Local filmmaker and Richmond District resident James Kennard sent us this film he shot at Arion Press, the small printing company just inside the 14th Avenue Presidio gate that employs about ten people as printers, bookbinders, editors, and in other publishing roles.
For its 100th publication, Arion chose to create a handset deluxe limited edition of the text in the famed 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.
Kennard’s film documents the making of the book which is nothing short of fascinating. The amount of craftsmanship, labor, detail and patience that went into the process is astounding. Publisher Andrew Hoyem narrates the film, showing you the most intimate moments of the book manufacturing process, which even includes Hoyem reading every page aloud to a proofreader that sits across from him.
Hoyem chose Leaves of Grass as Arion’s 100th publication as a tribute to his Arion Press predecessors Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, whose masterpiece was their 1930 edition of the Whitman poem.
“A holy book of the nation, along with the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence,” is how poet laureate Robert Hass describes Leaves of Grass. The appearance of this book of poems in the middle of the nineteenth century was revolutionary. No one had ever read poetry like this before. Ralph Waldo Emerson was so astonished and impressed that he wrote the thirty-five-year-old Whitman what must be the mash note of all time: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty.” [Arion Press]
Kennard does a wonderful job of showing the minutia of the making of the book but also keeping you engrossed as the book comes to life, piece by piece, beginning with custom type being made in the press’ foundry.
The Arion Press edition of Leaves of Grass is limited to 275 copies with Arabic numerals for sale. The price is $1,250; contact Arion for more information (see the “Please Enquire” button at the bottom of this page).
4:30 am | Posted under Art
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