In the News

Illustration by Newell Convers Wyeth Fetches $1.325 Million at Bonhams

New York - The top-selling lot at the American Art sale at Bonhams was a... read more

Thomas Hart Benton’s “Discussion” Sells for Over $1 Million at Leslie Hindman

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers is thrilled to have brought a significant collection of American... read more

Hold History in Your Hands at the 58th London International Antiquarian Book Fair

From May 28th to 30th the halls of Olympia will once again present an... read more

Swann Galleries Announces Fall 2015 Auction: The Art of Maya Angelou

New York—On Tuesday, September 15, 2015, Swann Galleries’ African-American Fine Art department will offer... read more

Gabriel García Márquez Symposium Marks Opening of Author’s Archive

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin’s LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies... read more

“Grabhorn Press: 1920-1965 and Beyond” at the Grolier Club

The Grabhorn Press was one of the foremost American producers of finely-printed books from... read more

Artists’ books: the book as a work of art Published

From Mallarméto the Piece of Paper Press via Cubism, Futurism, Dada, Fluxus and conceptual... read more

Drawing from 1906 Special Edition of The War of the Worlds Sold for $32,500 at Heritage Auctions

BEVERLY HILLS—A groundbreaking pencil and ink drawing of a brain-like alien and its awful... read more

Follow us on TwitterLike us on Facebook
Auction Guide
Advertise with Us
2015 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.

Page 1 | 2 | Next
comments powered by Disqus