classic works, published in high quality
April 14, 2011 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about high quality publishing! What does it involve, where can I read more about it and who does it? I’m interested in buying old cornerstone types of works like The Federalist Papers, The Origin of the Species bound, made, etc. at the best possible quality.

I remember reading about a company that does something like this, like a batch of particular books every few months, but can’t dig it up…
posted by the mad poster! to Shopping (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Easton Press? Library of America?
posted by mattbucher at 7:33 AM on April 14, 2011

Thanks for the links. Those sites are kinda confusing and the hustling nature of the offers kinda turns me off… I guess they basically publish at a lot higher volume than I’m thinking of… I was thinking of something a lot more limited with a focus on book construction? I know this is kinda odd cause most people's focus would be on the authoritativeness of the work and whether it's passably well put together as a book, but I've totally seen more niche efforts at publishing so I'd like to find these sources if possible.
posted by the mad poster! at 7:52 AM on April 14, 2011

Folio Society?
posted by Erasmouse at 7:52 AM on April 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh snap that's them!! Folio Society! thanks

The other thing I realized as I looked at the 'related questions' on here is that I may be looking at this the wrong way, what I really might want to do if I want exceptional versions of books is start collecting particular old editions of the works… but I definitely do want copies that I can actually practically handle in a regular context in the meanwhile, not just 'put behind a lock' historical artifacts
posted by the mad poster! at 7:57 AM on April 14, 2011

I am very fond of my Arion press edition of Moby Dick.
posted by seasparrow at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2011

very cool seasparrow. I see they take it to the extreme I was thinking of.
posted by the mad poster! at 2:05 PM on April 14, 2011

You need a good bookseller. There are editions of the classics that can be stunning, and a good bookseller will help you find them. The Library of America books are made to last a long time; the paper is high quality and the binding is superb. You don't hve to subscribe; you can buy individual titles.
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on April 14, 2011

theora, thanks for the response.

I kinda get this sort of “go to a local retailer” answer in my threads and (if you’d let me vent) I think y’all way overestimate the ability to waltz into a random store and get these things done. I find it impossible to find anyone in a random independent retail context who’s highly sophisticated about their wares, patient about building a relationship with me if I’m not purchasing immediately, etc. I can’t even get a lil bit of customer education “what’re the different types of this thing” out of most of these cats who aren’t posted at big-brand stores. The only people I’ve found who are even remotely like that are my dad’s tailors and I’m basically hooking into a decades-old relationship there. I’m imagining 90% of booksellers I’d ask “hey how can I get an Emily Dickinson book that looks like this” would say they have no idea. You really do have to go to the production source sometimes…

Again this isn't about your response per se just a sort of incremental buildup but I just find it hard when people say "work with a local [maker of X]" the truth is the local maker of X often isn't competing with the high quality artisans of the world and isn't in that network.
posted by the mad poster! at 3:27 PM on April 14, 2011

You may not like the LOA website, but I wanted to second that they do a good job in both putting the books together and selecting the works to be released. They're similar to the Criterion Collection, only centered around American writers rather than cinema.

Every library will have a handful of their releases in the stacks somewhere for you to check out and actually hold in your hands so you can see what they're like. They're very well-crafted, but not stunning or works of art.
posted by jsturgill at 4:19 PM on April 14, 2011

I believe you :) Will check them out
posted by the mad poster! at 4:33 PM on April 14, 2011

From the sound of your replies, what you need to do is get in touch with a rare/antiquarian book dealer. Don't let the word rare throw you though, because everything you're after isn't necessarily "rare", or very expensive (though of course they have the potential to be). There is a huge difference between a rare/antiquarian bookseller and your average bookstore, even a really great independent book shop.

A real antiquarian book dealer will work with you over time to build a relationship, figure out the kind of volumes you're looking for and help you construct a thoughtful collection. You can give them a wish list, and they will keep an eye out for things to fill in your collection. A good dealer will also be able to recommend specific titles, authors and imprints, and there is a good chance these will be books you have never heard of. The dealers job is to help you build a library that reflects your own quirky interests.

You should attend a book show somewhere local. Spend some time visiting the booths, seeing what the dealers specialize in and chatting them up. Book dealers are generally very loquacious folks, so this will be easy. When you've found a dealer that seems to sell the type of books you're interested in, and you can have a decent conversation something! (It doesn't have to be expensive, but making a purchase is just a way to show that you're serious about book collecting and is a good faith gesture that lets the dealer know you aren't wasting their time). After you've made your purchase, explain to them that you're looking to work with a dealer to build a library, and fill them in on your interests. From this point, any book seller who knows their stuff will begin walking you through the process of starting a book collection.

You can also take a look at the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America to find a dealer.

When you buy books from a dealer, you generally pay a 10-20% premium. I often hear people bitch and moan that they've seen the same book on Ebay or ABE for a few dollars less, but paying a little more to a dealer is worth it for many reasons.

1. You can be sure that the condition, edition/printing, signatures etc. are all correct.
2. Dealers have access to items for 'The Trade", which means they can often get things that are difficult for the general public to get. They will also have a network of other dealers they work with to track obscure volumes down.
3. If the book "Isn't Right" (ie some problem) the dealer will take it back and refund your money, no questions asked.
4. A reputable dealer will be able to fill you in on the significance, history and story behind a particular book. Think of them as a researcher who can tell you why a certain book is worth owning. They can also give you a legal appraisal for insurance, etc. if you start buying expensive books.

Feel free to memail if you have any questions, I worked for a rare book dealer for 5 years when I was going to school, and I'm still an obsessive book hound.
posted by EvilPRGuy at 7:54 PM on April 14, 2011

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