The web page of the ABPress based in Oxford and Sibiu, soon open for business: muses and misspells on its books. Randomly decrepit, stiff joints, possibly neo-bankrupt: so out of touch it needs help, but so analogue it cannot be helped. Nonetheless temperamentally enthusiastic, moderately irascible.
*WHAT IS DONE* The ABPress publishes 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 reprints short stories and novellas, mainly from the beginning of the twentieth century, some poetry also, and is interested in books either of peculiar interest or of their time, books cast to one side or authors sometimes neglected since their death. Some of these reprinted books, especially the lengthier novels, have original and commissioned illustrations.
The Press publishes a small amount of new poetry, 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 using good quality paper. It is enthusiastic about what it publishes, has a complementary magazine, The Sandspout, and pays great attention to cover design and general artwork.
*HOW IT IS SOLD* The ABPress does not have a trade distributor or have representation in the retail trade, although it is very keen in its support of bookshops: it needs them. Many bookshops do stock our titles. (Indeed the press grew out of a proper bookshop that closed.) But if an end user, then please do think also to buy a book directly from the press: the book will arrive wrapped in a covering paper that is customised for the book you have ordered, also a bookmark, and a free magazine, The Sandspout, that we produce occasionally. We are quite enthusiastic. A proper contact page will be up soon, after books have been published in the summer of 2019.
*WHAT FORMATS* Proudly the press falls prey to all the vice and weakness of nostalgia, although it does not follow therefore that it is quite the full Luddite. But if the press uses digital formats — perhaps an eBook or even an audio file — then it is with a slight emotional (and technical) reluctance, possibly even by accident. For it holds that crooked lines and a smudge at all times have more beauty (and tell more backstory) than an inkjet or automatic spellcheck. In fact the press regards itself as the literary equivalent of a pantry, so to speak, rather than a freezer. The old and proven before the modern and all its maintenance.
*MANIFESTO LIKE* Above all else, ABPress believes in the power and confidence of the printed word. Paperbacks for now, hardbacks to follow.
*WHAT IT COSTS* You should buy a book because you want to read it, not because it is cheap, although this doesn’t give publishers or booksellers the license to overcharge (unless they can get away with it). Cod liver oil is part of the publishing pharmacy; it had been administered already centuries before now, even when copyright law was codified in 1709. The statute that related specifically to booksellers charged them with pricing 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, five pound per book sold the fine exacted. Most of our paperbacks are £6.00 (railway journeys cost far more), and some of the shorter books (which are most suitable for railway journeys) cost £4.00. 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. Everyman publishing was designed to be an affordable library for the common man. He was very much under the spell of William Morris and the late nineteenth century private presses, but he was also an intellectual parvenu, the tenth child of a County Durham house painter (Robert Tressell also a house painter) who had left school at thirteen but who had ants in his pants and 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 and budget library (“Infinite riches in a little room” was his borrowed mission statement): fifty books at first, in 1906, each priced at one shilling. He had a deft sense of curatorship, each volume a new edition rather than just a bog standard reprint.
Grant Richards was of similar disposition; he had published Bernard Shaw and A. E. Housman in his very early twenties (and he went on to publish Robert Tressell too), and, importantly, he had been apprenticed to a wholesale bookseller, where all roads lead to quantity of sales ahead of quality of margin. Richard’s series of rock-bottom price World’s Classics was launched in 1901. The rapid success of these superior bindings tested his balance sheet: he was bankrupt by his early thirties (a feat he was to repeat later in life). The list was sold eventually on to Henry Frowde at Oxford University Press.
*ALSO* The ABPress publishes new writing, poetry in particular.
*WHO* A crock of an ex-bookseller — see the contact page — in need of more money and more ideas… (Are these yours?)
*WHERE* The ABPress operates mostly from Oxford in England and from Sibiu in Romania. (And from elsewhere occasionally.)
*BACKGROUND INFO* on Albion Beatnik Bookstore.