08.27.13
Observed | Essays

A Nearly Perfect Book


Publisher Andrew Hoyem at Arion’s San Francisco quarters. Photograph by ToniBird Photography.

Harvard magazine has a wonderful article this month about Andrew Hoyem, one of the leading letterpress printers in the country, his collaborations with Helen Vendler, Porter University Professor at Harvard, and how to publish a poem that brings the physicality of seeing, reading, and writing so distinctly to the fore.
That was one challenge that Andrew Hoyem, one of the leading letterpress printers in the country, faced 29 years ago when he undertook a new edition of the poem. Hoyem runs Arion Press, a fine-edition publisher in San Francisco. Some of the books it has produced are set by hand, and all are printed in small editions whose volumes sell for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Following tradition, Hoyem either melts down the type or returns it to its cases after the run is complete, preserving the volumes’ uniqueness. The approach runs contrary to mainstream trends in today’s literary marketplace, and, like the Ashbery poem, it rests on the value of precision: the physicality of the book as an object and the startling originality of the craftsman’s eye. “There’s a kind of human rhythm to this,” Hoyem explains. “That’s what fine printing is — it’s about being perfect.”
It's a long read and worth every word. So go read it.


Posted in: Books, Poetry


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