Meredith May Sunday, August 14, 2011
Tucked inside the Presidio is one of the last shops in the world where an entire book is created by hand.
At the Arion Press, workers design the layout and then use 100-year-old machines to cast the lead type, print the pages and create the covers. Last, they bind the books by hand. Their method has earned the Arion artisans endangered cultural treasure status by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
“We have over 100 tons of type,” Publisher Andrew Hoyem said as the oiled arms of typesetting machines clacked back and forth behind him.
The type foundry at Arion, M & H Type, is the oldest and largest still operating in the nation.
Even though Amazon.com now sells more e-books than hardback and paperback books combined, Hoyem says young collectors are coming to him to experience the aesthetic beauty of books. What he does and what the Internet does are “apples and oranges,” he said.
Arion’s books are limited-edition artworks, resurrections of lost classics and modern stories, many illustrated by prominent artists.
The press has published more than 90 books since it opened in 1974, including the Bible and works by Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, Italo Calvino, Allen Ginsberg and David Mamet. Currently on the press is a collection of Sappho’s poems, with an English translation.
The most popular book in Arion’s catalog is a sold-out 1979 edition of “Moby-Dick,” with illustrations by renowned artist and printmaker Barry Moser, considered one of the most beautiful books of the 20th century.
Hoyem is releasing five more this year, at more than $10,000 apiece.
A gallery of Arion’s creations is open for tours every Thursday at 3 p.m. To arrange one, e-mail email@example.com or call (415) 668-2548.
This article appeared on page P – 16 of the San Francisco Chronicle