Second Round: The Voyage of Máel Dúin's Boat

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Second Round: The Voyage of Máel Dúin's Boat

okt 24, 2022, 2:29 am

The Voyage of Máel Dúin's Boat

Immram Curaig Maíldúin is a medieval Irish folktale that tells of a remarkable voyage through islands of wonder and horror. It exists in both prose and poem forms. One modern rendering is available here - It would be wonderful to see this rendered in the original Middle Irish on the left page (source text from the Yellow Book of Lecan) and in translation on the right. Plenty of material for striking illustrations as well.

This proposal received 50 yes votes in the first round.

The proposer has been notified of this discussion thread, and may receive help or advice in expanding the proposal.

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 9:16 am

Thank you all for the chance to expand this proposal. Here are further details of how I envision this book, but I greatly appreciate your feedback in shaping this to be the best it can.

In terms of composition the book would be printed with the original Middle Irish text and the translation in parallel. For ease of reading it might make sense to have the translation in the upper half of the page, and the original text in the lower half, though I am fine with having those positions swapped if it makes more sense.

Illustrations should be copious if budget allows. I would like to see each unique island along the voyage illustrated, plus illustrations of the boat and crew at the start and end of the journey. A strong black-and-white art style, such as those seen in engravings or woodcuts, is preferred. Illustrations would be printed recto to the corresponding text verso.

Typographically it would be good to use a typeface with a medieval flavor. While Uncial is an obvious choice for a period Irish text, I understand it is not everyone's cup of tea, so I would appreciate hearing other suggestions as well.

Another design element that would benefit from some debate are the inks. I think it might be pleasing to print the translated text in a dark green ink, and the original text in dark orange, but understand this might seem gimmicky to some. So feedback on that is welcome too, as well as other suggestions. I do think it's useful to distinguish the two blocks (besides the obvious whitespace between them), and I do find the use of colored inks pleasing in the right situation.

It would be great if the book could be laid out using the Van de Graaf canon, echoing the beautiful book designs of the era.

Finally, the cover could evoke the feel of the story with a canvas spine (like sailcloth) and woodgrained leather or even wood boards (like the boat's hull).

Ideally the book would have either a forward or afterword written by a scholar of Middle Irish literature, giving the work context and detailing some of the symbolism and import of the work. I would be happy to reach out to some candidates for this should the work progress any further through the selection process.

EDIT: Just realised I said nothing about paper. Handmade or mouldmade paper is strongly preferred. One with some texture to it, continuing the feel of medieval technique and the age of the work, would be best. The type should have a solid bite, increasing the tactility of the work. A deckled edge would be lovely, too.

okt 24, 2022, 9:48 am

>2 Shadekeep:

Put me firmly in the camp AGAINST a bilingual edition with the original Middle Irish text on verso page and modern English translation on the recto page. In general, I hate this idea and the only works of literature I find this interesting and useful are those whose original form of English bear more than a passing resemblance to modern English, e.g., Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Adding a language that is truly foreign - and Middle Irish may as well be in Latin or Greek as far as I am concerned - adds absolutely nothing to my reading enjoyment. No one other than an Irish scholar or perhaps someone from the Western part of Ireland where the Irish language still prevails, can properly pronounce these words and whatever poetic element its inclusion might have is totally lost for me. It is not an enhancement, it is a reading distraction. Additionally, it needlessly doubles the size of the text and greatly increases the cost of production, money far better spent on illustrations, quality of paper and binding materials, etc.

Great selection of literature, bad idea (bilingual) for a Consensus Press edition.

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 10:21 am

>2 Shadekeep: I am very pleased to see this in the final round!

As far as translation, how would you feel about the text simply being embellished with select passages in Middle Irish rather than the full text running throughout?

I like your illustration concept, but would also love to see some medieval manuscript-style decoration and perhaps a splash of hand illumination.

Very exciting ideas!

okt 24, 2022, 10:07 am

>4 NathanOv:


Did you mean "embellished"?

okt 24, 2022, 10:20 am

>5 dlphcoracl: Ha! Clearly my thumbs are a little too big to be responding to these from my phone.

okt 24, 2022, 10:38 am

>3 dlphcoracl: Fair dues. As a medievalist I have a tendency to want to preserve the original, but you raise a good point that it's likely to be of little value to most readers. I would be fine with its omission if the consensus leans that way. In all honesty I can't read Middle Irish myself, except for those bits where I happen to have some pidgin understanding of it.

>4 NathanOv: Great idea! Some borders and illuminated capitals would be sublime. And the odd excerpting of the original text as a flourish is a really nice notion too. Perhaps as captions to the illustrations?

okt 24, 2022, 10:44 am

>3 dlphcoracl: I agree that a bilingual version would be of little interest to me. I can see its value for a scholarly edition but for this audience I don't think it adds anything. And as noted in >3 dlphcoracl: the space and cost savings can be applied to other aspects of the book.

okt 24, 2022, 11:13 am

Put me in the pro-bilingual camp. I suppose I won't actually learn Irish at this point in my life, but I have been enriched in even languages I don't really read independently (Greek. I mean Greek.) by having the facing page I can refer to and start to puzzle along with. And of course in languages I do read competently but not fluently it's a natural way to go back and forth, and so having it available feels familiar to me, and it is a way of getting closer to the author and to the milieu of the text.

I think the text in question isn't so long that we'd be blowing the cost out of all proportion to have the Irish in, right? Doubling the page count (effectively) isn't insignificant, and typesetting in Irish is presumably an extra challenge to a non-reader of the language, but it's not like a facing-page Iliad in scope.

okt 24, 2022, 12:21 pm

>9 Didici: Correct, the original text is not especially lengthy. And depending on the original version chosen (and the translation thereof), having both texts on the same page in upper-lower format could naturally break up the text itself into logical segments. It would be useful to compare it both ways. Ultimately though I think it would be best to poll the group to see the overall preference for and against both languages. It's possible you and I are in a minority of the "linguistically curious". ^_^

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 12:22 pm

>7 Shadekeep: Captions could certainly work! I was also recently looking at a book (the title now escapes me) that was "illustrated" with facsimile pages from the original illuminated manuscript, which would of course be in the original language.

I am not sure if such pages are publicly available for Mael Duin, but recreations of select manuscript pages in the original Irish might be another option.

okt 24, 2022, 12:30 pm

>11 NathanOv: The original texts are sourced from The Yellow Book of Lecan and Lebor na huidre (The Book of the Dun Cow). I believe it would be possible to obtain reasonable facsimiles from either. These could be nice in the scholarly afterward, with at least one showing a page of the original text.

okt 24, 2022, 1:46 pm

>10 Shadekeep: Absolutely, haha. Certainly I appreciate the point from everyone here who says they'd get nothing out of it and think it's a valid perspective, and I'm glad we have this process to take the group's temperature.

okt 24, 2022, 2:58 pm

I would definitely be happy with Maíldúin, but count me in the group who'd rather drop the Irish text for upgrades to the rest of the package :)

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 3:08 pm

Apologies for butting in shadekeep, but maybe a poll would be good:

Rösta: Would you prefer a bilingual edition with the Irish, if it meant a significant increase in price?

Nuvarande ställning: Ja 11, Nej 26

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 3:15 pm

>15 grifgon: What would the actual increase in page count be? What’s the word count for the translation? Does Middle Irish translate nearly one-to-one with English such that we might experiment with ways to present the original language in manners other than purely set-off?

Are all questions I’d like to know the answer to, if anyone knows!

okt 24, 2022, 3:20 pm

>16 jordanxn: Totally back of envelope, so I may be off, but from what I see the text in translation is ~10,000 words in English. Assuming 250 words per page, that's 40 pages. So the book goes from ~40 to ~80 pages, discounting front/end matter and illustrations. Depending on paper, colors, and edition size that could be anywhere between a $100 to $250 difference per copy.

okt 24, 2022, 3:20 pm

>2 Shadekeep: "It would be great if the book could be laid out using the Van de Graaf canon, echoing the beautiful book designs of the era."

I most heartily agree! That is perfect.

okt 24, 2022, 3:26 pm

Thanks for the poll Griffon. Instead of adding space and cost to the translation, I would love to see that capacity go towards really excellent handmade paper with some heft to it and a slightly larger font printed with space to breathe.

okt 24, 2022, 3:29 pm

>17 grifgon: Good to know. I must admit, I like a book with a little more heft to it than 40 pages, so that also me biases me toward inclusion.

okt 24, 2022, 3:52 pm

>15 grifgon: Ach, thank you grifgon! I've just spent 30 minutes trying to set up an online poll with various vendors, and totally forgot this was built into LT! Much appreciated.

Here's a quick second poll as well, also with final cost impacts.

Rösta: Would you like the book to have wooden covers?

Nuvarande ställning: Ja 8, Nej 13, Tvekar 6
I still picture the spine being canvas regardless of the cover materials.

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 4:12 pm

>21 Shadekeep: I love wood covers in theory, but the ones on my Old Stile Press “Dreamsong” and on the Folio “Aurora Australis” haven’t quite lived up to expectations.

If wood, I’d like to see something much thinner than those with less polish and tendency to scratch, but more grain / character.

okt 24, 2022, 4:28 pm

>22 NathanOv: I like the wood veneer(?) on the LEC Origin of Species

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 4:55 pm

>3 dlphcoracl:
Fair points, but I like having original language text included, even if I cannot read it properly. I have examples I enjoy for Beowulf, Sir Gawain, Epicurus, Canterbury Tales, Homer, Anglo Saxon Elegies, etc. I feel that it connects the translation, and my reading of it, to the original work/author/time/place at an emotional level, in ways that the translation alone does not. Also, something in me rebels at the sense that the translation becomes the "real" work, leaving the original as a mere curiosity. For example (extreme, but still), reading Pope's Homer is so dramatically its own separate thing, that it feels better to have a touchstone to the original, however illusory.
Perhaps illogical, but I don't feel the same way about translations from living languages: I don't really want to clutter my reading experience with facing Russian, Italian, French, etc.

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 5:06 pm

>24 kermaier: Ari I'm going to tell my French-, Italian-, Russian-, and English-speaking partner that you referred to her other languages as "clutter".

😂 😂 😂 (kidding obviously)

okt 24, 2022, 5:07 pm

>25 grifgon: Once they've fallen out of speaking fashion, they'll be promoted to the status of valuable historical artifacts. ;-)

okt 24, 2022, 5:10 pm

>26 kermaier: That sounds like an argument for stocking up on them now while they're still widely available, then!

Redigerat: okt 24, 2022, 5:11 pm

okt 24, 2022, 7:13 pm

>21 Shadekeep: another option to consider might be in the style of a medieval codex with pigskin over wooden boards. As shown here:

okt 24, 2022, 7:21 pm

Or, alternatively, what about something like full canvas or sailcloth over wooden boards, but in a style like the above pigskin binding? I think that would look and feel quite dramatic, especially with some weight in the wooden boards. It would be unique, reflect an aspect of the story, and possibly keep costs down by avoiding leather.

okt 24, 2022, 8:20 pm

>30 abysswalker: I like that idea! Full sailcloth over wooden boards, with the title and possibly an ornamental motif dyed or painted into the cloth. That could be really attractive, thank you!

okt 24, 2022, 9:03 pm

A clarification - the use of the Van de Graaf canon should be in the Tschichold page ratio (2:3) for maximum harmony and beauty.

okt 26, 2022, 10:02 am


TEXT: At the moment "no bilingual edition" is leading the voting, so the proposal is based on just the translated version, plus hopefully an afterword written by a scholar of Middle Irish literature. grifgon has estimated the text itself to be around 40 printed pages, while the afterword would ideally be in the 6-8 page range, and the illustrations should take 8-12 pages. So the ballpark length becomes 58 pages roughly. Plus title page and colophon and such, probably the whole production would end up at an even 64 pages.

ILLUSTRATIONS: Black-and-white illustrations of each island visited on the journey, plus the boat and crew at the start and end of the journey. An etched or woodcut style is preferred, retaining an archaic feel. Illustrations are to be printed recto with the appropriate text containing the subject illustrated shown verso.

If the translated-only text is used, it would be good to have excerpts of the original text used as captions on the illustrations. It would also be nice to include a facsimile page of the original text from one of the two extant sources in the afterword. This facsimile page should probably be a black-and-white photo or recreation, rather than a glossy color photo insert.

TYPEFACE: Originally suggested Uncial, but other options have arisen along the way. These are the fonts which are preferred, feedback is very welcome.

  • Uncial by Victor Hammer (,, - Probably the most "authentic" typeface for rendering this tale, one of Victor Hammer's Uncial fonts could be an excellent choice. Some folks have readability issues with the font, especially when there is only one case for the letters, so I have selected a couple with upper/lower casing. Those are Uncial as provided by Monotype, and the later revision Neue Hammer Unziale by Linotype. I personally slightly favor the latter as is stronger and, to me, more immediately legible. A third choice, but potentionally difficult to obtain, would be Andromaque Uncial.

  • Magnimo by Aoife Mooney ( , - Consciously designed as a modern Uncial bridge typeface, it is wonderfully evocative. It does not seem to be readily available however, so the creator would need to be contacted in order to obtain a copy.

  • Doves Type by T. J. Cobden-Sanderson ( - The timeless classic and a personal favorite. This would create the most elegantly legible book and would be a solid choice for people who prefer a straightforward type approach than one which mirrors the source material in this case.

  • Plantin by Frank Hinman Pierpont ( - Derived from a 16th century typeface by the master designer Robert Granjon.

  • Graveur by Juanjo López ( - Another revival typeface derived from the work of Robert Granjon.

LAYOUT: The book should be composed using the Van de Graaf canon in the Tschichold ratio of 2:3. As mentioned earlier, illustrations should appear recto to the appropriate text verso. Transitions in the text, such as each arrival at a new island, could be demarcated using an ornament. Either an existing fleuron or a custom ornament could be employed, but in either case to retain simplicity just one should be used and repeated throughout. A second ornament could be used on the title page if desired. Book mostly likely should be in the octavo size range, unless the majority prefers a different size (for example, quarto for larger illustrations).

PAPER: Handmade paper, with a measure of roughness, fits the theme of the book. However, if a more finished surface is needed for the illustrations to properly take, that is fine. Mouldmade papers fit the bill too. The paper should allow the type to have a perceptible medium bite without impinging on the opposite side. The outer page edge (opposite the spine) should be deckled.

INK: For the bilingual edition I had suggested dark green (translated) and dark orange (original) inks for the text. In the translation-only edition black ink is appropriate. If ornaments are used then it would be good to have those in dark green ink.

COVER: The optimal cover would be wooden boards (or otherwise very stiff boards) covered with treated sailcloth. (An example of which can be found here - The treatment should render the sailcloth less prone to wear and easier to keep clean, plus be more pleasing to the touch. If sailcloth is deemed impractical, either a full cloth cover or quarter binding with a cloth spine and leather covers are best. Marbled endpapers are nice to have but not essential, endpapers could be basic high-quality paper. If marbled paper is used, nautical colors and motif is preferred in the design.

The front cover should feature the title and perhaps a simple illustration, either a silhouette of the boat or an "Irish Compass" motif. The spine should have the title and the Consensus Press logo. An optional printed border near the top and bottom edges might be included, in a Celtic knot pattern or other motif. All cover printing should be in black or dark green ink or paint on the sailcloth. If sailcloth isn't used, the colors should be simple and harmonious with the materials selected.

Depending on the length of the book, either a rounded spine or square spine is fine. If a rounded spine is employed, it would be excellent if the binding could be done in true medieval style, as seen here for instance -

CASE: Ideally the book would be housed in a solander, for aesthetics and to reduce wear on the sailcloth covering. Otherwise a slipcase would be preferred, with a chemise protector if feasible. The solander or slipcase should be covered in a dark green or marine blue cloth and have a paper label affixed to the spine with the title and press.

okt 26, 2022, 10:18 am

>33 Shadekeep: I love the binding concept, and hope it turns out to be practical! My vote on your alternative fonts would be Graveur, but I also like the idea of ornaments which might work better with Uncial.

okt 26, 2022, 10:29 am

>34 NathanOv: Thanks! And there are some gorgeous ornaments and fleurons in Graveur as well, so it's viable on those grounds too. As a typophile it can be hard to settle on one typeface over another, so community input is really valuable.

Redigerat: okt 26, 2022, 11:39 am

>35 Shadekeep:

Please do not use an uncial type, especially one of the Victor Hammer uncials. Whatever you believe is gained in authentic medieval effect is more than lost in legibility. They are cumbersome and tedious to read. The purpose of type, first and foremost, is to quickly and easily convey its message. Period style is, or should be, a secondary consideration. Of the types you have listed above in >33 Shadekeep:, my first choice is Plantin Light or Plantin Roman, second choice is Doves type and distant third choice is Graveur.

Keep it simple and do not dork up a marvelous literary idea for your Consensus Press entry.

okt 26, 2022, 11:55 am

>36 dlphcoracl: I concur with the Oracle's sentiments on this subject: Uncials are wearisome to read.
If you feel that a medieval aesthetic is essential to the design of the text, I'd suggest limiting the use of uncials to titles and/or captions. I'm not sure it entirely succeeds in this example, but you could try something like what the Janus Press did with Herball (exceprts from Dialoges of Creatures Moralized), using Menhart Unciala for the title/initial line of each chapter:

okt 26, 2022, 12:03 pm

>36 dlphcoracl: >37 kermaier:

Thank you both for the feedback. I knew Uncial was a divisive choice, which is why I tried to search up some alternate typefaces. I will definitely weigh all input for the final version of the proposal.

I'm surprised to see Plantin as a first choice, as it's often seemed to be one that I was alone in liking (most people defect to the more popular Palatino). I much prefer the serifs in Plantin. Do you know of any extant fine press work that has used Plantin?

okt 26, 2022, 12:59 pm

>37 kermaier:
I second that suggestion wholeheartedly!

okt 26, 2022, 1:02 pm

>37 kermaier: >39 SebRinelli:

I meant to say in the previous post, I like the idea of "incidental Uncial" as well. If the notion to use excerpts from the original text as illustration captions goes forward, those could be printed in Uncial.

okt 26, 2022, 2:03 pm

>33 Shadekeep: re: typeface:

While it is not a deal-breaker for me, I am one of those who does not care for Uncial. Given that folks seem polarized on Uncial, I would suggest it is probably not the best choice for achieving consensus.

I haven't seen Magnimo in person, but seeing excerpts on the web doesn't grab me for this work.

I absolutely adore Doves type, but I would not call it timeless. In fact, I would say it has a strong modernist aesthetic. As such, I don't think it would quite fit the textual material, at least if the book has other elements of allusive design. (A high modernist take on a medieval classic would be a perhaps interesting look, but I don't think that is what you are going for here.)

Plantin would be readable. I don't think it would stand out either positively or negatively. When I look at it and think about it, it seems very much in the renaissance typography tradition, which doesn't quite fit here if you want to hark back to the voyages, but I think it would work and be a safe option.

Graveur looks like a lovely choice with a lot of character.

Another possibility that you might want to consider is the Fell types.

(Obviously all personal opinions, but I assume such is useful.)

okt 26, 2022, 2:42 pm

I've never seen a book bound with cloth spine and leather board. That is certainly an inversion of the usual and I think would look strange.

Redigerat: okt 26, 2022, 2:57 pm

>41 abysswalker: Useful feedback, thanks! I did consider the Fell types as well, but from a strictly personal viewpoint they often have the feel of old English street handbills and Colonial newspapers to me. Purely subjective, I know, but they do lend a definite feel to a work and I'm not sure that's the one I want to go for.

It sounds like Plantin and Graveur are getting positive notes so far, though not unequivocably so. But they may end up among the least divisive, if also the safest stylistically.

>42 ultrarightist: It is an odd one, I'll admit, but I'm visualising it in the context of the medieval example referenced in the link. The wooden boards would be covered by leather, while the spine and cords and hinges would be covered in cloth. That's not to say the final product still wouldn't be unusual, and I leave it to the binding cognoscenti as to whether it would even work in a practical fashion. I'll gladly withdraw it if not.

Redigerat: okt 26, 2022, 4:10 pm

I really like the angularity of Magnimo! If there’s ‘a bit’ of friction between legibility and stylization, I don’t find it a bad thing – it’s like an in-built jumping point for the imagination, an organic reminder of the separation between the old text and me, the reader in the 21st century.

For what’s it’s worth I like neither Graveur (too flourish-y in my opinion, and drawing a lot of attention to itself) not Plantin (too little personality for such an imaginative tale…)

Edit: to remove an unfortunate pun…

nov 3, 2022, 8:07 am

One note on endpapers. I know you said you can live without marbled endpapers, but I'd really like to see blue marbled endpapers with motifs that evoke waves if that doesn't go against the whole aesthetic of what you're going for.

nov 3, 2022, 12:57 pm

>45 filox: Agreed. I did say in my final proposal to the CP board that marbled endpapers would be nice if they fit the budget, and that they should have a marine color palette and motif if possible. Thanks for the support!

nov 3, 2022, 1:10 pm

>38 Shadekeep: Pointless comment in the grander scheme: I just wanted to pipe up that I also love Plantin and have some beautiful fine press books set in it. I'm not sure it's the right type for your particular project but it is really handsome!

nov 3, 2022, 1:16 pm

>47 ChestnutPress: Agreed, I quite like Plantin myself. In the final version I sent to CP I said they could pick from either of the Robert Granjon inflected typefaces (Plantin or Graveur), with the smatterings of original text in Neue Hammer Unziale. Thanks!

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