Perhaps it is a side effect of being around books all day, but about as often as I find myself falling for a particular author’s style or voice, I become fascinated with a particular publisher or imprint. I’m especially fond of re-print houses that specialize in bringing back into print those lost treasures and hidden gems that we librarians strive to preserve and protect for readers.
Hesperus Press is a great example of what I mean. Publishing attractive paperback editions of lesser known classic shorter works—stories, essays, poetry and novellas by a wide range of authors, with enticing introductions by contemporary writers. For example, Wilkie Collins’ A Rogue’s Life is a delightful little picaresque relating the jaunty misadventures of charming ne’er-do-well Frank Softly, an artist who careens from job to job in pursuit of his fortunes, and of the beautiful Alicia Dulcifer. Collins wrote this during a fun vacation in Paris with his friend and associate Charles Dickens, who also employed Collins’ in several special Christmas issues of his magazine Household Words, where the duo, together with other writers such as Elizabeth Gaskell, would write collections of themed stories united by some clever conceit, such as the tenant’s stories collected under the titles Mrs. Lirriper and A House to Let, or the travelers’ tales collected in Mugby Junction. Hesperus Press’ editions are often the first time these diverting holiday garlands of stories have been assembled since their original publication in the 1850s, making them a virtual time machine back to the Victorian age.
Colm Toibin writes the foreword to Hadji Murat, Leo Tolstoy’s slim, hundred-page epic about the surrender of a noble Chechen rebel to the Tsar’s men, and a great choice for readers whose interest in trying Tolstoy may have been blunted by the heft of such demanding doorstops as War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
Hesperus publishes some very funny little books, too. Check out this dedication from Anthony Burgess’ The Eve of St. Venus: “I dedicate the work to all, high or low, who propose marriage, or have achieved it, or, having achieved it a fair time ago, are still not disillusioned with it. Bachelors and spinsters and other deviants may read it too.” Then there’s Directions to Servants, a collection of sarcastic screeds to “the help” that constitute the final salvo of scathing wit by the irrepressible Jonathan Swift.
You can search our catalog by publisher from the advanced search screen and check out other works from Hesperus Press. We’ll be back with more of our publisher crushes soon.