The Tunning of Elynour Rumming, by John Skelton Laureat, “with decorations from the drawings in colour and line by Pearl Binder” (Fanfrolico Press, London, 1928, #433/550 hand written limitation)
7.75″ x 11.25″, 47pp, hardbound, coarse fiber on boards (burlap?), hand laid paper, artfully done, in good plus condition for age and for the unconventional binding materials
The Tunning of Elynour Rummyng is a long raucous poem written by English poet John Skelton(1463-1529). The poem was first printed by Richard Lant sometime in 1550 and presents what many would consider disgusting images of rural drinking and drunkenness. For all its gritty description, Skelton has modeled the poem on Church liturgy of that time. The verse form itself closely resembles a liturgical chant.
Elynour is a character in the poem who runs a “public house,” or pub. Many pubs in England had the look of a home both inside and out. In the early 16th century, the male or female owner of the pub not only sold the ale, but also probably brewed it. Elynour easily acquires all her ingredients for quite acceptable ale from the local farmers in southern England where her pub was apparently located. Nevertheless, the kind of hard language which is found in the poem, is not uncommon as “bar talk.” Today, much like in the 16th century, many brands of beer have been derisively referred to as “pig piss” perhaps because of beer’s pale yellowish color and its bland and very slightly bitter taste. The poet says that chickens roost over Elynour’s fermentation tank and drop their excrement into the froth. The yeast will sometimes form a white cap on the fermenting beer. Alcoholic beverages are also often associated with sex and indeed will sometimes reduce the inhibitions of men and women. However, Elynour advises her female customers that the ale will make them more desirable to their husbands, in part because she has the chicken excrement in the ale.
Fanfrolico Press, Australia’s first ‘private press’ in the arts-and-craft tradition, was founded by Jack Lindsay, P. R. Stephensen and John Kirtley, originally in North Sydney in 1923. The press specialized in printings artful, limited editions of classics and forgotten works that were suited to the extravagant style of artist like his father, artist, sculptor and author Norman Lindsay who illustrated many of their books. Fanfrolico was scornful of modernism and with its florid style determinedly backward-looking. They did surprisingly well, despite the lack of business expertise of their young, ambitious “bohemian” owners, eking out a living despite the risky move to London in 1926 and upheavals in ownership that saw the departure in 1927 of Kirtley, and then Stephenson in 1929. Sometime in 1930 they published their last book.
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