Hmmmm, what is Arion Press thinking...?

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Hmmmm, what is Arion Press thinking...?

1Django6924
Abr 2, 8:42pm

Just got a flyer for their new publication: Nikolai Gogol's "The Nose"

Bound in maroon book cloth with paper sides printed with cork pinboard motif
Square-backed, hand-sewn binding
Includes flipbook “His Majesty Comrade Nose”
Presented in a handmade clamshell box of yellow book cloth binding with foil stamping, paper sides of cork pinboard print, and black foam lining
Limited to 190 copies
$875 with Subscription / $1,250 Retail


Yes, that's $1250 for a short story, and one in the public domain (though the translation probably isn't, since it is new). Oh, and if you prefer something more patrician:

The Deluxe Edition

Bound in quarter maroon leather and real cork paper sides
Includes flipbook “His Majesty Comrade Nose”
Presented in a handmade clamshell box of flax color book cloth binding with foil stamping, paper sides of cork pinboard print, and black foam lining
Accompanied by signed photogravure “Surveying His Escape” in portfolio
Limited to 40 copies
$4,400 with Subscription / $5,500 Retail


Someone on another post recommended the LEC of Conrad's "The Secret Sharer." This fine edition, bound in silk, in a clamshell box, with three original etchings (actual art prints and not photographic reproductions) can be bought for something between $100 to $278 on ABEbooks right now.

I do hope the Arion Press will thrive and prosper, but I think they are going down a path that Sid Shiff followed when he changed the Limited Editions Club to publishing livres d'artistes. Perhaps selling strictly to the well-heeled is the only way fine press publishers can survive these days; if so, it's a sad state of affairs.

2dlphcoracl
Abr 3, 2:23pm

>1 Django6924:

" I think they are going down a path that Sid Shiff followed when he changed the Limited Editions Club to publishing livres d'artistes".

You are incorrect.

There is absolutely no comparison between the quality of the Sidney Shiff late LEC livres d'artiste books and the mediocre work currently being published by the Arion Press. The Shiff LEC books were imaginatively designed utilizing the finest hand made papers, world class artists and photographers, and flawless letterpress printing. Arion Press can only dream that any of their current books approach this standard. The value proposition (or, in this case, the lack thereof) may be similar but that is where it ends.

3Django6924
Abr 3, 3:25pm

Well, I'm not sure you understand my point: I made no comparison between the quality or artistic merit of the Arion Press books and Shiff's Limited Editions Club books but was simply saying that both produce books which can only be afforded by the upper 10 percent. The LEC under Macy was a more egalitarian enterprise--not cheap, but not out of the reach of people such as myself. The price per book for subscribers was approximately $175--$250 (factoring inflation). Sometimes that was for a slim volume such as Snow-Bound, but it could also be for the massive Vanity Fair or Pickwick Papers.

You may make a point that Shiff's livres d'artiste books were artistically or quality-wise superior to those earlier LECs and that is not a point I care to debate (although I certainly don't find Sean Scully's Heart of Darkness artistically superior). What I love about the intent of the earlier incarnation of the LEC was that it made an attempt to widen the appreciation of fine books to a wider audience than the other fine presses of the day (a point he makes in the first few Monthly Letters). Shiff seemed to feel that model was no longer economically feasible, and the Arion Press offerings of late appear to be evidence of the same mindset.

4dlphcoracl
Abr 3, 4:59pm

>3 Django6924:

I did understand your point. MY point is that at least on its artistic merits the Sidney Shiff LEC books gave the avid private press book collector something in return, regardless of affordability. The same cannot be said for many of these Arion Press offerings.

Regarding Sidney Shiff's raison d'être for transitioning from the George Macy LEC model into an livres d'artiste model, it is not clear to me that he believed "this model was no longer economically feasible." During Shiff's first decade at the helm of the LEC (1980-1989) he produced a steady stream of LEC books (see list below) with large limitations that were (imho) a considerable improvement from the Macy era LECs with regard to quality of materials used (e.g., hand made papers, bindings, etc.) with only a modest increase in cost. Granted, Joe Six Pack could not afford them but many (most?) of the older LEC members could and these books sold quite well. Shiff could certainly have continued this model profitably. I believe the sudden transition into a full blown livres d'artiste model in 1990 was an artistic choice rather than an economical one.

Transitional Sidney Shiff LEC books (1980-1989) - the Sidney Shiff "sweet spot" and great value at current prices. Some examples:

1. The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson
2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
3. The Adventures of Simplicissimus by Johann von Grimmelshausen
4. Poem and a Memoir by Seamus Heaney
5. Hiroshima by John Hersey
6. Metamorphoses by Franz Kafka
7. Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges
8. The Secret Sharer by Joseph Conrad
9. Dubliners by James Joyce
10. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe

etc., etc.

5Django6924
Abr 3, 5:56pm

>4 dlphcoracl:. "MY point is that at least on its artistic merits the Sidney Shiff LEC books gave the avid private press book collector something in return, regardless of affordability. The same cannot be said for many of these Arion Press offerings."

I agree--then how was my point "incorrect?"

6dlphcoracl
Abr 3, 6:50pm

>5 Django6924:

"Incorrect" in the sense that your comment regarding the current Arion Press model and the Sidney Shiff LEC model focused solely on price, value, and intended collecting audience. At least the Sidney Shiff LEC books - especially the earlier ones - are something many George Macy LEC collectors and other private press book collectors would find appealing. I cannot say that for most of the Arion Press publications over the past decade, regardless of price.

7blue.eyes
Editado: Abr 4, 8:01am

>6 dlphcoracl: The point remains that both the Shiff LEC books as well as the Arion Press books were/are not catering to the middle class, but only to the "well heeled", which is unfortunate. Unfortunate in the sense that presumably the reason why this has happened is because the middle class has stopped reading books in significant if not substantial numbers. Many of those who buy books today do not buy them for reading but for decoration. There is a nice word related to this in Japanese:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-44981013

Of course your point about the Shiff LEC books being superior to the Arion Press books in terms of production quality remains and is not disputed.

8Django6924
Abr 4, 12:10am

>7 blue.eyes:

Thank you for clarifying the point I was trying to make.

9dlphcoracl
Abr 4, 8:28am

>7 blue.eyes:

Excellent point. I agree, FWIW.

10booksforreading
Abr 11, 8:25pm

Stupidly, I would like to believe that the middle class has not stopped reading books actively.
In the specific case of Arion Press, its offerings are not exciting in terms of quality for the price, so this probably discouraged most middle class potential buyers from purchasing AP books. Consequently, AP is now directing its offers to the more wealthy customers, and many of them do buy expensive books for decorations and prestige.

Limited Editions Club's yearly subscription required a similar financial commitment to that of Arion Press: more than $3,000 a year (with adjustment for inflation), so it also was not for majority of people.
For this price, LEC offered 12 books a year, while Arion is offering from 1 to 3 books a year; furthermore, in many instances, the quality of LEC books during Macy's times was VERY comparable to the quality of current AP books - sometimes ever favorably so.

I think that if we had a similar available offering to LEC in terms of quality, selections of literature, number of books, and price, the subscription would be as full today as it was during Macy's times.

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