handmade books and artwork by Geoff MacEwan

Temora: an epic poem

Temora is a compact portfolio of facsimile texts and six original prints by Geoff MacEwan. The text, published in 1769, is an extract from the second edition of James Macpherson's 'Poems of Ossian'. James Macpherson was a boy when his uncle – Ewan Macpherson of Cluny – took part in the battle of Culloden that devastated the highland clans and led to a complete prohibition of Gaelic culture. This father's estates were confiscated and Ewan Macpherson had to hide in the hills for several years.

His nephew studied Classics at Aberdeen University and it was there that he decided that the oral tradition into which he been born was not so far removed from that which had given birth to Homer. His teachers were already interested in the primitive roots of the classical languages and encouraged him to collect what remained of Gaelic poetry. Macpherson was inspired by a desire to bridge what he saw as the tragic cultural gap created by the Rebellion; as a native Gaelic speaker he had to re-invent the English language to make his culture accessible to those who had neither knowledge nor sympathy with it; in doing so he broke through the stale formulas of neoclassicism and inspired not only poets such as William Blake and those Romantics that followed after but also intellectuals throughout Europe. Goethe quotes him in Werther and Napolean carried a copy in his knapsack.

James Macpherson succeeded in creating a new sensibility, one based on feeling and an appetite for the heroic and the sublime. I hope that this small tribute will encourage you to explore the misty and mesmeric world of Ossian.

Editions are held in the collections of the V&A, London and Edinburgh University Library

Printed on Canson paper – 300gsm
Technique: Agua Fuerte
Edition: 35

Dimensions: 20 cm × 25 cm × 0 cm