At the opposite extreme of the publishing spectrum from Penguin Random House in size and – inversely – quality lies the partnership between Zagava Books, a small German fine bookseller based in Düsseldorf, and Ex Occidente Press of Bucharest, publisher of “fiction of the supernatural, the odd and the weird, the strange and the decadent, the fantastic and the obscure, the very holy and the luxuriously heretical,” to publish limited edition high-quality printed works of dark fiction and decadence. “Dan Ghetu runs his imprint extraordinaire since 2008 and published an amazing number of truly outstanding books,” notes Zagava founder Jonas J.Ploeger of his partner at Ex Occidente Press (EOP).
One representative recent work is Transactions of the Flesh: A Homage to J-K Huysmans, edited by D.P. Watt & Peter Holman, and, according to Ploeger, “limited to 26 copies, which come with a intricate cross-shaped die-cut, a deluxe, silk-covered slipcase, black edges and a weathered, wooden cross, which can be taken outside its die-cut ‘house’ and be used as a bookmark. When used so, the cross will dangle upside-down, delicately hinting at the personal history of Huysmans. Both Sathanas and the Archangels in the same package. Only 2 exemplars of the LETTERED edition are left.”
Other fine publications of the partnership include Virtue in Danger by British dark fiction and ghost story writer Reggie Oliver, in “two editions, both featuring a die-cut spy hole through the front cover,” one with “224 numbered exemplars bound in burgundy-red crushed silk, illustrated endpapers, frontispiece by Reggie Oliver, silk bookmark,” and the other “deluxe edition of 26 lettered exemplars, bound in golden crushed silk, housed in a red, velvety slipcase, hand(!)-illustration by Reggie Oliver, signed, frontispiece by Reggie Oliver, silk bookmark.” Ploeger is also a fan of U.S. illustrator Edward Gorey, and maintains a separate site devoted to him with a full bibliography of non-U.S. editions of his work.
Obviously, this is very far from what ebooks and self-publishing can do. But if you’re going to continue to celebrate and perpetuate the uniqueness of the printed page, why not do it in such style?