San Francisco and The Arion Press here we come

The Arion Press was founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Andrew Hoyem growing out of a partnership he had with Robert Grabhorn using the Grabhorn Press‘s famed collection of metal type. Arion has published more than 100 fine press books, many of which are illustrated with prints by prominent artists.

Each year the press publishes three or four “exquisite” books in editions of 400 copies or less. Titles over the years have included Moby Dick, a lectern edition of the Bible, and James Joyce’s Ulysses. Other books include treatments of the poetry of Wallace Stevens, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Emily Dickinson, novels by Samuel Beckett, H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, Virginia Woolf. and plays by Tom Stoppard, David Mamet, Edward Albee and Arthur Miller. These books are highly collectible.

Hoyem was born in 1935. He is an accomplished printer, a published poet, and an exhibited artist. His Arion Press, named after the Greek poet known in myth for having been kidnapped by pirates and miraculous rescued by dolphins, has been called America’s “leading publisher of fine-press books.” The concepts for all Arion publications originate with Hoyem, who chooses literary texts, commissions new work from writers and artists he admires, and designs the books, including their bindings and typography.

Many rank Hoyem’s edition of Moby Dick among the greatest American fine-press books ever published. His most ambitious project, the Folio Bible, took several years to complete. This is likely to be the last Bible ever to be printed from metal type.

In 1989 Arion acquired Mackenzie & Harris, “the oldest and largest remaining type foundry in the United States, established with equipment displayed at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.” In 2000 Hoyem founded the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute to “help preserve and continue the operation of one of the last integrated facilities for type-founding, letterpress printing, and bookbinding, developing it as a living museum and educational and cultural center, open to the public, with a gallery and tours as well as an apprenticeship program.”

I’ll be in San Francisco next month. I plan to visit the Arion Press, where I’ll enjoy the privilege of interviewing Mr. Hoyem for The Biblio File podcast. I’m pumped. Stay tuned!

Audio: Novelist Edward Rutherfurd on Paris and Literary Tourism


One of 250 Bouquinistes by the Seine in Paris

Edward Rutherfurd was born in England, in the cathedral city of Salisbury. Educated locally, and at the universities of Cambridge and Stanford, he subsequently worked in political research, book-selling and publishing. Abandoning this career in the book trade in 1983, he returned to his childhood home to write Sarum, a historical novel with a ten-thousand year story-line, set in the area around Stonehenge. It was an instant international bestseller remaining on the New York Times Bestseller List for 23 weeks. Since then he has written (at least) six more bestsellers: Russka, a novel of Russia, London, The Forest, set in England’s New Forest which lies near Sarum, and two novels which cover the story of Ireland from the time just before Saint Patrick to the twentieth century. In 2009 New York was published, and in 2013, Paris.

Rutherfurd is the quintessential Literary Tourist. He ‘walks’ the cities he writes about, researches them, imagines them, and arrives at a personal understanding of them. We talk here about this process, about the importance of learning about the ordinary lives of people from the past, of ‘active learning’ and writing short stories about the places you visit, about James Michener and the fascination of historical and cultural roots,  about history as reconnaissance, as “finding out what happened to the last army that went there”, about the campfire and stories of the hunt, the Musee Carnavalet and Le Procope restaurant. Listen here


Photo of Edward Rutherfurd looking like a Parisian

Visit the Cary Graphic Arts Collection in Rochester, New York

Location: Rochester Institute of Technology
Author(s): Frederick Ghoudy, Ismar David, Hermann Zapf.
Hours: Monday–Friday 9 a.m.–12 p.m., 1 p.m.–5 p.m. Other times by appointment
Focus: Book Design, Graphic Design, Typeface Design, Bookbinding, printer’s manuals, typography, typeface specimens, calligraphy, great books of the printer’s art
Terms: A call ahead is preferred

The Cary Collection is one of the U.S.’s premier libraries on graphic communication history and practices. The original collection of 2,300 volumes was assembled by the New York City businessman Melbert B. Cary, Jr. during the 1920s and 1930s. Cary was director of Continental Type Founders Association (a type-importing agency), a former president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and proprietor of the private Press of the Woolly Whale.  His professional and personal interests in printing led him to collect printer’s manuals and type specimens, as well as great books of the printer’s art.  In 1969, the Cary Collection was presented to RIT by the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust as a memorial to Mr. Cary, together with funds to support the use and growth of the collection. Today the library houses some 40,000 volumes and a growing number of manuscripts and correspondence collections.

While the collection’s original strengths continue to be an important focus, other aspects of graphic arts history have also been developed. For example, the Cary Collection is committed to building comprehensive primary and secondary resources on the development of the alphabet and writing systems, early book formats and manuscripts, calligraphy, the development of typefaces and their manufacturing technologies, the history and practice of papermaking, typography and book design, printing and illustration processes, bookbinding, posters, and artists’ books.

Though many of the volumes in the library are rare, the Cary Collection has maintained, from the beginning, a policy of liberal access for all students and especially those enrolled in the RIT’s College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

The Cary Collection also manages the Graphic Design Archive, comprised of some 36 archives documenting the work of important 20th-century Modernist graphic designers, and has been aggressively acquiring examples of avant-garde book typography.

Fancy a Poldark pilgrimage?

If you’re a fan of Poldark, the series of historical novels by Winston Graham (published from 1945 to 1953 and continued from 1973 to 2002),  and/or the subsequent BBC telly series, you’ll enjoy this gorgeous spread of photos highlighting various real-life Cornwall locations that are featured in the books and on the screen. There’s also a book, also written by Graham that you can buy: a  lavishly illustrated companion to the novels that was reissued to coincide with the TV show. (If you’re interested in the faithfulness of the TV series to the books, or the books to the reality, you might like to read this intriguing take on the topic).

If this isn’t enough,  Visit Cornwall has a map, and some typically lush travel lingo to go with it that encourages us to “Go behind the scenes and discover the glistening blue waters, lush countryside and craggy cliffs that have sashayed from the background to become the lead Poldark star across the first three series. We think they’re even better in real-life than they are on screen!”

Hungry for more? Try The Poldark Cookery Book, wherein you’ll find a recipe for one of my very favourite dishes:  the cornish pasty ( be sure to enjoy with a pint of West Country cider!). The cookbook is “filled with the food that would have been enjoyed by Ross Poldark and Demelza in the eighteenth century, this recipe book is the perfect present for the Poldark super-fan.”

For more of what you’ll need to know before you go, drop by the Visit Cornwall website. Oh, and if you’re a book collector, there’s currently a set of all twelve first editions available online for US$8500

 

Literary Tourist City Guides

Photo Credit: Chris Wood           Wonder if this streetcar is named desire?

Some years ago Poets and Writers started running a great series of articles detailing literary life in cities throughout the United States. Specifically, “they asked  those in the literary community—authors, booksellers, publishers, editors, and the like—to take us on a tour of their city of residence: to the places they go to connect with writers of the past, to the bars and cafés where today’s authors give readings, and to those sites that are most inspiring for writing.”

This of course describes very well the plight of the literary tourist. Although some of the articles date back to 2011, and thus may be slightly out of date, for the most part these pieces serve as terrific literary ‘City Guides.’ The inside scoop from those in the know.

I plan to visit San Francisco soon and so am particularly interested in reading this. Here’s a link to the whole series. 

I’ve already lined up an interview with Andrew Hoyem, typographer, letterpress printer, publisher, poet, and founder of Arion Press, for my Biblio File podcast. Also plan to talk to someone at The Book Club of California, and am working on Dave Eggers, publisher at McSweeney’s.

Judging from their tourism webside alone, San Francisco is one happening town. Should be a blast!