‘Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks’, text by Diana Ketcham, photographs by Michael Kenna, Arion Press (2012)

{Ed. Note: I have not read this new edition yet, so will add to this review my thoughts on the text after reading. However, I wanted to get some first thoughts and visuals of the book posted immediately, as I think fans of fine photography, Thomas Jefferson, Paris, Michael Kenna, and those who just love beautifully done books should get an early peek so to consider picking one of these up before they sell out. Contact Arion Press for questions or to place an order.}

Those of you who read Books and Vines News know that I have been eagerly looking forward to the new publication from Arion Press, Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, with text by Diana Ketcham and spectacular photographs by Michael Kenna. I received the book yesterday, and it more than meets my high expectations.

The photographs by Michael Kenna are extraordinary. They are beautiful, thought-provoking, enlightening and occasionally haunting.  Those who have always enjoyed his work will marvel at this set of photographs, and those not familiar with his work will become fans. The photographs, printed in duotone with varnish, are wonderfully reproduced. The maps, especially the first map showing all of Paris, are a visual treat. The accompanying text is also sharp and nicely chosen in fitting the books setting. The printing for this volume is done by offset lithography. I am a letterpress die-hard, though it is extremely hard to quibble when you see the end results (see the macro text below). The paper is bright, smooth and glossy, which works well with the photographs. Classic in design, I think Jefferson would love this volume.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) spent five years in Paris as United States minister from 1784 to 1789. In his early 40’s, Jefferson loved Paris, often walking for exercise and to appointments. This book is meant “as a guidebook, the essay leads the reader along Jefferson’s actual routes. Benjamin Franklin, John and Abigail Adams, and Gouverneur Morris are characters in the narrative, along with artists such as Houdon and Beaumarchais.” The book divides Paris into six sections, with their own coded maps, each of which traces a two to three-hour walk. I hope a trade edition is released of this, as I would love to use this book as a walking guide the next time I visit Paris. I am pretty sure I would not want to bring this beautiful edition and risk soiling it with travel wear and tear!

Diana Ketcham is a critic and essayist who writes on architecture, historic landscapes, and literature. She is senior editor at Arion Press and the co-founder and director of the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute. She wrote the text for the 1990 Arion Press publication of Le Désert de Retz: A Late Eighteenth-Century French Folly Garden, which also included photographs by Michael Kenna. She has written on architecture for The New York Times, The Nation, and The New Republic.

Michael Kenna is an acclaimed photographer whose work has been exhibited in museums around the world, including Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Moscow Museum of Modern Art; and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. His photography has also been featured in a few other fantastic Arion Press editions: The Hound of the BaskervillesLe Désert de Retz, and The Silverado Squatters. Kenna was made a Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture in 2001. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington. Please check out Mr. Kenna’s website to see a great variety of his splendid work.

About the Edition

  • Designed and produced under the direction of Andrew Hoyem
  • The printing is by offset lithography
  • Forty-six photographs by Michael Kenna are printed in duotone with varnish
  • The paper is Centura Silk
  • The type is digital Fournier, based on the “transitional” type by Pierre Simon Fournier “Le Jeune” (1712-1768). Benjamin Franklin had dealings with the Fournier typefoundry when he had his private press in Passy and Jefferson would have known the font and approved of its use here. The initial letters are inspired by capitals designed by Fournier le Jeune, circa 1760. Ornaments based on Fournier’s designs are used in the binding.
  • Two beautiful maps from the period of Jefferson’s residence in Paris are reproduced in the book. The first (Noveau plan routier de la Ville et Faubourgs de Paris. Avec ses Edifices Principaux. M. Pichon, 1787) is reproduced whole and then in five details at the beginnings of sections. The second (Environs de Paris. César-François Cassini de Thury, 1755-1789) begins the sixth section, which covers the sites outside Paris visited by Jefferson.
  • 12.5 by 8.5 inches with 208 pages
  • The book is limited to 400 numbered copies for sale and twenty-six lettered copies for complimentary distribution, mine is #26
  • Each copy is signed by Michael Kenna, and is presented in a slipcase
  • The price is $600, $435 for subscribers

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: Remember you can click on any of the photos to get an enlarged view. I suggest doing so on the Paris Map below, so you get a much better view of it.}

Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Prospectus
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Slipcase
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Slipcase Spine
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Book in Slipcase
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Spine
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Cover
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Cover
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Side View
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, End Papers
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Title Page and Frontispiece
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Title Page Text
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Copyright and Acknowledgement
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Contents #1
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Contents #2
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Paris Map
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #1 (Preface)
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Map One with Text
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #2
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Sample Text #2
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Photograph #1 with Text
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Photograph #2 with Text
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #3
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #4
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Photograph #3
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Macro of Sample Photograph #4
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #5 (Biographical Index)
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Sample Text #5 (Bibliography)
Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks, Arion Press, Colophon

5 thoughts on “‘Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks’, text by Diana Ketcham, photographs by Michael Kenna, Arion Press (2012)

  1. I could not agree with Neil’s comments more strongly. Visiting Paris without spending a part of each day simply walking about in one of its neighborhoods is to miss one of the most special aspects of the city. The thought of retracing several of Thomas Jefferson’s walks two centuries later is exciting and a book filled with nearly four dozen (!!) of Michael Kenna’s superb B&W photographs of the City of Lights is a no-brainer. Needless to say, when publication was completed and books began being mailed, I ordered a copy.

  2. What a great book!

    Paris is my favourite city and I have wandered aimlessly around its streets many times. Being able to compare the impressions of today with Jefferson’s at that time is very appealing.

    I have also been in love with photography (particularly B&W) all of my life and the atmospheric images shown above linked to this fascinating text make this a ‘book made in heaven’ for me.

    The Arion Press have presented us with book worth their production and design standards.

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