Monday, November 25, 2013

The Emperor's Crystal


Here's something nifty that came in the mail just the other day:  The Emperor's Crystal by Lord Dunsany.   This is volume II of Lost Tales, the Pegana Press series of chapbooks reprinting uncollected short fiction of Lord Dunsany for the first time.

I received The Emperor's Crystal because I'd contributed an introduction to Lost Tales, Vol. I.  The new chapbook contains an admirable introduction by Darrell Schweitzer, one of the world's foremost authorities on Lord Dunsany and the only person I know who's actually been to Dunsany Castle, a never-before-published drawing by Dunsany himself, and nine stories by the master fantasist, one of which, "The Secret Order," is published here for the first time ever.

There are two groups of people who will be interested in this:  Dunsany completists and connoisseurs of fine printing.  For the latter, I will mention that the chapbook is folio bound with sky blue French paper and hand sewn in two color Irish linen thread. It is typeset with Goudy Franciscan & Friar Typefaces in 1920 Era Black Ink for Text & Reflex Blue for Ornaments and Titles. 

For the rest of us, I will say only that the paper is gorgeous and the printing is too.  Running one's fingertips over the page is a tactile pleasure.  All the work, including the typesetting is done by hand.  And it is published in an edition strictly limited to 92 printed copies.

Those who are likely to buy this book -- and you know who you are -- already know what this sort of thing costs.  The rest of us may turn pale at the thought of spending $110 for a chapbook or $160 for the hardbound (gray cotton cloth cover with inset pastedown and tiger end papers from Nepal) edition.  But that is, as I  said, what this sort of thing costs.

How pleasant to own a copy, though!  I'm extremely happy for myself.

You can order this or one of several other infinitely desirable works from Pegana Press here.



Richard Mason said...

I have mixed feelings about this kind of thing. On the one hand, I do appreciate books as objects of physical beauty. My library is one of the few material possessions in which I take pride. So I get that part.

But the business about "strictly limited to only 92 numbered copies"---the fetishization of artificial scarcity---I find that disturbing. It seems pre-Gutenbergian. It seems almost contrary to the nature and spirit of what a book is (since 1450).

Michael Swanwick said...

Limiting an edition achieves two things: Makes it possible for an artisan to earn money creating beautiful things, and makes it financially sensible to bring back into print stories for which there is no mass market.

Without the explicit statement of scarcity... well, the chapbook simply wouldn't exist.

Rita Tortorello said...

Richard, I understand your comment. So I would like to clear up the misunderstanding if I can.

Pegana Press is one printing press with one person doing the typesetting and printing, and one person doing the binding. When we say there is a limited amount available, it is quite literally true. Because we have limited resources and limited time. And an extremely limited market. One press, two people, a finite amount of type, which is constantly being reused and can not sit as a block to be used for future editions.

We do letter press books. They are hand made, not mass produced. I can assure you the scarcity is not artificial.

I understand your abhorrence of manipulated markets, and artificial scarcity being programmed into the culture, but this is not what we do. We aren't getting rich on this. It would more likely come under the heading of "labor of love", or "insanity" or some such thing.

rfinegold said...

Eloquently summarized, Michael. The Emperor's Crystal is a gem for lovers of fine hand-crafted books and for collectors of Dunsany's enchanting prose. Thank you.