The Arion Press Genesis

San Francisco: Arion Press, 1996.

Translation by Robert Alter – Etching by Michael Mazur – Etching printed by Robert E. Townsend – Designed and produced under the direction of Andrew Hoyem – Handmade papers from the paper mill at Velké Losiny, Czech Republic, and Le Moulin de Larroque et Pombié, France

1996’s Genesis marked the fiftieth publication by the Arion Press, established by Andrew Hoyem in 1974 in San Francisco, succeeding its previous incarnations as the Grabhorn Press and then the Grabhorn-Hoyem Press. Genesis was only the Press’s third Biblical release, demonstrating that the press did not focus on religious material. About the Arion Press historian Ronald Patkus wrote, “the selection of the texts to be printed has been as important to the press as their presentation in a fine press form.” This can be seen not simply in the selection of Genesis but of the particular translation printed. Balancing parallel texts on facing pages, the Press employed the Hebrew of the 1967 critical edition Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia and what was then the new English translation of Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The release of Arion’s Genesis was scheduled to coincide with the first publication of Alter’s translation of the Bible by W.W. Norton Company. The prospectus for Arion’s publication credits Alter with, “creating a language that is stylized yet simple and direct, free from the overtones of contemporary colloquial usage but with a certain timeless home-spun quality” and further “conveys with some precision the semantic nuances and the lively orchestration of literary effects of the Hebrew and at the same time has stylistic and rhythmic integrity as literary English.”

The work contains one illustration, a two-color etched frontispiece printed chine-collé by Michael Mazur. The beauty of the text resides in its balanced, letterpress printing in purple and black. The Hebrew, reading right to left according to Hebrew convention, is set in Henri Friedlaender’s Hadassah type, issued in 1958. The English is set in Warren Chappell’s Lydian type, issued in 1938–39. The volume is presented in a chemise and slipcase covered in purple cloth. The edition was limited to two hundred numbered copies for sale and twenty-six lettered copies hors commerce.

This copy is number 27. It was the given to Bridwell Library September 1997 by Decherd Turner on the occasion of his 75th birthday in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Prothro.