Calasso and Literary Civilization

It’s a slim and colorful volume from FSG that contains the insightful and wise words of the Adelphi publisher and multi-varied scholar Roberto Calasso on the very art he has exercised for near fifty years. To have this translated work, The Art of the Publisher, available to an English speaking audience and to those within such a collective who take an interest or make investments in the design & production of the vehicles we know as books, is quite a modest though stimulating event for our culture at the near-end of 2015.

Here you can read a short excerpt from this new book.

Calasso’s manner of stating the very nature of the presentation and the substance of a publisher’s duty to quality and value (“that the publisher enjoys reading the books he publishes”) reminds one of an old path that is cut through with such simple, precise words. They reveal beneath our overgrown, commodified brush of books a way once trod on by the few who found it necessary to guide readers on an aesthetic journey – rather than a brief, sensory delight. As he writes, the public can be invited along on an “editorial program” which envisions each book as a chapter in a much greater tome.

I’ve written elsewhere about a publishing enterprise in America similar to Adelphi in its scope and variety. If there is something close to it now, it might be found in FSG or New Directions and the growing catalog of works joined together by these publishers’ visions for a “literary civilization”. But perhaps, in the wake of Calasso’s book or the waning of modern ideas about scholarship, there will be or is now emerging new “forms” of approaching the art of publishing as a higher calling toward the outward balance of unity and variety – as we might hope for this to occur, to each one of us, inwardly.

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