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Feature: The Art of Bookmaking


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16th September 2015

At present, we are witnessing life in the digital age – even books have been adapted to a portable device.

It seems that the art of publishing printed books is heading towards something that will forever be ‘merely in the past’. That is why preservation is – and should – remain an important feat for companies that have been dedicating truly one of a kind objects that we hope, can stand the test of time. Afterall, there will always inevitably be, a need for a beautifully printed hardcover book.

One such company that continues to preserve its specialty in bookmaking excellence is Arion Press – renamed in 1974 as a result of the Grabhorn-Hoyem partnership after Grabhorn Press shut down. The San Franciscan Grabhorn Press was quite distinguished at the time, having printed – what is known to be their masterpiece – Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, where it made use of a special New Style typography of Frederic Goudy, the most recognized American type designer. What Grabhorn lent to the new partnership was its equipment, which contained the most important collections of type that Arion Press uses to this day.

Today, Arion Press employs only a very small team consisting of ten people, with a focus on crafting two to three limited-edition books per year and which titles have only a very limited number of copies available – in order to get your hands on some of their titles, one will need to get in touch with the Press and inquire. Titles include those of ancient literature to modern literary classics and each are designed and produced by hand where typographic interpretation is a key feature. What defines the Arion Press in the bookmaking industry is their employment in combining both old and modern techniques along with the use of their own historic letterpress equipment. The Press has also released books and portfolios containing original prints by major artists.

Besides publishing, Arion Press also offers a very versatile custom services where individuals, businesses and institutions can have them design and produce the typography and printing.  Anything from stationery, books, business cards, invites, advertisements, and announcements to posters can be commissioned. Furthermore, the Press can also restore and repair old books. Of course, the price is expected to be on par with the excellence produced by Arion Press, but this does not mean that they are not cost-conscious.

If you are interested in knowing and witnessing more of this wonderfully self-sustaining Press Company, they offer tours to discover historic printing and bookmaking facilities at their site in San Francisco.

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