I recently was fortunate to have my book To Wrestle with Demons: A Psychiatrist Struggles to Understand His Patients and Himself published in a leather-bound collector’s edition by Gryphon Editions’ Classics of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Library
Holding the book in my hands made me think a little bit about the moment at which we find ourselves, with high tech eclipsing high touch. Because the book—like every Gryphon Editions book—exudes quality. Leaving aside the content (which is not the subject of this blog), the book looks like a work of art. It feels like a work of art. It smells like a work of art.
This result is not easily achieved. Every volume from Gryphon Editions is fully bound in the best quality leather, or is quarter-leather bound with fine library buckram, and embellished with gold stamping of an original design. The raised bands across the spine are distinctive of the classic bookmaker’s art. Colorful endleaves are reminiscent of fine Old World editions. Coordinating headbands grace both ends of the spine and add strength. The acid-free leaves are smyth-sewn; their edges are gilded for additional protection and elegance. A permanent satin ribbon marker ensures easy reference.
Having my work included as a Gryphon Editions Classic moves me, in part because of the care the publisher takes with every book it creates. I believe this investment of time and energy on their part changes a reader’s experience, in an immeasurable way. Yes, the words are, technically, exactly the same as they are in the paperback edition of my work. Yet, as the great philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote in his book Understanding Media, “The medium is the message.” A stunningly beautiful presentation of written words resonates in its own unique way. It always will. How could it not?
Robert Pirsig, author of the modern classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote about this human capacity to appreciate quality:
If you want to build a factory, or fix a motorcycle, or set a nation right without getting
stuck, then classical, structural . . . knowledge, although necessary, isn’t enough. You
have to have a sense of what’s good. That is what carries you forward. This sense isn’t
just something you’re born with, although you are born with it. It’s also something you
can develop. It’s not just “intuition,” not just unexplainable “skill” or “talent” . . .
The key word is“better”— Quality.
Gryphon Editions publishes books that celebrate what they see as enduring knowledge (all ego aside), but that also celebrate enduring craftsmanship. Care in creation. They publish books that are unapologetically, fervently, even courageously (given the economics of creating such books) non-disposable. Beyond content, that is their medium. And that is their message.
I know that ebooks and Kindles and iPhones are not going away and that they offer a myriad of conveniences, but I do think that craftsmanship still matters, and that something is lost when we rush to abandon it. The owners of Gryphon Editions are clearly in no rush to do any such thing. If you can resolve to bring that sort of passion to what you do, then anyone who comes into contact with the product will, instinctively, recognize it.