Calvariae Disjecta: The Many Hauntings of Burton Agnes Hall
Published by Information as Material, York, 2017
Designed by James Brook
ISBN 978 1 907468 23 0
Hardback | 170 x 215 mm | 168 pages including 12 pages of full-colour plates
Printed by Allander, Edinburgh, on Munken Pure paper with Colorplan smoke grey cover
One of the most ubiquitous English ghost stories, ‘The Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall’, has been spread and adapted over many years, but it nonetheless persists. Drawing from his own library plus decades of research, artist and academic Robert Williams re-presents references to the story from more than 100 popular sources that extend across more than 150 years. The project, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Hilmar Schäfer, echoes the transmission of the story itself as an extended quotation, in oral traditions and through downright plagiarism. The many lives of this story mapped out by this collection tell us as much about cultural and historical representations as they do a lurid tale of murder, grave-opening and screaming skulls.
Contributors to the project include artist and designer James Brook, artist and writer Dr. Kate Briggs (American University in Paris/Piet Swart Institute, Rotterdam) and cultural sociologist Dr. Hilmar Schäfer (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany).
Robert Williams, Professor of Fine Art, University of Cumbria Institute of the Arts: I have had the privilege of collaborating with the fantastic designer and artist James Brook on two major book-based publications: Cumbrian Alchemy (2013) and Calvariae Disjecta (2017). Both these books owe their success to James’ brilliant vision. Cumbrian Alchemy combines text and image to produce a work that underpinned our vision for a complex project that ranged between ideas of nuclearity, folklore and culture. Of course, for the next project, there was no question that James would be the designer for Calvarie Disjecta: The many hauntings of Burton Agnes Hall, another book work that needed an astonishing level of collaboration and sensitivity in balancing text, image and concept. Working with James is a dream, he generously gives of his advice and his ideas in a working relationship that is truly collaborative, and it is for such reasons that rather than being the anonymous ‘designer’ for these works, we acknowledge his proper role as part of the collaborative endeavour that makes art. I am truly grateful to have worked with James, and will do so again in a heartbeat.