Yesterday I came across an admirable plan to read each book of the Biblioteca Adelphi. That is 653 books published to date. It is no less absurd that the notion I’m contemplating to read the Seagull Books backlist from the beginning to present day, a more modest catalogue of 400-odd books. You can follow Karen Barbarossa’s journey.
Adelphi Edizioni in Milan is a remarkable publisher. A Twitter acquaintance, not given to hyperbole, said she’d ‘consider being published by them a higher honour than the Nobel Prize.’ Singular writer Roberto Calasso has worked for the firm since its founding by Roberto Bazlen in 1962 and became its Chairman in 1999. Discovering Karen’s plan led me to read Calasso’s The Art of the Publisher. The following are from the first essay Publishing as a Literary Genre:
“. . . a good publishing house is unlikely to be of any particular interest in economic terms.”
“It would appear that a publishing business can produce substantial profits only on condition that good books are submerged beneath many other things of very different quality.”
Aldus Manutius “was the first to imagine a publishing house in terms of form. Form is crucial, first of all, in the choice and sequence of titles to be published. But form also relates to the texts that accompany the books, as well as the way in which the books are presented as objects.”
” . . . all books published by a certain publisher could be seen as links in a single chain, or segments in a serpentine progression of books, or fragments in a single book formed by all the books published by that publisher.”
” . . . literature loses all of its magic unless there’s an element of impossibility concealed deep within it.”
I’ve been hoping for some years that Bobi Bazlen’s Writings, letters and notebooks for the most part, find an English translator, perhaps even a Seagull Books venture, and continue to contemplate my Seagull Project.