The Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso

The Art of the Publisher by Roberto CalassoThe Art of the Publisher by Roberto Calasso
  • Year2017
  • LanguageRussian
  • Edition300
  • Pages160
  • BindingHardcover
  • Price410 RUB
Garage publishing program in collaboration with Ad Marginem Press

One of the most interesting publishers of our time remembers the golden age of the book industry.

To the founder and main ideologist of Adelphi in Milan, publishing is an art rather than business. Just like a writer, a true publisher has the ‘capacity to give form to a plurality of books as though they were the chapters of a single book.’ At the same time, every edition (s)he produces should be what Calasso calls (following his friend Roberto Bazlen) a singular book. A medieval mystic, a one-book author, a little-known poet, and an acclaimed master can all be published within one series under the condition that they match its ‘form’—meaning not only the typography and design, but also the special experience of reading they offer. The choice of books is therefore an intuitive process, informed by the publisher’s sense rather than by public opinion or profit.

‘Form’-oriented publishing developed in Italy towards the end of the fifteenth century and peaked in the twentieth century with the emergence of Gallimard in France, Insel, and later, Suhrkamp in Germany, Einuadi in Italy, and a number of other European publishers, whose books allow us to reconstruct the complex cultural history of the past hundred years through its literary, philosophical, and critical choices and influences. Adelphi joined the group in the 1960s.                           

Accused, at different times, of elitism, selling out, and even Gnosticism, Adelphi remained faithful to publishing singular books. Although they generally chose to publish single works by different authors, rather than collections, exceptions were made for the Austrian novelist Joseph Roth and Georges Simenon’s non-Maigret writings. The house was always attentive to the design of the cover—‘the skin of the book’, which Calasso discusses in detail in one of the essays. Several texts are devoted to colleagues Calasso admires, while others contain his meditations on the contemporary book industry, where publishers with character and unique style are being pushed out of the market by faceless producers churning out books to fit every taste.


Roberto Calasso (b. 1941) is an Italian author, publisher and translator, the owner and chief editor of Adelphi, which he founded at the age of twenty-two. Calasso has translated books by Nietzsche, Kafka, and Karl Kraus, while his own novels and essays have been translated into over twenty languages. His novel The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1988), published in twenty-two countries, was awarded Charles Veillon European Prize and the French Best Foreign Book Prize.