Saturday, February 20, 2010
What a great idea. Jane Austen is the world’s most popular author. Instead of publishing another edition of Pride & Prejudice or Persuasion, why not reprint Lesley Castle or Lady Susan? Someone new to Dickens may be daunted by the size of David Copperfield or Bleak House. Why not dip your toe in the water with one of his volumes of Christmas short stories such as The Holly Tree Inn? This is what Hesperus Press has done & I think it’s a brilliant idea. They’ve taken on the classics market at an oblique angle & found a niche that they’ve made their own. I love classic fiction. I’ve read all of Austen, the Brontes, Gaskell, most of Dickens & Hardy, lots of the Russians & now I’m discovering Zola & Balzac. Hesperus are broadening my reading even more with their reprints of lesser-known works by well-known authors. I’ve especially enjoyed the series of Dickens’ Christmas editions from his periodicals, All The Year Round & Household Words. These were special holiday editions consisting of a series of stories linked by a theme. Dickens orchestrated it & often wrote several of the stories. But, he invited other authors, including Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, Amelia Edwards & Harriet Martineau to contribute as well. I don’t think they had been reprinted until the Hesperus editions. This is what’s so innovative about the Hesperus list. You have recognition of the author &, for the classics lover, the delight of finding a new book. Another favourite is Wilkie Collins’s The Frozen Deep. This is the story that became the basis of the play Dickens was acting in when he met & fell in love with Ellen Ternan. Although I knew the basic plot from reading biographies of Dickens, I’d never read the play or this original story. Hesperus Press books are also beautiful. They’re all around 100pp long, the cover photos are gorgeous, the paper is creamy & I love the French flaps (I think that’s what they’re called) that make the book a little sturdier than a paperback but not as heavy as a hardback. Perfect handbag size. I never leave home without a book, so size is important when choosing my lunchtime coffee reading. You can see a few of my Hesperus titles above. I have a couple more on preorder (Scott’s Highland Widow & Jenny Wren’s Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Girl) & a whole lot more in my Book Depository wishlist. Balzac’s Colonel Chabert (remember the movie with Gerard Depardieu?), De La Mare’s Missing, Bacon’s Henry VII, Braddon’s Lawyer’s Secret, Zola’s For a Night of Love... If I wasn’t highly disciplined, I’d be ordering this lot right now. But, I still have a few Hesperus books on the tbr shelves so I’ll start with those & look forward to ordering some more soon. I wish I could include a link to their website but the Hesperus Press website has been under construction for a very long time & shows no signs of appearing & their blog hasn't been updated since August.