Yan Tan Tethera

Text: Traditional
Printing and Illustration: Nancy Campbell
Burlesque Press, Oxford, 2004

Set in Winchester Bold wood type with Spectrum and printed on an Albion hand press on Hahnemühle and Colourplan paper; bound in illustrated boards using an accordion design.
Edition of 60 signed and numbered copies. SOLD OUT

‘Yan Tan Tethera’ is an ancient Cumbrian counting rhyme. It is still chanted by Borrowdale shepherds as they gather their flocks. Each time ‘jiggot’ is reached the shepherd pockets a stone to designate 20 sheep, and the recitation is repeated…

Independent presses have an honourable tradition of preserving folk traditions and oral literature, of giving voice to cultures outside the mainstream. The counting rhyme of the Borrowdale shepherds offered Victorian collectors a glimpse of the variety within Britain’s linguistic history. In our own era readers can puzzle out the meaning of the more obscure words and may impose their own (inappropriate?) word associations on the text.

The accordion book structure is one of the most unstable and unpredictable available to a binder. During reading, the 28 pages of Yan Tan Tethera burgeon from the hand much as sheep elude a sheepdog. The Winchester wood type used for the text references rustic show signs of a former age, but the design challenges this association by its minimal modernity. Exclamation marks and cumbersome shifts in font size are eschewed for a cleaner more contemplative arrangement, which reflects the chant-like form.