Today I received the first book of the collection I recently subscribed to: Easton Press’ “The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written”
The first book is “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.
It wasn’t until only recently that I started to appreciated both an aesthetic as well as an intellectual gap in my life. My mother owned a huge collection of leather-bound classic literature from the UK publisher Heron, who has since gone out of business. I never appreciated these book while growing up, preferring them instead as a convenient means of hiding candy wrappers behind to avoid being found out I was helping myself to more than allowed.
Through the writing of Christopher Hitchens, who I was clued onto by way of the “New Atheist” wave of books and who frequently likes to quote the classics, I started to realize that I had missed out on a rather important part education. It was in his autobiography, where he frequently relates how his love of literature was fostered by his educators at Eaton, that I started to realize that a knowledge of the classics, who through their influence have left an indelible stamp on our culture, should be part and parcel of the repertoire of the educated mind. I resolved myself to address this problem, in style of course.
Those of you who have followed my Flickr photo stream know quite well that I have always liked to photograph the books I own. I was quite proud to have such a great collection of Microsoft Press books on my shelf. Even though I probably never got round to reading more than half of their content, a truth that is slightly embarrassing to me. The monetary expense of keeping this habit was really of little concern. It was the look and impression it gave that really did it for me.
So when I started to look into options concerning my future collection of classic literature, going the way of eBooks was almost immediately off the table. It would simply defeat the point. I wanted a collection similar to what my mother had. Something that you would only ever had to buy once, an investment, and could be proud to display and eventually pass on. I had already indulged in this line of thought when I purchased my Tolkien books.
As it turns out, very few publishers do collections like the kind Heron did. The ornate and luxury leather bindings, the India paper, etc. In the UK, several companies dealt in second-hand Heron collections, and then there where certain titles from Oxford University Press, and then there is of course the famous Folio Society. But I quite stumbled upon forum threads that described subscriptions one could apply to, and receive a new book every month, randomly, from a number of pre-selected sets. That idea instantly exited me. Anticipation every month, not knowing what you will get, and setting yourself in a forced one-month timetable to get the book read before the next one arrived. It was perfect.
A number of publisher do subscriptions like this, but only the US-based Easton press did a collection of high-quality leather-bound books, that could also be purchased in this subscription model. I could find no other publisher that did this. Granted, I would have preferred a UK publisher, more from a cost perspective than anything else. But so few seem to be in the business of ornately bound classic literature.
So today I received Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. This is the first of the collection, the specially priced introductory volume, after which the first few books are known. The next book will be Treasure Island, but after about the third book, it becomes random.
I am very pleased. The quality is as advertised. Its so well and firmly found, that I will almost be afraid reading it. This is not the sort of book to casually read, certainly not in bed. The act of reading properly, especially something of this caliber, should be something one invests real time in, applies ones self fully to. I intend to. This collection will not lie un-read on my shelf. In fact I will refuse to retire the book there until it has in fact been read.
Finally, I will share with you the introductory letter I received with the book.
Dear Valued Customer:
I am proud to present you with a work of genius. This single immortal edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is just the beginning of an exquisite library that will benefit your family for generations.
Before you join Huck and Jim on their journey down the Mississippi, I would like to welcome you to The 100 Greatest Books Ever Written and point out some of the deluxe features of the beautiful volume you hold in your hands.
Your edition of Huckleberry Finn features superb materials and craftsmanship. The premium-quality, genuine leather is dyed with a lustrous brown finish, then carefully drawn over raised spine hubs in the finest tradition of bookbinding.
The elegant spine design is stamped in precious 22kt gold. The cover features a deeply impressed, beautiful illustration. Gilded page edges, polished mirror-smooth, add a distinctive touch, and they protect your investment from humidity and dust.
It’s safe to judge this book by its cover because the luxury and quality continue inside…
Inside the covers are shimmering moire endleaves, dyed a deep gold. Endleaves of this quality are prized by lovers of fine books — not only for their elegant appearance and feel, but for the strength and stability they add to the binding. For your convenience, a beautiful and practical satin-ribbon page marker is dyed to match.
Distinguished artist Thomas Hart Benton made eighty-seven illustrations for this edition of Huckleberry Finn, heightening the enjoyment of reading this all-time classic. For each of them he made an entire drawing in brown wash, and then covered it with a black outline. In Thomas Hart Benton’s NOTE BY THE ILLUSTRATOR included in this edition he writes, "This whole project has been a big, slambang emotional indulgence for me." Opposite the title page is a powerful frontispiece portrait of Mark Twain, painted in watercolors by Hodges Soileau.
To add depth and insight to your reading, a revealing introduction was written especially for this edition by renowned scholar-historian, Pulitzer-Prize winner and all around professional writer Bernard DeVoto. In it he states, "No American book has more America in it, or more delight. Like all great works of art it is unique." As the editor he also made sure that this would be the most accurate text of the novel ever published.
As you turn to the first sentence, you will note the strong, clean, open typeface. The paper was specially milled for this edition, using acid-neutral stock of archival quality, a key element for permanence and durability. And each page has been securely sewn in place for added strength, not glued like ordinary hardcover editions.
The finished result: A luxurious edition fit for Mark Twain’s masterpiece.
From its charming beginning to its heartwarming conclusion, Huckleberry Finn takes you on an unforgettable coming-of-age journey that is at once comedic and deeply profound. Ernest Hemingway said, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn."
We at Easton Press hope and believe you will enjoy the finest edition of Huckleberry Finn ever published. Your next volume, Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic, Treasure Island, is carefully being completed and will be shipped to you shortly.
For Easton Press,