Born in Edgbaston in 1934, Iain Bain spent his early childhood in Malaya, where his father was a school inspector. When Singapore fell in 1942, he was evacuated to Perth, Western Australia, while his father became a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese. The family was reunited in Scotland at the end of hostilities and Iain's education took him to Fettes College, Edinburgh, where his talent for hammer-throwing (British Junior Record-holder) and the Highland Pipes was much in evidence. National Service with the Black Watch in Kenya interrupted university at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, where he read English & exercised his hammer-throwing prowess at the World University Games. Back home at the Highland Games he was Scottish Champion in 1956, '57 & '59.
After Oxford he moved quickly into the world of printing & publishing. Travelling the country as Sales Manager for Unwin Brothers of Woking enabled many visits to antiquarian bookshops to nurture his nascent collecting habit. The twin influences of Percy Muir & John Ryder shaped his collecting and hobby-printing respectively. A spare bedroom became the first home of his Laverock [scots: skylark] Press, the early productions of which sufficiently impressed John Ryder to make Iain Production Manager at Bodley Head in 1966. He took responsibilty for design and supervision of the work of others with a particular interest in dust-jacket design. With skills suitably honed, in 1972 he was appointed Head of Publications at the Tate Gallery.
Iain's greatest achievements were perhaps his publications in the fields of printing, art history, and, especially, Bewick studies. He became interested in Bewick early in his life, and began to gather information and a significant collection of original blocks, letters and drawings. This he bequeathed to the Wordsworth Trust Study Centre at Dove Cottage after many years of support as a trustee & lecturer. Iain had come to Bewick through studying the artist's friend John Dovaston, inspired by the acquisition of his 1825 travel journal. His extensive Dovaston collection is likewise to remain intact as is that of the publications of John Sharpe. But the remainder of his library has been dispersed so others may enjoy the many books sought out & savoured by Iain for over half a century.
I first met Iain at Printing Historical Society committee meetings in the early 1980s. As a rookie bookseller planning to specialise in printing & the book arts, I scarcely recognised my good fortune to be sitting down with the likes of Berthold Wolpe, Michael Twyman, David Chambers, Hugh Williamson, John Dreyfus & Co. Iain was kindness personified, always happy to give advice and delighted when one of our catalogues offered a book he wanted (he was not hard to please!). A faithful customer to the end, his library was testament to the wide-range of his enthusiasms & expertise. When Kirsty invited me over as she began the task of sorting through her father's treasures, the first challenge was to get through the door. Crossing the room to the printing collection and Albion Press was not really possible until my second or third visit. This catalogue of private press, fine printing, typography & books about books, will be followed in the new year by a similarly miscellaneous selection of chiefly 19thC books.
Please see the excellent obituary notices by Paul Nash (PHS Journal 29) and David Chambers (Private Library Summer 2017) who have kindly allowed me to extract a few morsels from their much fuller accounts of a remarkably full life. Iain's own article, 'Collecting with a purpose', from which I occasionally quote within the catalogue, appeared in Private Library, Summer 1998.
Letters to IB from: Stanley Morison (274), Hermann Zapf (457), Edward Bawden (25), George Mackay Brown (80) and R.S. Thomas (409)