Chester River Press ~ Maryland
(James Dissette)

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Chester River Press: "Chester River Press was founded in 2006 by the Chestertown Old Book Co. The Press specializes in fine letterpress and offset book printing and publishing. ... Chester River Press prints and publishes fine editions of classic works, as well as modern literature, poetry, and history."
"New work coming soon"  

Chester River Press Out of Print and Sold titles:  
By John Barth
Chestertown, Maryland: Literary House Press, 2005.
Edition of 160.

4.75 x 7.5"; 36 pages. Letterpress printed on a Vandercook Universal 3 from Monotype Dante cast at Michael Bixler’s Press & Typefoundry. Linoleum cuts. Printed on Hahnemühle Bugra paper. Bound in quarter-cloth and paper over boards at Campbell-Logan Bindery. Signed by John Barth.

This essay comes from an address by John Barth at a celebration of the Clifton Miller Library's (Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland) acquisition of its 200,000th volume. Every year, the Literary House Press publishes one book by a writer of national reputation who has ties to the state of Maryland. Barth was born in Cambridge, Maryland (1930).

Prospectus: "For any reader who has ever plunged joyously headlong into a book – or a roomful of them, or an entire library – this one will be a special treat. John Barth’s Browsing takes us on a literary ramble through the history of libraries (both real and imagined) and of his own lifelong encounters with books. As we have come to expect from the author of The Sot-Weed Factor and Lost in the Funhouse, this extended essay combines humor, erudition, and an exuberant intellectual energy. En route to a deeper understanding of what he calls 'the browserish aspect of human consciousness,' Barth visits such topics as the joys of marginalia and the hazards of reading on the beach; the Library of Pergamum and the Library of Babel; Bakhtin, Borges, and Barthelme, hypertexts and the Pandemonium Model of Utterance. Browsing is a book for true book-lovers, a delight to the mind as well as the eye."

"This Literary House Press limited edition of Browsing includes five specially commissioned linoleum cuts by Mary Rhinelander, plus an original portrait of the author as its frontispiece. The bright white mouldmade Hahnemühle paper showcases Rhinelander’s illustrations, which are impressed in black over classic orange and green. The front cover is also embellished with one of the artist’s cuts."


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Heart of Darkness
By Joseph Conrad
with drawings by Marc Castelli
Chestertown, Maryland: Chester River Press, 2009. Edition of 135.

9 x 12 x 1.5"; 112 pages with a four-panel center-fold. 36 line drawings by Marc Castelli. Printed letterpress at Deepwood Press by Chad Pastotnik and James Dissette on Hahnemühle Biblio papers. Handcolored drop caps. Quarter-bound in Blue Nigerian goatskin and Cockerell marbled papers. Title stamped on spine. Slipcased with inset paper title. Signed by the artist.

Chester River Press: " A spontaneous consensus between three people is a rare occasion especially when it comes to three partners in publishing deciding on the 'next' publication. Marc Castelli, a prolific maritime artist on the Eastern Shore of Maryland also held the Heart of Darkness in high esteem. His passion for the Conrad text resulted in 36 line drawings powerfully reflecting the narrative's hallucinatory descent into a hell of human oppression, insanity, and ethical conundrum. Conrad's masterpiece showed to the world the devolution of values when one nation runs amuck over another - in this case the Belgian Congo - in the name of colonial progress. The currency of Heart of Darkness spurred us on.

"Logistically, the creation of the book took on a life of its own. Conceived in Maryland, printed on two presses in Michigan, shortages of Hahnemühle Biblio paper, long waits for the Cockerell paper we needed to compliment the goatskin, crazy days on the Deepwood Press vacuuming cotton fibers every 100 passes or so all made for a journey of its own. Even the despairing Mr. Kurtz would have applauded our trek."

Colophon: "The text of Heart of Darkness has been edited to conform to the 1921 Heinemann edition."

Parenthesis 19, review: "What makes the design of the Chester River Press edition such a successful and superior book is its unpretentiousness and its typographic willingness to facilitate an uninhibited read of Conrad's visceral, morally ambiguous tale. The spartan yet subtly flexible architecture of the 100 meticulously crafted page-spreads offers a reading experience that is quietly contemplative and sublime yet is still imbued with a high level of gravitas. ...

"The text blocks provide a structural foundation out of which Mr. Castelli's sepia-rendered etchings emerge as unflinchingly objective, visually candid portrayals of this tale's most seminal moments. They interrupt the flow of the narrative just enough to afford the reader crucial opportunities to contemplate the themes that Conrad has woven into this novella."

"Heart of Darkness" was awarded first place in the 2010 Carl Herzog Award competition for excellence in book design.
(Out of Print)

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"It is a splendid presentation and I have enjoyed it greatly. The presswork is exemplary as is the design. Marc Castelli's drawings are, frankly, masterful. All in all a mighty fine book. I salute you and your team on a superior project." ~Barry Moser


The Heights of Macchu Picchu
By Pablo Neruda
translated by David Young
Bandon, Oregon: Songs Before Zero Press, 1987. Edition of 155.

8 x 12.125"; 34 pages. Letterpress printed. Monotype-set in Lutetia by Harold Berliner's Typefoundry and printed on Arches Text. Quarter bound by Campbell-Logan Bindery with Roma paper and Grobgewebe cloth covers and Amore endpapers. Printed paper title/author label inset in front board. Introduction and translation by David Young. Line drawing frontispiece by Jack Schroeder.

The Heights of Macchu Picchu (Las Alturas de Macchu Picchu) is Canto II of the Canto General, Neruda's tenth book of poems. Twelve poems comprise this section of Canto General.

Jim Dissette: "I printed this book in 1986 in Bandon, Oregon, using a Vandercook Universal #3 Press and Lutetia type from Harold Berliner's Typefoundry on Arches laid paper.

"[The translation] is by the poet David Young, editor of Field Magazine at Oberlin College. His translations of Rilke are equally stunning.

"This is an English only edition: Farrar, Straus & Giroux owns all English versions of Neruda published in English (or did so at that time) and the Neruda Estate owned the Spanish. It took 18 months to receive permission for 155 editions of the English and the Spanish permissions were far more daunting.

"The full page line drawing of the condor was done by Jack Schroeder, a well known artist from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I asked him to draw the condor as if embracing the sense of 'sloping height.' and 'Incan priest.' I think he accomplished it well."

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Page last update: 07.21.18


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