Jerusalem Press was founded in July 2007 with the remit to publish the work of artists and writers in limited edition books and fine print editions of the highest quality. We interviewed Jerusalem Press director Stephen Pochin, who is a writer, curator and publisher. Stephen curated the Austin Osman Spare retrospective Fallen Visionary at the Cuming Museum in 2012. He has contributed to Two Grimoires (2011) by Starfire Publishing, and authored two books on Spare’s wider context in Edwardian culture, Evolution 1: From Influx to Automatic Drawing (2008) Evolution 2: A Fiery Asymmetry (20012) both published by Mandrake Press. He is currently preparing a new exhibition on Spare.
Watkins: When did you set up Jerusalem Press and what is your specialised field?
Stephen Pochin: We started in 2007 when the opportunity presented itself to republish The Book of Pleasure with a new introduction by Alan Moore. The Book of Pleasure was delayed so I could prepare the curation for the Cuming Museum’s retrospective of Austin Osman Spare, Fallen Visionary (2010) which gathered momentum and inevitably took precedence. As we were also publishing the catalogue we retained the original, more positive, working title ‘Cockney Visionary’. This became our inaugural publication and accordingly announced us more as an art publisher rather than specifically an occult imprint. We were regaled with offers of artwork loans from collectors and able to elicit contributions from all those presently involved in writing and publishing on Austin Spare. It’s a slim hardback for £60 but has lots of new content regarding Spare’s London. Crucially (justifying the price) it also comes with a wonderful documentary produced as a labour of love and offered to the exhibition by Richard Millington (who was then a student and is now at the BBC). This component proved a god-send during the final weekend when the exhibition was overwhelmed by visitors and the museum had to stagger entry and set up a waiting room; those waiting were treated to the film. The interest garnered by the exhibition and its coverage at the end of its run by the BBC’s Culture Show helped to increase sales and establish our email subscriber list. I had previously undertaken a Fine Art degree and Electronic Graphics MA (producing photomontage), and for a time strove to be a self-sufficient artist. I’ve since been cured of this delusion. Instead, I’ve come to find putting my energies into researching, curating and writing about other lesser known artists more compelling; more rewarding too.
W: What inspired you to enter the publishing industry, and what are the objectives you have envisioned for Jerusalem Press?
SP: Although we love the publications from previous decades concerning Spare, the feeling persisted that there might be more to study, more story to tell and somewhere perhaps more art to reproduce. Once our research paid off on this inkling, with private collections and primary material revealed to us, it seemed the most obvious recourse was simply to self-publish.
W: Most of your titles are about Austin Spare. How did your passion for his art and philosophy first arise?
SP: I’ve always been attracted to the margins of culture, whether that be art or music, cinema or literature. That’s where the truly fascinating, undiluted and corrosive expression resides. It was via cd sleeves by Coil and John Zorn that I first got an idea that Spare was out there under the radar of the canon of official British art.
W: You also publish deluxe editions for your titles, which we love, but considering how the e-market has impacted the book trade, are they justifiable? What is your client response?
SP: They are utterly justifiable due to the fact that the pre-sale of 100 deluxes is pivotal to financing the complete print-run. This provides enough standard copies for international sales and to our US distribution, ensuring a reasonable shelf-life in many bookshops. Our core purchasers are those that have collected talismanic books and we’ve become established off the back of that trend with similar short run deluxes with high production values. It is hoped the standard versions will be discovered by, and affordable to, the next generation of inquisitive reader who is not content to celebrate the mediocrity of the mainstream booklists or potted history served up in art curriculums.
W: Can you share with us any future projects you are working on?
SP: Our fixation continues to be firmly upon Austin Osman Spare with a few more choice items in preparation. But we ultimately wish to diversify. We have lots of material on Frederick Carter and hope to convey his achievement as a printmaker, painter and writer to a wider audience. There’s also a project on Sidney Sime currently on the back-burner too.