At Century Press every component of our books—spanning from the content to the materials—is deeply considered before coming together to create a cohesive experience. Read below to learn how we built our latest book one element at a time.
📖 The Story 📖
As soon as The Great Gatsby hit the presses down in Cornwall, I immediately began to think of the sophomore novel for Century Press. In terms of classic authors, Hemingway is one that always loomed large in my mind when it came to key figures in 20th century literature, and I felt like there was no better initiation to his work than his debut novel: The Sun Also Rises.
The sparse, yet athletic prose of The Sun Also Rises became the enduring hallmark of his style, which Hemingway himself coined as the 'theory of omission.' The power of this technique, which he honed as a newspaper journalist and deployed in his novels, was recognized by fellow authors such as Virginia Woolf, who said:
Whether due to the mythos that surrounded his personality or his foundational writing style, Hemingway is a subject that deserves to be re-evaluated by contemporary literary critics. After choosing to publish The Sun Also Rises, I knew I needed to find a contributor who could bring fresh eyes and a new angle to this landmark work of fiction.
I was fortunate that my ideal critic was located right here in my home province of Ontario. Daniel Hannah is a professor of Romantic and Transatlantic literature at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. His writing immediately gripped my interest when I picked up a copy of his most recent book: Queer Atlantic: Masculinity, Mobility, and the Emergence of Modernist Form.
In his book of essays, Professor Hannah provides a nuanced examination of masculine privilege, mobility, and the queer possibilities of desire in Anglo-American modernist fiction. As I went through his book, I was stunned to read "queer possibilities" in the same sentence as "Ernest Hemingway." After all, wasn't this man all about heavy drinking, fishing, and shooting nearly every species of large game on the African continent? What was "queer" about Hemingway?
I think readers will be super keen to read his introduction, which explores our notions of this macho writer and his œuvre from a brand-new perspective; one that examines how Hemingway's style works not just to construct masculinity, but to untangle it as well.
📄 A Return to the Letterpress Studio 📄
Similar to The Great Gatsby, The Sun Also Rises will be entirely printed letterpress by Ian Bristow down in Cornwall, Ontario. And if the first book wasn't a large enough project, our upcoming one is even bigger, clocking in at 272 pages long. It's a monumental effort to print a novel of this length on a 1956 Heidelberg platen press, but we think the results leave offset printed novels in the dust.
The amount Ian has learned about printing novels on his press has increased exponentially after the production of The Great Gatsby. As we start printing this month, we feel confident that we're going to be printing more efficiently and more consistently page-to-page. Like before, we've decided to use Boxcar Press's Flurry paper, which is acid-free, archival, 100% cotton, and most importantly takes a beautiful impression on the press.
⚒️ At the Bindery ⚒️
One of the biggest upgrades between The Great Gatsby and The Sun Also Rises pertains to the leather bindings. For those who have been following us since last year, you'll recall that we chose to use surplus sheepskin leather from the fashion industry to bind our debut release.
Using up-cycled leather was actually one the first things I envisioned when starting Century Press, and one of my favorite things about Gatsby. Unfortunately, when we scaled up production, we realized there were manifold challenges to using garment leather (namely issues with ineffective stamping and overstretching of the leather).
In short this meant that a significant portion of the leather we hoped to re-purpose for bookbinding unfortunately ended up unusable. (See picture below for bindings that failed to pass our quality control.) Consequently, we decided to explore other options for leather hides that met our strict requirements for being sustainably produced and traceably sourced.
That's how we came upon Pergamena, a boutique, family-owned tannery located in New York's Hudson Valley. There, the goatskins are cleaned, de-haired, and are vegetable-tanned by hand using techniques and machines that go back generations.
For The Sun Also Rises, we placed a custom order for Oxblood-dyed (apropos for Hemingway) goatskin leather for our bindings. Let me tell you, this leather is magnificent. It has an excellent tactile feel, and smells better than a brand-new pair of high-end Italian loafers.
Speaking of, we are again working with Studio Carta, a small business based in Massachusetts, to supply us with beautiful tight-weave cotton bookmarks imported from Italy. Their ribbons are gorgeously dyed, and are made with 100% natural materials. Plus, they match nicely with the burgundy and gold headbands we're using for this edition.
✏️ Illustrations and Cover Art ✏️
One feature we were super excited to add to The Sun Also Rises was an illustration for the frontispiece. We couldn't have been happier to find Calvin Laituri, a Vermont-based illustrator who specializes in scratch-board style illustrations. Calvin is an artist with a singular ability to make this centuries-old technique feel completely fresh. Plus, this mode of drawing is supremely well-suited for adaptation to letterpress printing.
For the cover art, we had the pleasure of working with Mac Pogue, who put a unique spin on the design for Hemingway's first novel. By pairing a striking, figurative front cover, with an abstract back cover, Mac put together a package that succeeds in feeling both timeless and brand new.
🌅 In Summary 🌅
Thanks for going on this deep dive with me! I'm really excited to get back into writing these 'Letters' in 2022, so expect some more coming to your inbox every couple weeks.
I want to send a huge shoutout to those who've already pre-ordered, especially those folks who've had my back when this little venture first launched in Summer 2021. Simply, we wouldn't be here without you! Thanks so much in believing what we're trying to make happen at Century Press.
Lastly, for those still on the fence about placing an order, remember that you can save $20.00 off the list price when you pre-order today.