I was recently visiting my daughter in San Francisco and we took the opportunity to take the tour of the Arion Press. Tours run every Thursday afternoon and are highly worth the time even if you are only tangentially interested in fine press. Blake Riley was our host for the tour and we were delighted to be joined by Andrew Hoyem as we gathered in the gallery. he explained that they are in the process of getting out their latest publication, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. Alas, I was a week or so too early to walk out the door with my copy, so I’ll wait for it by post like all the other subscribers.
The Arion Press is probably the most fully functioning press in existence today, as they have the capability to handle every aspect of bookmaking except papermaking. Being the last type-foundry in the United States, they typically cast and set their own type for their books using their Monotype casting machines. They also have the luxury of selecting from their large selection of old and irreplaceable type, some of which were acquired from venerable printers like John Henry Nash and the Grabhorn Press. It’s very interesting watching those old machines spit out new type, especially the one that has been modified to take input from an Apple laptop. The juxtaposition of old and new technology!
From the casting room we headed into the print room where there were several projects in flight and in various stages of completion. For the most part, The Moonstone was already past this point but there was still plenty of evidence of it in the press room. We also saw some proofs for the upcoming Seamus Heaney book. Blake talked us through the different ways they used the various presses and how they worked differently with different types of page designs and illustrations.
Finally, we headed to the fully operational bindery where they were hard at work binding the first batch of the Collins books. One of the binders gave us a great rundown on the process for The Moonstone along with some great anecdotal design insight from Blake.
We finished up with a discussion of some of the other upcoming projects, including The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West and the Porgy & Bess libretto mentioned on their website. But I also learned they had some Flaubert in the works!
The Arion Press is a hidden jewel in the Presidio of San Francisco. Check it out next time you are in the area!