Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood

Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood

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Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood £45.00
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Ness by Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood

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A brand new book from Robert Macfarlane and Stanley Donwood, exclusively available through Caught by the River and in a limited edition of 525 copies. Please note that sales are restricted to one per customer.

Please also note that this is a pre-order, and whilst we fully expect orders of Ness to be sent out in time for Christmas, we cannot - quite - guarantee it, as we don't yet have a firm completion date from the printers.

What would it look like if land came to life?

Somewhere on an untrue island of shingle and hares and migrant birds, inside a decaying concrete structure known as The Green Chapel, a nuclear ritual is underway.

But crossing land, sea and time to converge on The Green Chapel are five more-than-human forces – she, he, it, they and as – who are set on preventing the ritual reaching its end.

Look – here she comes, her skin is lichen & her flesh is moss & her bones are fungi, she breathes in spores & she moves by hyphae.

Look – here he comes, his bones are willow & he sings in birds, and in anger he speaks only in swifts. Look – here it comes, it is drift, it has cuttlefish nails & sea-poppy horns, it breathes in rain & it breathes out rust.

Look – here they come, their eyes are hagstones & they are shingle beings, sending flints through time to foretell their seeings.

Look – here as comes, existing only as likeness, moving as mist & also as metal, the strangest & youngest & oldest of all of the five.

Ness is a prose-poem-mystery-play for the Anthropocene. Ness is Gawain and the Green Knight for the atomic age. Ness is to be spoken aloud, sung, staged. Ness is a black mass for dark times.

The image at the core of Ness is the ‘hagstone’ – a flint with a natural hole through it. In folklore across Europe, to look through such a stone is to see into the future or the past – or through the veil. Ness holds a hagstone up to the present moment, giving a glimpse both of our profoundly disturbed current predicament and the deep time that enfolds us.

Ness is published in a limited letterpress edition of 525 copies by Quive-Smith Press, containing twelve original drawings by Stanley Donwood. The lead type was cast especially for this edition. Ness was printed by Richard Lawrence in his workshop, and bound by the Green Street Bindery of Oxford. Ness has taken three years to make and can only be ordered via Caught by the River.

So – come take a trip to the nuclear beach.


Large royal octavo format, 10 3/4 x 6 3/4 inches.

100 gsm Zerkall Smooth mould-made paper supplied by John Purcell Papers.

Printed letterpress on a 1958 Original Heidelberg Cylinder machine at Hurst Street Studios, Oxford.

Keyboarded by Richard Lawrence on a Monotype pneumatic keyboard and cast by David Bolton on a Monotype composition caster in 14 point Bembo, a type design deriving from a fifteenth-century model. Letterpress carbon black ink supplied by Cranfield Inks.

Sewn in sections and hardbound by Green Street Bindery, Oxford.