We like books. Real books. Paper and ink. And we like letters. Real letters. Paper and ink also. Words, a story, from one person to another, sent from one place to another, arriving in the mail. A rare pleasure these days.
We were pondering this at our bookshop on an island in the south of Greece. The shop swarms with people who love stories and who are far away from loved ones. And it occurred to us that by sending a story in the mail there might, as John Donne put it, be a moment to “mingle souls: for thus, friends absent speak.”
So in the back room of the shop we started designing, printing and stitching editions of our favourite short works, and tailored them to be sent by mail. At the beginning of each we left a page blank, ‘for your correspondence,’ so the sender could add a few words of their own, and packaged each with its own envelope, ready to mail onward. Paravion Press was born.
In 2010 we launched our first series: stories by Katherine Mansfield, Saki, Sherwood Anderson and Anton Chekhov, and an essay by Mark Twain. A few months later we received a commission to produce a set of illustrated titles about New York: we chose texts by O. Henry, Walt Whitman and Maxim Gorky, and asked artist friends to illustrate them. Our Cities series has since taken us to London, where we encountered Charles Dickens and Virginia Woolf, and most recently, Madrid, to commemorate the opening of another bookshop, Desperate Literature, with stories by Mariano José de Larra and Emilia Pardo Bazan.
We now have over twenty titles in print. Our catalog includes works by Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, a special edition of James Joyce’s Christmas story The Dead, and a new translation of Walter Benjamin’s essay on the art of book collecting, Unpacking My Library. Occasionally, our publications will deviate from the standard codex format, if the theme suggests an interesting alternative: Dispatches from the Pony Express is collection of bulletins from the frontier newsmen of 1860, in a lavishly illustrated fold-out broadsheet which evokes the spirit of the age. E-MAIL is a selection of ten poems by Emily Dickinson, individually printed on self-sealing correspondence sheets. Our most ambitious project to date, the format was inspired by a hybrid mail process used to communicate with American armed forces during the Second World War, known as V-Mail. An anachronism, yes, but that’s sort of the point. The set includes a custom-printed pencil. Because Emily preferred to write in pencil. And because we liked the idea of using a pencil to write an E-Mail.
We work with artists, editors, translators, writers and printers, and are always looking for interesting collaborations. Please get in touch if you have an idea for a project. We have several forthcoming editions in the works, all of which aim to explore the possibilities of tangible correspondence. Paper, ink, words, and of course, the postal service.