Hortus in “Pressing Matters”

There are so many, very serious, pressing matters right now and I am inclined to feel that art is not one of them. However, a big thankyou to John from the lovely print magazine “Pressing Matters”  for his inclusion of a piece about the odd little “Hortus Medicus” pamphlet I printed at LetterpressAmsterdam with master printer Thomas Gravemaker.

It was made with a very satisfying mix of traditional and digital methods and would not have been possible without Thomas’ expert help and ingenious solutions for some of the very tricky problems. We made it in 4 days.


This little snippet from the article explains:

In essence it is a folded 6 page pamphlet describing the uses of 7 “Janus” medicinal herbs; herbs that may kill or cure. 

The main spread displays 7 apothecary bottles with spiraling fumes.

Each bottle contains text from classic herbals (Gerard and Culpeper) detailing the “positive” properties of the herbs.The fumes contain the names of the herbs and, in a warning red, some of the not-so-positive attributes.

The second spread opens to perforated “seed sticks” complete with real seeds to enable you to start your own dangerous garden. They are rooted with the letter “S” into a soil bed of wavy brass rule.  

Should you scroll down on the homepage of Pressing Matters you will come to my hands as a background to the text. I was positioning the paper on the press. It made me laugh because, despite what the text says, it was a rare occasion when my hands were actually clean.  Because of course I was handling beautiful and expensive printmaking paper!

I have written about the work on this piece before here: Hortus Medicus Seed Book. It was a fascinating experience and one where we had to think quickly and creatively to produce this quite complicated project in such a limited time.

In the original post I had not included the roughs, but it is interesting in retrospect to look at what I had in mind and how it eventually turned out.

Below are some of the many calculations and planning stages  involved in making even a simple thing like this!


First rough design and proof of the gablestone design.


Text positioning and markups for the apothecary bottle shapes and proofing the text which makes up the “fumes”.

And a couple of shots from one of the final versions.


You can buy the magazine in either paper or digital form. Here: https://www.pressingmattersmag.com/buy-mag
Thanks again and good on you all at Pressing Matters for getting this mag produced and distributed in these difficult times!

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