It is important to be born at the right point in history. Lewis Carroll today might well find himself on the front page of The News of the World, while Charles Darwin would be unwise to go on a lecture tour of the United States - he would be in serious danger from the religious right.

These thoughts occurred to me while I was producing a new illustrated edition of The Hunting of the Snark, with a companion volume All the Snarks, which lists and comments on the 50 illustrated editions of the Snark that have appeared so far.

They come from England, the United States, Australia, France, Germany, Holland , Poland, Russia, Denmark, Sweden and even from the Faroes; there have just been new Turkish and Israeli editions, so the tradition goes on.

The Hunting of the Snark is today probably more quoted from than read in full. My grandmother gave me both of the Alice books, probably when I was a bit young to read them. I don't think she would have given me The Snark, it wasn't serious and didn't have a point.

While working on the book, I started reading it out loud at one point - it was marvellous. I went straight through, back to the beginning and on to where I had started.

It is read at special Snark parties and has been performed as a musical - although not very successfully, lack of female parts may not help. I suspect if the Snark had been found it would turn out to be male.

The Snark was to have been one of a series of books titled Artists Choice Editions which was a joint venture with Carol Manheim, an American who has lived here for many years. I was to produce the books, which I enjoy, and she was to promote and sell them, which I loath.

We started off with the idealistic quotation: Inviting the artist to choose a subject and illustrate it.' Hilary Paynter, a wood engraver, had always wanted to illustrate Christina Rosetti's Goblin Market, and Rigby Graham wrote on the sad decline in the use of sketchbooks and illustrated it with his own sketches.

John Vernon Lord, who I have worked with before, said he had always wanted to illustrate The Snark. He was well known for his children's books, especially The Giant Jam Sandwich, but he had also illustrated nearly all Edward Lear's limericks and many of Aesop's fables, all of them in the setting of Ditchling, Sussex, where he lives.

Unfortunately, the partnership with Carol faltered at this point, so there was only me to publish it. John was Professor of Illustration at Brighton University and had to finish a few jobs, but started by reading about Lewis Carroll. He eventually read 30 books - and was hooked.

On his birthday, when he had been reading about Carroll all day, some friends came to dinner and brought some hand-made chocolates for him, the first he chose after dinner had the number 42 on it (a number that much concerned Carroll) and the second had a ball.

He suspected that Carroll was trying to get in touch with him and phoned the French makers the next day to be told that 42 was the final number of their postcode and the bell was for Easter. John was particularly pleased that the book was finished on April 1, 2006, the same day as the original publication in 1876.

The English-speaking versions of The Snark are all very much in the long tradition of illustration, in black and white and strongly based on the text.

The European translations use the text as a Surrealist Manifesto and produce very imaginative paintings. John worked very definitely in the English tradition. At one point I thought we might have a little colour, perhaps the baker's yellow gloves coloured in all appearances? But John felt this was a little Walt Disney-ish.

To go with the newly illustrated Snark, I thought it would be good to have a companion volume All The Snarks, listing and examining all the editions of the Snark that have appeared.

Dr Selwyn Goodacre, who had just retired as a GP in Derbyshire, was the ideal writer. The country's leading Snarkist', with a whole garage filled with editions of Carroll's books.

Henry Holiday's original illustrations seem remarkably undated and strong on fantasy and theatricality, but it is excellent that the book keeps being reinterpreted. Strong illustrated editions have come from Max Ernst in Europe, Mervyn Peake, Ralph Steadman, Helen Oxenbury and Quentin Blake in this country and Barry Moser, the wood engraver, in America.

The two books were typeset by my brother in Cornwall, printed in Sheffield, and bound by Chris Hicks in Headington. With the help of the Lewis Carroll Society in England and America they are selling well.

The edition is only 220 of each book and, as advertising is so expensive, sales are largely by word of mouth.

The next book is going to be a change, Ann to Zoe, A Nomenclature of Names for Girls, is, perhaps, a little frivolous. Michael Harrison, who was responsible for English at the Dragon School in Oxford, is researching how Daisy and Lily are suddenly reappearing in the yearly list of names and Annie Newnham, who I taught at the old Oxford Polytechnic, now a painter living in Eynsham, is working on illustrations of fat and thin girls. On a weightier note, the partnership is revived and Artists Choice Editions is going to produce Piper in Print, about the books, periodicals and ephemera John Piper wrote and illustrated. We owe a lot to him for the way we look at buildings and the countryside.

I suspect that publishing limited edition books must be one of the least profitable occupations, but it is enjoyable.

Previous Parrot Press, The Foundry, Church Hanborough, OX29 8AB. 01993 881260