The Maine Woods, by Henry David Thoreau, The Ascensius Press (1998)

Henry David Thoreau’s work tends to be good material for fine press work. An excellent example, previously looked at by Books and Vines, is The Winged Life from Yolla Bolly Press. I was thrilled a few months back when I was able to find Thoreau’s The Maine Woods, published by the Ascensius Press in 1998. Produced in an edition of just 45 copies, this is not easy to find! However, it is well worth tracking down. The green full-leather binding is rich and striking, the hand-made paper provides a fantastic feel (click on ‘Macro View of Sample Illustration #1’ below to enlarge it, and be amazed at how you can visualize the texture!), and the pen and ink illustrations by Jon Luoma are extremely well done. Best of all, the book just looks amazing when resting in the white pine with mahogany ends slipcase box. As an aside, everything about this work is ‘Made in Maine’, the paper, the binding, the illustrations, the slipcase box, the printing, and, of course, the content of Thoreau’s writing in The Maine Woods.

Scott Vile’s Ascensius Press does fabulous work. Under the banner of “extra special fine press publishing”, they have produced a number of extraordinary volumes, all of extremely limited nature. This includes Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton in an edition of 50, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka in an edition of 150, The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth by Thomas Jefferson in an edition of 5 (yes, five!) as well as The Maine Woods, which is reviewed here. As of a couple months ago, Mr. Vile had one copy left (of 26) of Consider the Lobster a collection of essays by influential modern novelist David Foster Wallace. See the last picture below for the announcement that came on the Wallace book. Those interested in the work Mr. Vile publishes, or to be added to a mail list to stay current with his plans, can contact him here.  Tell him Books and Vines sent you!

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was a poet, author, philosopher and leading transcendentalist, considered one of the greatest thinkers in American history. He was a staunch abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, and historian. He is best known for his book Walden and for his essay Civil Disobediencethe latter of which had significant influence on Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. In total, his writings come to over 20 volumes, all from one who died at 44. He wrote The Maine Woods, about his explorations and time in Maine’s unspoiled wilderness, in 1864.

About the Edition

  • Composed in 14 point Intertype Bulmer by Scott Vile
  • Illustrations drawn by Jon Luoma of Alna, Maine
  • 3,500 sheets of paper were handmade by MacGregor and Vinzani of Whiting, Maine
  • Printed on a Vandercook Universal III by Put Smith and Scott Vile at The Ascensius Press in Portland, Maine
  • Green full-leather binding designed by Gray Parrot and Scott Vile at Gray Parrot’s bookbinding shop in Hancock, Maine
  • Slipcase box constructed on Maine white pine with mahogany ends
  • 9 x 13 inches, 240 pp
  • Limited to 45 copies, mine is #44

Pictures

(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided to highlight and visualize the work being reviewed.  A side benefit, hopefully, is encouraging healthy sales of fine press books for the publishers and fine retailers that specialize in these types of books (of which Books and Vines has no stake or financial interest). Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)

{Ed. Note: I took these pictures outside on a bright, sunny day. The result is some of the text and illustrations below show a bit washed out. I assure you, the text and illustrations are razor sharp in reality!}

The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Slipcase
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Book in Slipcase
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro of Book Spine in Slipcase
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Book and Slipcase
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Front Cover
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro of Front Cover
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro of Side View
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Half-Title
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Frontispiece
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro of Frontispiece
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Title Page
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro View of Sample Illustration #1 (look at the texture around the black)
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Chapter Title
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Macro Illustration #3
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Sample Text #1
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Sample Illustration Text #2
The Maine Woods, Ascensius Press, Ascensius Logo
The Maine Woods, The Ascensius Press, Colophon
‘Consider the Lobster’ Announcement

5 thoughts on “The Maine Woods, by Henry David Thoreau, The Ascensius Press (1998)

  1. Frankly, that is one of the most beautiful private press books I have seen in quite some time. The illustrations have a timeless 19th century appearance, the letterpress work exemplary, and the binding and wooden slipcase work beautifully together. I share Neill’s surprise that I have not previously heard of the Ascensius Press.

    P.S. Fortunately for me, I am allergic to shellfish so “considering the lobster” is out of the question.

  2. Thank you for posting this one Chris. I was not aware of the Ascensius Press until I read your article. I’ve now spent a pleasant half-hour viewing their website.

    The book is beautiful and, for a modern private press book, presents a substantial and worthwhile text.

    It is a great example of the marriage of art & craft and I like the fact that they have produced the complete book locally.

  3. At $3000, I can’t consider the Maine Lobster. There is too much cholesterol in lobster meat aynyway.

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