Arnold Fawcus & Trianon Press

 

Arnold Fawcus was born on 30 October, 1917, in India. His father, Louis Reginald Fawcus, was employed by the Indian Civil Service, and he later became advisor to the Governor of Bengal. The once prosperous family derived its lineage from the North of England, and family legend traced the name back to Guy Fawkes, of Gunpowder Plot fame. Arnold's mother was Irene d'Ancona Lesser, of San Francisco. She and Louis met in Paris and were married a year later in 1914 in Calcutta. Irene disliked India, and so much of Arnold's early life was spent in San Francisco with his mother and his maternal aunts. At the age of nine, he was sent to a preparatory school in England, Bilton Grange, where his father's brother was headmaster. After a typically miserable life as an English schoolboy, he went, like his father, to Uppingham and to then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took his degree in Art History.

His exceptional abilities as a skier allowed him unusual entree to the U.S. Army, after 1941. He had worked in Yosemite National Park organizing skiing activities during the times that he had visited his mother. Drafted into the U.S. Army, he set up a training unit for U.S. Mountain Troops. With three Austrian colleagues, he wrote the first draft of the American Military Ski Manual, later revised into a successful publication, Swing Into Skiing published by Faber & Faber. His later military career involved counterintelligence work in Europe, where he was seconded to the American forces advancing through Italy and Southern France. His job was to catch agents with radio sets left behind by the retreating German Army. As the British had broken the German codes, Arnold had access to this information and he was very successful. He had what the British call "a good war." 
Eventually based at Lyon, he met his first publishing partner, Pierre Bordas. The earliest book, of exquisite composition, featured work by Chagall and was produced by collotype and pochoir by the firm of Daniel Jacomet. The Press moved from the production of Arnold/Bordas books to successive corporation's established by Arnold: Fawcus & Pfriem, then the Grey Falcon Press, and eventually to the Trianon Press (Paris), a partnership which Arnold established in concert with Patrick H.H. Macleod, a school friend from Bilton Grange. Macleod's partnership lapsed when he took up his own activities in the mid-fifties. 
The series of extraordinary facsimiles of watercolor works by Cezanne were seen by Geoffrey Keynes, at an exhibit in Boston. Sir Geoffrey inquired of Arnold whether or not he might be able to produce quality reproduction in collotype and pochoir work for one of the most important, most astonishing illuminated works in engraving and literary history, Blake's Jerusalem. The estimate, at the uneconomical low price of 4,000 pounds Sterling for 500 copies of the unique Jerusalem, led to what might be called a corporate venture into sublime achievement. An original subvention of approximately 15,000 pounds Sterling, which was granted by Sir Geoffrey's old friend, Graham Robertson, provided, title by title, the support and publication of each volume of The Trianon Press. Sir Geoffrey formed and directed the affairs of The William Blake Trust, the official body which selected and commissioned each title. 
Arnold and his Press produced a remarkable sequence of works without rival. The facsimiles of Blake are of such quality that they could scarcely be detected from the original works held by such connoisseurs as Lessing J. Rosenwald and Paul Mellon. However, the works of Blake constituted only a part of his kaleidoscope of activities. He published a wide range of works by artists and authors such as Gislebertus, Shahn, Graves, Huxley, Chagall and Duchamp. In the Archive are plates for 25 unpublished series of works by Bruegel, Turner, etc. 
Arnold was a powerful presence in art and literature. When he died, at the age of 61 in 1979, he was almost the last of that breed of buccaneer-publisher which is now an endangered species. His business survived permanently, as described by Sebastian Carter, "from fingernail to mouth, his ideas always [outrunning] resources, plates being printed in advance for books as yet unborn. It doesn't matter that he demanded the impossible from his suppliers; while they added 20% to their estimates and let him beat them down, he underpaid his staff, in an act that was 'worth more than money,' as was said of Diagelev, for the beauty of the result." Yet Arnold made little or no profit for himself on the Blake Trust titles. According to Sir Geoffrey, "he was content if his overheads were covered so that he could keep his craftsmen occupied." 
His published work, cut short by an untimely death, would easily fill more than one life-time. This was but one dimension of his life. His energies, on weekends, were devoted to the restoration of a 16th-Century chateau in Clairvaux and a massive chateau in Burgundy, built on medieval foundations with stone water-works of Roman origin. He was able to cajole the government to offer help in making repairs to the roofs and other expensive but essential projects. He was known internationally as an expert breeder of magnificent blue delphiniums (and was experimenting to produce a pink variety) by a method of scientifically controlled selection of seed. In the winter, he would ski in the mountains of the Jura.