The traditional publishing trade is dead, isn’t it? That’s the conventional wisdom anyway, with people buying books online more than in bookstores, and increasingly choosing ebooks over hard copies. Who would open a publishing house at such a time? Linda Fallon and Terry Craven care little for conventional wisdom, and thankfully they still believe in the printed word. They have launched a Paris-based boutique publisher, de Selby Press, with the intention of publishing Irish writers based in France. Dubliner Fallon is head book-buyer at perhaps the most famous bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company, a store named in honor of the original shop which was a gathering place for James Joyce and other literary figures. Owner Sylvia Beach published the first edition of Ulysses. Craven, who is originally from Yorkshire, is also a bookseller there. De Selby Press takes its name from Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, and the company manifesto is inspired by this line from the novel: “Perhaps it is important in the story I am going to tell to remember that it was for de Selby I committed my first serious sin. It was for him that I committed my greatest sin.” As Fallon and Craven comment on the publisher’s vision and credo, “There has long been a tradition of Irish writers fleeing the Emerald Isle for the City of Light, forsaking the potato for the pain au chocolat, and we want to continue that tradition, publishing Irish writers, publishing French writers translated into Irish, publishing any impractical incarnation of Franco-Hibernian wordiness that appeals to us. We’ll sin if we have to. That’s how committed we are.”
Fittingly for the two booksellers and debut publishers, their first book will be a beautiful edition of Joyce’s Dubliners, with illustrations by Stephen Crowe, an artist very familiar with the idea of turning Joycean prose into beautiful images. It looks as if Fallon, Craven and Crowe aren’t the only people who wish to still hold a book in their hands: the publisher had a successful crowdfunding campaign to get the project started, and the book will be launched in Paris at Shakespeare & Co. on Monday, October 13th.
Correction: an earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Beach was Joyce’s first publisher.