamped his personality on the feisty, visually distinctive and intellectually robust New Arcadian Journal, which takes as its primary battleground the cultural politics of eighteenth-century historical landscapes, and especially their man-made iconography. Adding a modern resonance are disquisitions on garden works by contemporary artists, notably the late Scottish garden-maker, artist and concrete poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay …

Originally a quarterly, NAJ has evolved into a compact double issue around a single theme, published annually in a numbered edition limited to 300 copies. Image and text confidently complement each other, from the bright, single-colour covers and contrasting flyleaves, to the starkly black-and-white illus­trations in a variety of styles that happily mix pointillist bird's-eye panoramas (by Chris Broughton); fluid, John Piperesque line drawings of structures, foliage and occasional interiors (by Catherine Aldred); rapid architectural doodles (by Mark Stewart); carefully observed statues (by the sculpture conservator, Andrew Naylor); and vignettes of (preferably salacious) art and architecture by Howard Eaglestone, who lists his interests as "sex, shipping and gliders". These and other artworks proclaim NAJ's core qualities: eclectic, obsessive, bellicose (war planes flying low over Georgian statuary is a very New Arcadian image), and refreshingly original in its determination to offer a modern and highly particular reading of old landscapes. Even vanished garden layouts are redrawn afresh.

Sex and gardens is a recurring theme, most obviously in the millennium issue (2000, volume 49/50), 'Gardens of Desire', which took as its focus Sir Francis Dashwood's notoriously licentious landscapes at West Wycombe and neighbouring Medmenham Abbey, eschewing straight garden history for a more embattled engagement with "the sexuality of the Georgian garden and the variety of positions offered by … 'laddish' modes of interpretation". Prompted by the architectural historian Dan Cruikshank's challenge to the National Trust to stop sanitizing its Georgian gardens, Patrick Eyres set the tone in his editorial: pugnacious polemic underpinned by rigorous scholarship. Two contributors then played around with this theme: first, the clever and laddish Richard Wheeler, who used his long experience as National Trust regional land agent to unearth antecedents at Stowe for Dashwood's bawdy garden features, among them a Mound of Venus "quite biological in its architectural detail". Next came the perceptive and determinedly unlad-dish cultural historian Wendy Frith, who introduced the wider backdrop of eighteenth-century sexual politics, which saw aristocratic excess increasingly challenged by bourgeois moderation. Howard Eaglestone reconstructed with relish the lost Medmenham statues, while Andrew Naylor injected a professional conservator's view on the reclamation of Georgian lead sculpture, originally painted to resemble marble, in an appendix entitled 'Upgrading Erections'.

The current issue (2008, volume 63/64) returns to the journal's Yorkshire roots and the Georgian Landscape of Wentworth Castle, under restoration as a "major site of Georgian political and aesthetic modernity; indeed, as a national treasure". Eyres likes nothing better than a good scrap, and at Wentworth the rivalry was familial as well as political, concerning a disputed inheritance and subsequent skirmishing … between the neighbouring estates of Wentworth Castle and Wentworth Woodhouse. As a mark of NAJ's continuing interest in the restoration, Eyres introduces multiple viewpoints from six different contributors (including himself), who combine the journal's familiar polemic with a more traditional exposition of early eighteenth-century wildernesses by the aca­demic and landscape design consultant, Jan Woudstra …

But NAJ's survival is a tribute to Eyres's energy and confidence in his own vision. Now into its second quarter century, the New Arcadian Journal has found its place in the literary landscape, and made us all the richer.

By Patrick Eyres

Select Bibliography

  • Rob Powell, 'Two Faced Gardens', May in Yorkshire (Y.A.A., May 1981).
  • Derek Linstrum, 'Paradise in Perspective', Yorkshire Post (8 June 1981).
  • Marion Lawson, 'The Genius of the Place', Glasgow West End Times (11 September 1981).
  • Stephen Bann, 'About Gardens: A New Anglo-Scottish Poetics', Urbi (Autumn 1983).
  • Bill Oliver, 'Spell of Garden Without Walls', Yorkshire Post (19 May 1984).
  • Bill Mitchell, 'Three Seasons in Classic Wharfedale', The Dalesman (October 1984).
  • Frances Spalding, 'Arcadian Egos', Harpers & Queen (March 1986).
  • Bill Oliver, 'Return to Arcadia', Yorkshire Post (25 August 1986).
  • Eileen Stamers-Smith, 'Rousham and Studley Royal & Hackfall', Garden History Society News, no. 18 (1986).
  • Eileen Stamers-Smith, 'New Arcadian Journal', Garden History Society News, no. 21 (1987).
  • Stephen Bann, 'The Garden and the Visual Arts in the Contemporary Period: Arcadians, Post-Classicists and Land Artists', in Monique Mosser and Georges Teyssot (eds), The History of Garden Design: The Western Tradition from the Renaissance to the Present Day (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991).
  • Patrick Eyres, 'Desktop and the Private Press', Antiquarian Books Monthly (October 1991).
  • Pat Lee, 'Digging Deep into Gardeners' Worlds', Yorkshire Post (3 January 1992).
  • Eileen Stamers-Smith, 'The Wentworths', Garden History Society News, no. 36 (1992).
  • Patrick Eyres, 'The First Decade', PALPI [Poetry & Little Press Information], no. 30 (1992).
  • Stephen Bending, 'The Wentworths', Journal of Garden History, vol. 13, nos. 1/2, (1993).
  • Christopher Ridgway, 'Castle Howard', Yorkshire Archaeological Society Journal, vol. 65, (1993).
  • Katherine Swift, 'A Cajun Chapbook', Antiquarian Books Monthly (December 1993).
  • Patrick Eyres, 'The New Arcadian Press, Howard Eaglestone, Patrick Eyres and Wendy Frith', Sixteen: Work by Staff in the Department of Advanced Studies, Bradford Gallery (Bradford: School of Art & Design, Bradford College, 1995).
  • Peter Inch, 'Signifying Landscapes: The New Arcadian Press', Yorkshire Journal (November 1995).
  • Colin Young, 'The New Arcadian Journal', Landscape Issues (November 1995).
  • Andrew Welch, 'Naumachia', The Naval Review (July 1996).
  • Andrew Mead, 'The New Arcadian Journal', The Architect's Journal (4 June 1998).
  • Anna Pavord, 'Arcadia Becomes a Car Park', The Independent (25 July 1998).
  • Stewart Harding, 'Four Purbeck Arcadias', Garden History Society News, no. 54 (1998).
  • A.F. 'The Hall of Mirrors', Review of Scottish Culture, no. 12 (1999–2000).
  • Peter Hayden, 'The Hall of Mirrors', Garden History Society News, no. 58 (2000).
  • Jack Chesterman, 'The New Arcadian Press', Parenthesis [Journal of the Fine Press Book Association], no 6 (2001).
  • Tom Williamson. 'Arcadian Greens Rural', The Follies Journal, no. 3 (2003).
  • Patrick Eyres, 'On Site Specificity and Storytelling', Arcadia Id Est: Artists' Books, Nature and The Landscape (Bristol: Impact Press, University of the West of England, 2005).
  • Jennifer Potter, 'New Arcadian Journal', The Times Literary Supplement (31 October 2008).

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