Monday, 30 March 2009


Last Thursday, March 26th, we were as proud and delighted as any relatively new parents to host the first birthday party for The Capuchin Classics.  Among the authors, agents, booksellers and members of other associated literary tribes attending were Anne Atkins, Michele Roberts, Tim Bates (grandson of HE), Roger Morgan (son  of Charles Morgan) and Valentine Cunningham.  Our picture shows (from left to right) Emma Howard, the ch√Ętelaine of Capuchin Classics, Alessandro Gallenzi of Oneworld Classics (see Alessandro's Blog for his own unique description of the event) and Tim Bates.

In a thought-provoking speech, Capuchin Editor Christopher Ind surveyed the world of classics reprints and challenged the position assumed by Faber with their 'Faber Finds' project, which allows readers to order print-on-demand copies of particular titles without involving the publisher in any print run and therefore in having the books on bookshops' shelves.  Furthermore, in acquiring rights across the estates of dead authors still in copyright, Faber Finds is preventing other publishers from making those books properly available to the trade for a period of several years. Many works by authors as significant as HG Wells, Joyce Cary and Angus Wilson are thus kicked out of touch.  Christopher said:

"We see this as contrary to the interests of literature. Sure, it keeps the book theoretically available, but in the narrowest sense of the term. Faber Finds simply put out print-on-demand.  While there is a concession for living authors in the form of a release clause should a rival publisher put in an offer, there is no such concession for dead authors.

Our book-buyer had to know that Lucky Jim existed in the first place. After all, the fundamental truth remains that you cannot ask for what you do not already know exists. It is not, then, truly 'making public'. 

“Foul play,” I hear you cry – and you’d be right. For this surely marks a step away from what it is to publish, and what it means to keep books alive. To the agents and executors among you I would urge caution before conceding such dog-in-the-manger rights to an author’s works to what is admittedly a prestigious name in publishing, but one that is arguably undermining what it means, properly, to publish."

This view has been endorsed by Alessandro, who co-founded the splendid Oneworld Classics, imprint.

We would very much welcome your reactions.

In the meantime, having recovered from the bacchanalian delirium of last Thursday, we will continue to put beautifully produced copies of great books back onto the bookshelves, where they belong.

Quotation of the day:
"Distrust of authority should be the first civic duty."  Norman Douglas, author of South Wind, the wild and exuberant novel set in Capri and published by Capuchin Classics.


1 comment:

JRSM said...

I think you're probably very right--is the full speech available online anywhere? I'd be interested in reading more.