One of my favorite acquisitions in 2011 was a beautiful edition of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, by Chester River Press. I had not been familiar with Chester River’s work prior to this, but this work instantly catapulted them into the ‘must watch’ category. Soon after picking up Heart of Darkness, I became aware that they had also recently published Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Unlike Heart of Darkness, the work was not done letterpress and was printed in China (which initially gave me some concerns about quality). However, the pictures of the books seemed fabulous and I was anxious to see the works in person. I was not disappointed. It is well designed, well executed and finely done.
The scale is generous and well utilized with Greek text in one column and English in the next. The illustrations are classic in design, and representative/literal in nature. They are extremely nice, crisp, well printed and matched with helpful accompanying information. Each drawing portrays a specific scene. There is a drawing from each of the 48 books making up the Iliad and Odyssey with smaller medallions on pages throughout. The paper quality is nice and the type is clean and sharp (see the macro photo below titled “Odyssey, Chester River Press, Sample Text #4”). There is an original two-part Introduction by Steven Shankman, who analyzes Pope’s majestic poems through a focus on Homeric themes of war and peace, and provides guidance on “How To Read Homer,” providing philosophical and historical context of the Homeric epics.
I would like to say Homer needs no introduction but, unfortunately in today’s dumbed down mass culture, most people probably think of an obnoxious cartoon character, rather than the single most important ‘author’ of the single most important set of works in the history of Western Civilization. Homer, who is thought to have lived sometime between 800 and 1200 BC (though we have no reliable biographical information on him), is credited as the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the two greatest epic poems in history. These epics mark the beginning of literature’s Western Canon, and have had an enormous influence on all future Western literature.
While scholars debate the precise time when these poems came into being, the poems are generally seen as the culmination of many generations of oral story-telling. The stories were enormously influential in classical Greece and were emulated, in speaking and writing, throughout the ancient and medieval Greek/Western worlds. The Iliad takes place during the Trojan War, telling of the battles and events during a few weeks while quarreling takes place between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. The Odyssey is a sequel to the Iliad and centers on Odysseus and his journey home after the fall of Troy.
The Chester River Press edition is a fantastic way to re-familiarize yourself with these stories, or to discover them for the first time. In checking with Gerald Cataldo of Chester River Press last week, they only had 15 or so of these left. If you have any questions about the volume, you can contact Chester River Press here.
About the Edition
- Published in 2009 by Chester River Press
- Alexander Pope Translation from 1720
- 52 vase illustrations created by Avery Lawrence for this publication
- James Dissette of Chester River Press designed this publication
- Steven Shankman, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Oregon, wrote the Introduction for this publication
- Barry B. Powell, Ph.D., Halls-Bascomb Professor of Classics Emeritus, University of Wisconsin edited the Homeric Greek text for this publication
- Steven Shurtleff edited the English Alexander Pope translations for this publication
- William Frank of Chester River Press researched and wrote the art catalogue entries
- Managing Editor, Gerald Cataldo of Chester River Press
- The Iliad and Odyssey are presented as a companion, slipcased set and bound in black Dutch cloth with dust jackets (dust jackets not shown in my pictures below)
- Printed and bound in China by Kwong Fat Offset Printing Co. Ltd.
- 12.5 x 14.5 inches, 550 and 434 pages
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