As celebrations marking 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare continue throughout 2016, new artists’ books inspired by the Bard have also been appearing.

For the Well Said! exhibition at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theatre in Stratford upon Avon, Harrington & Squires have create a large-scale, letterpress printed book. Inspired by a quote from The Winter’s Tale selected by writer Jeanette Winterson, the book is on display until 18 September.

At Liverpool’s Central Library, 40 artists are participating in Shakespeare Now! curated by Simon Ryder and on display until 31 July. An exhibition of sculptural book art, installations, unique and editioned bookworks, it is accompanied by a two-day artists’ book fair at the same venue on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July.

Artists’ books exploring Shakespearean themes were selected for the exhibition from Australia, Germany, Russia, The Netherlands, USA, and across the UK. American artist Erin K. Schmidt created a new publication, What News, a flag book inspired by Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

As with all of Schmidt’s work, this book has been beautifully crafted to deliver a subtle yet unsettling message. A peaceful, central scene of a deserted canal in Venice is overlapped with fragments of imagery from Tubal and Shylock’s dialogue in Act 3, Scene 1, represented here as one unknown character’s thoughts and speech as they desperately search for an unidentified female.

Admirers of Schmidt’s books will already know that she has a knack for creating leading narratives that wind their way dreamily through the pages to slowly reveal the uncanny. She delves into the human psyche, exploring the ways in which we live and interact with each other and how our frailties as humans always come to the surface.

Presentation of her message is everything, from the gossamer thin organza pages of Telling Time (about the cruelty of Alzheimer’s) to the dainty peepholes and fairy tale bird silhouettes in The Dovecote (deservedly shortlisted for the 2015 Sheffield International Artist’s Book Prize). I am sure Shakespeare would have approved.

Erin K. Schmidt’s books can be found on the whnicPRESS table at Liverpool Artists’ Book Fair, Friday 8 and Saturday 9 July 2016

1. A Winter’s Tale, unique, letterpress printed (wood and metal type) artist’s book by Harrington & Squires, 2016. Photo: Harrington & Squires
2. What News, Erin K. Schmidt, 2016. Flag book, edition of 20. Photo: Erin K. Schmidt
3. Telling Time, Erin K. Schmidt, 2014. edition of 12. Photo: Erin K. Schmidt
4. The Dovecote, Erin K. Schmidt, 2014. edition of 20. Photo: Erin K. Schmidt

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