Lockdown and the final New Arcadian Journals

Lockdown forced me to confront the mountain range of boxes that stored forty years of busy-ness by the New Arcadian Press. They bulged with all the stuff from which I’d created 53 journals, 70 broadsheets and umpteen cards, books, prints and ephemera. After publishing each edition I’d squirrel everything away and briskly move on to the next. Imagine the intoxication of surprising re-discoveries – of manually cut-and-pasted camera-ready artwork from the analogue olden days, of A6 mock-ups for sown-in-section journals, of original drawings (on paper and card, and as scraperboards and lino engravings) and all the letters, yes, letters – both handwritten and typed (on typewriters that left the impression of letter keys in the page). Most of all, I was surprised by the amount of material generated through my friendship with Ian Hamilton Finlay.

Archiving has become such a pleasurably overwhelming addiction that, after nineteen months, I’ve had to postpone the NAP’s 40th birthday journal till next year. Prior to Lockdown, I’d begun to think that I might have pulled up the stumps on the NAJ. So another surprise was that material for at least three new editions sprung out of the boxes:

The first, NAJ 77/78, Atlantic Flowers (2022), offers fresh insights into the poetic gardening of Finlay at Little Sparta – by acknowledging that the warship sculptures are simultaneously naval memorials. This little known and almost private theme is explored from the first commemorative print and sculptural maquette (1972) to the cluster of works (1999-2001) that culminate in the monumental Camouflaged Flowers, an epic composition of garden and landscape, planting and sculpture, weather and seasons (animated by leaf, blossom and berries).

Another, NAJ 79/80, will mark the cultural warfare integral to Finlay’s practice (working title: Virtuous Gardening: Little Sparta at War and the Lost Parisian Gardens). I was reminded that I was part of the delegation to the French Embassy when the commission to commemorate the bicentenary of the French Revolution was sabotaged. I was also reminded of the First Battle of Little Sparta, which would be hailed as heroic performance art had it not been ‘fought’ against the local authority’s bailiffs supported by the police. The battle monument at Little Sparta will be among the features. Finlay had immediately sent me a copy of Nicholas Sloan’s drawing of the initial version (funded by donations from supporters). Later he sent Ian Appleton’s drawing when I published the ironic ‘Third Reich Revisited’ in NAJ 15 (1984). ‘Arcadian Shepherds’ was the photograph I used as the centrespread for NAJ 23 (1986). It was posed by Finlay after the Poussin painting, Et in Arcadia Ego, and photographed by Andrew Griffiths.

A third, NAJ 81/82, will reflect on the four decades of the New Arcadian Journal. It will also catalogue and reproduce all of the seventy numbered broadsheets (working title: Panegyricks and Pasquinades: A Catalogue of the New Arcadian Broadsheets, 1981-2011). The broadsheets were published between 1981 and 2011 as companions to the NAJs. There will be commentaries by Patrick Eyres and an essay by Wendy Frith.

Patrick Eyres, November 2021 / June 2023