Arion Press is not the only fine press still operating, but it may be the best known. My familiarity with their work is restricted to the trade edition of their Moby-Dick, illustrated by Barry Moser and published in 1981 by University of California Press. It is a reduced, one-color version of the Arion 1979 10″ x 15″ folio, which was “printed on dampened handmade paper by a platen letterpress with a craftsmanship that limited the original publication to 265 copies”.

The Boston Globe published a story about the press on 2 September, prompted by an article in Harvard Magazine which describes the Arion Press edition of John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, printed on handmade 18″ round pages contained in a metal canister with a convex mirror on its top. The work is introduced by Helen Vendler. The Harvard Magazine article is headed “A nearly perfect book”.

hoyembibleAndrew Hoyem, who runs Arion, says of his work “I’m not doing it in order to uphold a standard of traditional letterpress books as against trade books, as against hardcover books, as against paperbacks, as against e-books. I’m making what I hope to have regarded as works of art.” I hope we will benefit from Mr Hoyem’s work, and of course the other craftsmen/artists like him, for years to come. Whenever people say that, despite the popularity of e-books, printed books will always survive, I think of this sort of art book, lovingly typeset, printed and bound, and sold at a price which takes us back to the early days of book making, before the product had reaped the benefits of mass production.

The Arion Press website says they run tours of their operation, located in the Presidio in San Francisco. It also features videos and television interviews.

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