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The Melville Press ~ California
(Catherine Kanner)

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About: “The Melville Press is dedicated to producing fine illustrated limited editions. Founded by Publisher Catherine Kanner, The Melville Press was born from a passion for Melville’s work and is devoted to publishing books which capture the spirit of voyaging and the sea.


In the Direction of the Beginning
By Dylan Thomas
Design by Catherine Kanner
Commentary by Nathan O. Reynolds.
Pacific Palisades, California: The Melville Press, 2003. Edition of 150.

8.5 x 12.25"; 34 pages. Letterpress printed and bound by Lawrence Van Velzer and Peggy Gotthold at Foolscap Press. Centaur typeface printed on Pescia 100% cotton mould-made paper. Art printed letterpress from Catherine Kanner’s original linoleum blocks. Bound with a self-closing, two-fold cover of black Japanese silk with shell clasp. Title of book stamped in silver foil on spine. Signed and numbered by Kanner.

The Melville Press: “Originally published in the ‘A Prospect of the Sea’ in 1939, ‘In the Direction of the Beginning’ is a powerful prose poem of love and the sea. Dylan Thomas' imagery is pointedly black and white, so follows the book's design.

“Catherine Kanner has designed the edition on a generous scale … The shell pin was designed by the artist, and manufactured in Asia. For this edition, Ms. Kanner has created nine new images printed letterpress by Lawrence Van Velzer of Foolscap Press from her original linoleum blocks. The text, which holds to a central point on each page suggest the ocean's horizon. Typeface is Centaur; a refined font with enough substance to hold up the bold black and white prints. The paper is Pescia 100% cotton mould-made, dampened before printing to aid in accepting the large inked areas of the images. The book was bound by Peggy Gottheld of Foolscap Press, and was hand sewn to allow the prints to cross the central gutter of the book without interruption.”

Books and Vines review, January 20, 2012

In the Direction of the Beginning book
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Written at Vailima
By Robert Louis Stevenson
Introduction by Mrs. R. L. Stevenson
Artist Catherine Kanner
John Sheller editor
Pacific Palisades, California: The Melville Press, 1999. Edition of 200.

5.5 x 9.25"; 42 unnumbered pages. Bound in brick red silk, blind stamped with a double orchid. In dust jacket with orchid illustration. Thai red endpapers with mango leaves. Letter press printed by Bonnie Thompson Norman of The Windowpane Press. Bembo type face printed on handmade Hiromi Sansui rice paper. Handbound by Allwyn O'Mara with French folded signatures, binding within each fold an interleaving paper to promote opacity. Signed and numbered by Kanner.

Prayers Written at Vailima” was first published in England in 1904 with an introduction by Mrs. R. L. Stevenson.

The Melville Press: "The design of this edition from The Melville Press reflects the beauty and simplicity of R. L. Stevenson’s prayers. Catherine Kanner began her design with linoleum cut illustrations of Mrs. R.L. Stevenson’s introduction. These images carry the reader to the island of Vailima and up to the Stevenson home where the prayers were read by the family and their Samoan friends. Each of the prayers is accompanied by a picture which reflects Stevenson’s deep appreciation of his island home."

University of Utah Marriott Library Blog, Dec 03, 2018: “In 1889, Robert Louis Stevenson moved his family to Vailima in the South Sea island of Samoa. The Scottish novelist and poet was in failing health. His doctors hoped that a change in climate would help. Stevenson believed in the power of prayer and composed many of his own. He held evening prayer services in his home, attended by his family members and his Samoan servants. The Samoans had a strong tradition of closing each day with prayer and hymns.

“Stevenson lived for another four years, dying on December 3rd. In 1910, Fanny Stevenson had her husband’s prayers published as an ornate gift book, to which she added her own introduction. There is a morning prayer and two evening prayers, a prayer for time and a prayer for rain, a prayer for separation, a prayer for friends and a prayer for family, a prayer for Sunday, a prayer for self-blame and a prayer for self-forgetfulness, and a prayer for joy

“In this edition, both book and jacket have a delicate, handmade quality that reflects the subject matter of native prayers in a far corner of the world. Designed by Catherine Kanner, with her linoleum cuts used directly to print the many illustrations. … The binding design is a collaboration between the book’s designer and Allwyn O’Mara, the binder.”

Prayers book
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Page last update: 08.03.2023


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