The Ron & Willow King Collection of Ian Tyson Editions and Artwork

Ref: Special Collection
Title: The Ron & Willow King Collection of Ian Tyson Editions and Artwork

Scope: A collection of artist and writer Ian Tyson’s pre-Tetrad work including lithographs, posters, screen prints, books and ephemera, donated by Ron & Willow King.

Dates: c. 1961-2008
Extent: over 50 items

Tyson Study for Sculpture

Administrative/biographical history:

In the summer of 2017, Ron King, founder, printer, and publisher of Circle Press, and his wife, the sculptor Willow Legge, donated to the University of Sheffield Library their personal collection of Ian Tyson’s work. This collection represents a fifty-year friendship between two master printers (e.g., the numerous personal inscriptions, the dedications, the hand-made birthday and New Year cards). In 1969 Ian Tyson founded Tetrad Press in order to pursue his interest in screen printing and letterpress. Tetrad turned out to be a good idea—Tyson is now celebrated as one of the finest British printers of the mid- to late-twentieth century. Tyson’s meticulous attention to colour and his innovations with form produced a remarkable body of work—what we can call ‘the Tetrad years’. Tyson worked often with young, avant-garde poets in whom he recognised potential; also with established poets whose work he admired, such as Jackson Mac Low, and long-time collaborator Jerome Rothenberg.

Before establishing Tetrad Press, Ian Tyson spent the early- to mid-sixties experimenting with screen printing, lithography, and letterpress, all under the tutelage of his friend, Ron King. King had already founded Circle Press, in Guildford in 1967, intending to foster a community of like-minded artists and writers collaborating together on limited-edition, fine artists’ books. Many visual artists passed through Circle Press, including Tom Phillips, John Furnival, John Christie, Julia Farrer, and Norman Ackroyd; while from the poetry world came, to name but three, Kenneth White, George Szirtes, and Roy Fisher. At Circle Press the visual artists and the literary artists took inspiration and knowledge from one another; while one and all benefitted from King’s generosity, hospitality, and expertise.

Ron and Willow King have gathered together over the years, both by gift and by purchase, an impressive collection of Tyson’s pre-Tetrad work, including early lithographs (e.g., ‘Vodi’ (1961), whose style contrasts with the highly polished, tightly structured, and boldly modernist Tetrad creations that Tyson is famous for); these early works are a surprise: a surprise of fluid lines, of muted colours (sometimes), of colour-bleed. Tyson would not immediately suggest himself as creator of such works had they remained unsigned. King has remarked on his fondness for Tyson’s lithographic work of the early- to mid-1960s.

Tyson Vodi

Tyson Early

Ian Tyson has participated in many poetry readings and art exhibitions over the years, both as printmaker and designer of many publicity posters in his signature style, as well as contributing artist. The Ron and Willow King donation includes several signed, limited-edition, fine screen prints of publicity works from institutions such as the Maltzahn Gallery, Angela Flowers Gallery, and the Morley Gallery.

The donation also includes transitional work that is the direct precursor of Tetrad. Works such as Six extracts from the Zenrinkushu (1966) are an advancement toward the Tetrad polish and presentation. Furthermore, there are important Tetrad titles in the donation, such as Notes from a Rural Region (1979/80) and works that Tyson created at other presses, such as Heidegger My Way and Scarcely, with poetry by Kevin Power (1982).

Ian Tyson lives and works in the South of France. He sculpts, and is still producing artists’ books under the imprint ed.it which he began five years after closing Tetrad Press in 1995. His work is regularly shown in exhibitions throughout Europe, and his collaborations with poets, including Jerome Rothenberg and John Hall, continue.

It is thanks to the decisions of Ian Tyson, and of Ron and Willow King, that the University of Sheffield Library has received the inestimable gift, so unique, of this early, quirky pre-Tetrad work. The University library now has one of the most comprehensive collections of Tetrad Press material in the United Kingdom.

Tyson Zenrinkushu Poem2

Tyson Zenrinkushu1

Tyson Zenrinkushu2

Tyson Zenrinkushu3

Tyson Zenrinkushu4

Tyson Zenrinkushu5

Tyson Zenrinkushu6

Tyson Black Palace Poem

Tyson Black Palace 1

Tyson Black Palace 2

Tyson Black Palace 3

Tyson Black Palace 4

Tyson Black Palace 5

Tyson Black Palace 6

  • Related collections: Tetrad Press Collection, ed.it Archive, Circle Press Collection
  • Source: By donation from Ron King and Willow Legge
  • System of arrangement: Numerical
  • Subjects: Art, British - 20th century; Lithography; Artists’ Books; Poetry – 20th century
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: No restrictions
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Listed and catalogued