The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, Arion Press (2012)

It comes as no surprise to long time Books and Vines readers that I am a huge fan of Arion Press. The quality of their work is always top-notch and their selection of works and artists has been wonderfully eclectic, resulting in both aesthetically pleasing and intellectually challenging reading experiences.

Following up on their fantastic Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Walks release of a few months back, Arion Press is now shipping their latest publication, The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins, with illustrations by Stan Washburn.  As you will see with the pictures below, the book has a Victorian-era look and feel, especially the type and blackletter as well as the classic and simplistic elegance of the binding. I am a big fan of Stan Washburn; his 34 illustrations for this work are — if I can make up a term — classically modernistic in their fusion of Victorian appropriate styling with mode modernistic forms. His character drawings are ideally matched to the mastery of Collins’s verbal portraiture. The Swarovski crystal “Moonstone” on the slipcase spine is a nice finishing touch. This is not a ‘wow’ production, it is simply an extremely well thought out and well executed book that is a pleasure to read, to flip through and to own.

The Moonstone is an epistolary novel first published in 1868. It is considered, along with The Woman in White, the best work of Wilkie Collins (1824-1889).  Besides its importance as the first real detective novel, introducing many forms that were to become the de facto standard in the genre (inside jobs, red herrings, false suspects, plot twists, etc.), it can continue to retain claims of being among the greatest, if not the greatest, of all novels in this genre. Collins, who was great friends with Charles Dickens, wrote prolifically writing dozens of works. He was hugely popular during the Victorian era, though the lack of any substantially acclaimed works during the twenty years after the publication of The Moonstone resulted in his fame largely withering away.

This is the fourth book Stan Washburn has illustrated for the Arion Press, the others being Sam Shepard’s A Lie of the Mind (1993), Arthur Miller’s The Price (1999), and Tono-Bungay by H. G. Wells (2008). His work is in many collections, including the Chicago Art Institute and Philadelphia Art Museum. Besides being a painter and printmaker, he teaches writing and is an accomplished novelist, having published well respected novels Into Thin Air and Intent to Harm.

The Moonstone is an important and influential work of English Literature. Even better, it is entertaining and fun to read. If you have not read this, you really should; if you do not own it, you should consider doing so! If you do consider so, one would be hard pressed to find a better edition than this one from Arion Press.

About the Edition

  • Designed by Andrew Hoyem, with the assistance of his associates at Arion Press, named in the colophon
  • Thirty-four scratchboard drawings as illustrations by Stan Washburn
  • The types were chosen for their Victorian authenticity; Inland Caslon, 10 point, leaded 4 points, for the text, and Caslon Bold Condensed and Medieval for display
  • The blackletter had its origin in the Gothic Revival, of the period when the book was written
  • The thirty-four illustrations are printed from photopolymer plates
  • All printing was done by letterpress on a Miller TW two-color cylinder press, the second unit used for the illustrations to ensure proper inking; a second color, blue, is used for the Medieval type
  • The paper is Mohawk Letterpress
  • The binding is full blue cloth with silver foil stamping for titling, pale yellow endpapers, and blue and yellow headbands
  • The book is enclosed in a slipcase with a Swarovski crystal “Moonstone” on the spine
  • The book is octavo in format, 9-3/8 by 6-1/4 inches, 460 pages
  • The edition is limited to 300 numbered copies for sale and 26 lettered copies for complimentary distribution, mine is #3
  • Signed by artist Stan Washburn

Pictures of the Edition

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The Moonstone, Arion Press, Slipcase Spine
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Slipcase Spine
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Spine and Cover
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Spine
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Front Cover
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Side View
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Prospectus
The Moonstone, Arion Press, End Pages
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Frontispiece and Title Page
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Frontispiece
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Title Page
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Contents
The Moonstone, Arion Press, List of Illustrations
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Text #1 (Preface)
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Text #2 (Second Preface)
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #1 with Text (Prologue)
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #2 with Text (Chapter 1)
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Chapter 1 Heading
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Macro of Chapter 1 Start
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #3 with Text
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #4 with Text
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Sample Illustration #5 with Text
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Colophon
The Moonstone, Arion Press, Signature Macro

4 thoughts on “The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins, Arion Press (2012)

  1. I subscribed to Arion for a short while and found them to be more ‘utilitarian’ than anything else.

    If you want to read a novel you like in a letterpress format, they work better than others that i would perceive to be in that field: Folio Society, Limited Editions Club, Nonesuch Press et al.

    Indeed, most modern presses fall into this sort of category.

    For a truly esquite press, with all the history and beauty one would want from an object of art, the early great presses can’t be beaten.

    It depends what you want, an object of beauty, or a well-made readable copy of a book to read…

  2. The Moonstone and The Woman in White are two of my favorite novels. I have read both, and last year, I found LEC copies in near Mint condition so I read them both again. The Moonstone was published in 1959 and illustrated by Diginmont; the Woman in White was published in 1964 and illlustrated bu Leonard Rosoman.

    The Hoyem book is more exotic than the LEC(s), but price wise the LECs, if you can find them, are a good buy at at about $100 each in like new condition.

    I have also seen the film adaptations of both which are excellent. I forget whether they were both done by Masterpiece theater or the BBc.

    I like to see Arion books, but I am not as enthuisiastic about Hoyem’s work as you. Binders I have talked to admire his letter press printing, but are less entusiastic about his in-house binding.

  3. I particularly like the way the double spread views have been divided and separately framed rather than being allowed to run down the inner margins to meet in the irritatingly invisible bed of the gutter.
    And I like the portraits – a few deft lines that convey character without coming between the reader and his or her own interpretation. My personal favourite – probably only to be shared by someone with a love of camp and smutty British comedy films – is ‘Sergeant Cuff’s man’, whose flared nostrils and raised eyebrows make him a dead ringer for the late lamented Kenneth Williams. His nasal cockney whine would be exactly right for someone’s whose life is spent in shadowy pursuit of wrongdoers.
    The typographic design makes for a very readable text. All in all, a desirable volume. I did wonder if the slipcase Swarovski crystal was a step too far, but a touch of vulgarity is perhaps just the thing for a sensation novel. It will certainly ensure the book is safely shelved spine inwards!

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