The ABPress website (or how to change a light bulb in a tight space on a ladder)

The web page of the ABPress based in Oxford and Sibiu, soon open for business: muses and misspells on books: neo-bankrupt & analogue.

The ABPress

*WHAT IT DOES* The ABPress will publish out of copyright books from Britain and America. From this it derives its name: Albion an ancient word for England, Beatnik an American slang word, a lexicographic construct denoting an attitude of mind and introduced by Jack Kerouac in 1948 (he claimed from the word ‘beatific’). The press is interested in books either of peculiar interest or of their time, perhaps neglected since their authors’ death. Some of these reprinted books, especially the lengthier novels, have original and commissioned illustrations by Prague-based illustrator Christopher Vinz. Bucharest-based graphic artist Alexandra Andries is responsible for cover design.

*ALSO* The Press will publish contemporary poetry, some fiction, and other writing as well.

*VALUES* It isn’t the knobby end of publishing by any means (although it intends to have an imprint of worthwhile, illustrated hardback editions with good quality paper). It is enthusiastic about what it publishes; it produces a complementary magazine, The Sandspout.

*HOW BOOKS ARE SOLD* The ABPress does not have a trade distributor or representation in the retail trade, but bookshops do stock our titles. Please do think to buy a book directly from the press: it will arrive wrapped in a covering paper that is customised for the book you have ordered, also a bookmark.

*WHAT FORMATS* Proudly the press falls prey to all the vice and weakness of nostalgia. If it uses digital format — an eBook or audio file — then it is with a slight emotional (and technical) reluctance. The crooked line and a smudge at all times have more beauty than an inkjet or spellcheck. The press regards itself as the literary equivalent of a pantry, so to speak, rather than a freezer.

*HOW MUCH* You should buy a book because you want to read it, not because it is cheap. This doesn’t give publishers the license to overcharge (unless they can get away with it). Cod liver oil is part of the publishing pharmacy and had been administered centuries before now. When copyright law was codified in 1709, the statute that related specifically to booksellers required them to price books fairly. Any customer who thought the price of any book to be too high was liable to report it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, £5 per book sold the fine exacted. (Most of our paperbacks are £6, and some of the shorter books cost £4. We think that is fair, but do report us to the Archbishop if not.)

*SOME HEROES* Joseph Dent, driven by a love of bookworm and library dust, had started his career as a bookbinder. He was Everyman’s eminence gristle, a publisher who designed an affordable library for the common man. He was very much under the spell of William Morris and the late nineteenth century private presses, an intellectual parvenu, the tenth child of a County Durham house painter (Robert Tressell a Durham decorator) who had left school at thirteen and, with ants in his pants, travelled to London like Dick Whittington before. He was quite the bibliophilic, clever clogs evangelist, nouveau nous and nimble, his mission to publish a basic library (“Infinite riches in a little room” was his borrowed mission statement) with a deft sense of curatorship: fifty books at first, in 1906, one shilling each.
Grant Richards was of similar disposition. He had published Bernard Shaw and A. E. Housman in his early twenties (and he went on to publish Robert Tressell too), and, importantly, he had been apprenticed to a wholesale bookseller. All roads lead to quantity of sales before quality of margin, his series of rock-bottom price World’s Classics was launched in 1901. The rapid success of these superior bindings tested his balance sheet and he was bankrupt soon (a feat he was to repeat later in life). The list was sold on to Henry Frowde at Oxford University Press.

*WHO & WHERE* A crock of an ex-bookseller — see the contact page — at work on a boat in Oxford, England, mostly in Sibiu, Romania. (And elsewhere occasionally.)

*MANIFESTO, SORT OF* Above all else, the ABPress believes in the power of the printed word.

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