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Madeline in New York: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans at the N-Y Historical Society

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Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction Awarded to E.L. Doctorow

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced that E. L. Doctorow, author of... read more

Incunabula, Philosophy, Books on Anatomy & Dentistry Coming Up at Swann Galleries on May 1

New York—On Thursday, May 1, Swann Galleries will auction a fine selection of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books that offers... read more

First Edition of Casino Royale Sells for $40,000

A first edition of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, (1953) thrilled bidders, selling for £24,180... read more

Lyon & Turnbull Reveal a Secret Plea from Bonnie Prince Charlie to the King of France

Lyon & Turnbull reveal a letter from Bonnie Prince Charlie to his friend, and... read more

Signed Beatles Memorabilia at Heritage Auctions

NEW YORK—A piece of the set from The Ed Sullivan Show, signed by The... read more

Norbert Donhofer, New ILAB President

At the Ordinary General Meeting on 13th April 2014 in Paris the presidents of... read more

Early Vampire Tale Leads at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auction

An adaptation of the French play by Charles Nodier, The Bride of the Isles,... read more

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2014 Bookseller Resource Guide
Gently Mad

At the Arion Press

Andrew Hoyem on printing, binding, and selling fine press books in the digital age by Nicholas A. BasbanesNicholas A. Basbanes recently received a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to work on his book, On Paper, forthcoming in 2013 from Knopf. His most recent books are About the Author, Editions & Impressions, and A World of Letters. His other works include the acclaimed A Gentle Madness, Every Book Its Reader, Patience & Fortitude, Among the Gently Mad, and A Splendor of Letters.

Andrew Hoyem at San Francisco’s Arion Press. Credit: Nicholas A. Basbanes.

Bibliophiles attending the 46th California International Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco in February should consider a side trip to the Arion Press, a working museum of uncommon interest if ever there was one.

Founded in 1975 by Andrew Hoyem as the lineal descendant of the legendary Grabhorn Press with which he had been associated in several capacities since 1964, Arion was based for many years just south of Market Street in an industrial neighborhood that went high tech in the late nineties. Forced to vacate while in the midst of producing his most ambitious project ever—a 1,350-page folio edition of the Bible done entirely by letterpress with type cast onsite from molten lead—Hoyem found sanctuary in 2001 as a cultural tenant in the Presidio, a former Army base that had recently been designated an urban national park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

The move across town involved relocation not only of antique printing presses and more than four thousand cases of vintage metal fonts which by themselves weighed more than one hundred tons, but also the entire type foundry of Mackenzie & Harris, a prominent firm that Hoyem had bought out and folded into his own business several years earlier.

Housed now in a 14,000-square-foot building that was once home to a laundry and steam plant, every phase of this distinctive enterprise except papermaking—typography, composition, printing, design, and binding—is executed by a dozen craftsmen and craftswomen, most of them trained through apprenticeships within the operation.

Carrying the concept of a fully integrated press to its logical end point, Hoyem is also the person who decides the editorial direction Arion takes from project to project, and which works will bear its imprint. As publisher, he is the person, too, who determines which artists will be commissioned to illustrate specific projects; William T. Wiley for the two-volume edition of Edith Grossman’s translation of Don Quixote in 2009 and 2010, for instance, or Jim Dine for a suite of etchings and woodcuts for The Case of the Wolf Man, 1993, the text of a case history written in 1914–15 by Sigmund Freud.

The press works on an average of three titles a year, and it just completed its ninety-sixth book. While such an operation is labor intensive to the extreme, the results are a pleasure to behold, and collected appreciatively by individuals and institutions throughout the world. When my wife and I dropped by for a visit a few weeks ago, a pair of binders was working on finished copies of the Arion edition of The Moonstone, the 1868 novel by Wilkie Collins considered by some to be the first work of detective fiction.

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