Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Easton Press; a book Review.

In this series I'm going to evaluate the quality of book manufacturing from various publishers. I intend only to focus on the quality of the physical book itself.

Easton Press is to books what Bösendorfors are to pianos: perfection. No expense is spared, nothing is left wanting, and long after the novelty of initial acquisition has faded appreciation can still be wrought. Many books in the Easton Press Library composes of public domain works and "the classics," but they also publish newer fiction; works they feel will be classics in years to come. In terms of contemporary fiction it's nice to see Gene Wolfe, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel García Márquez given the same treatment and held in equal regard as Fitzgerald, Proust, and Faulkner.

Full disclaimer: I own three works from Easton Press; all of which were bought from Atlanta Vintage Books, in 'mint' condition as defined by a book antiquarian. All have full genuine leather binding, 22 karat gold lettering and art on the front and back covers as well as guilt pages, thread sewn pages--not merely glue, raised bands on the spine that add a visual interest and an antique look, and a silk page-marker sewn into the binding. Think of Easton Press as the Henle Edition of literature: these books aren't going to fall apart, unless you try to take them apart.

While the books are expertly made, ironically the end result is that of a really old looking book. The gold trim, and cracked leather binding instantly give off the vibe of a much older product. The nicety of these products is that they are brand new, have the antique feel, and are heirloom quality.

There are discrepancies though. Oddly enough paper is the issue when most in publishing bemoan the cost of ink. Not all books come with the moiré silk pages in the front and back. (And if you've never experienced a silk 'page' it really is something to see. It's as decadent as it sounds.) The paper quality--texture and thickness--varies. All of the paper Easton Press uses is phenomenal and head-and-shoulders above other publishers, but it isn't consistent from book to book. Again, the 'poorest' of their paper is far better than most; the issue is only noticeable when multiple volumes are compared.

The price of these books will knock a casual book buyers on their ass, but for a collector or those who really appreciate a job done to the highest degree of quality Easton Press is worth the money. The summary is easy: There is no better book being made today.

61 comments:

Marion said...

These sound like pure luxury. You are lucky to have scored three! I guess if I started saving up now I could buy myself one at Christmas.

Chad Hull said...

Check used book stores; that's how I got the ones I own. I can't afford them new, and you can't pick and choose which ones you want when buying new; you have to get a whole collection.

I didn't think of a book as a luxury item before, but that is exactly what they are.

Dwayne said...

It's difficult to find quality editions. The Easton Press books look nice, although the problem with books that nice is you don't want write in them; how frustrating for compulsive margin scribblers! Even a decent hardback, like the one we both have of War and Peace, forbids it. But in the end I suppose it's nice to have a handsome book that will still be that way in half a century; not like the mass market paperbacks whose pages jaunice, get brittle, and have that creepy attic smell after only half a decade. The other advantage I see (at least with the Easton Press editions) is there aren't those annoying quotes from the New York Times Book Review and this and that author, saying what a clever, insightful, provocative masterpiece the book is.

Dwayne

Chad Hull said...

I'd never thought about the critical commentary and other author blurbs. That's good insight. I think that is why I used to trash most dust jackets; I thought those remarks were silly, and a lot of books today have terrible cover art. The lack of such comments is an advantage indeed!

What are you scribbling in the margins for? Taking notes in the book? I'm sure others do it, but that's something new to me.

Dwayne said...

I underline words, phrases, and sometimes bracket entire paragraphs of interest; and here and there I'll write a comment about something that's being said, or paraphrase an idea - those are my margin scribbles.

(Those annoying comments are called blurbs? Thanks. It fits somehow.)

Anonymous said...

I have about 83 Easton Press books and some have never been open.I have a few that are open and I have The Presidential library collection and the Jimmy Carter signed and and some others that are signed and Charles Dickens collection.I have called a few places to try to sell them and they are only wanting to give me $30 a book,I know how much they are worth and I have 1ST and 2ND EDITIONS.I think they are beautiful books they have the bookplates that have never been used.If you know of a place to sell them please let me know Jwylie0007@kctcs.edu Thank you..

Noelle said...

Great info on Easton press books. I just listed a whole series of the gilded, collectible, Easton Press leather bound fly-fishing books on ebay (noellefelix) and was looking for some additional info for pricing, etc... You're right, they are absolutely gorgeous, perfect books!! Hard to part with them, but desperate times call for desperate measures!!! :)

Anonymous said...

These are the best quality books I’ve ever seen.
I already have over 300 of them, been buying them over the past 10 years..
They can cost between 60 – 75+ each, and can also be bought/sold on Ebay for much more than that..

Chad Hull said...

300?!?!? That's impressive. I have a whopping four!

Anonymous said...

I went to the Easton Press website on Feb 12 and ordered a $350 set of books. I got and order confirmation at the time of ordering. Since then I have had NO communication except when I have called. They said the shipment date was usps on 2/24. The first payment was taken out 3//11. It is 3/9/2011 and the books have not arrived. I have called and requested a tracking number. I was told USp does not do that which is not true. Stll waiting and losing faith

Anonymous said...

Although this is an old thread, in the event someone else searches, I can say this. Easton Press books are the Rolls Royce of books. Quality is second to none. I discovered a printing error THREE YEARS after I received the book (I was getting the 100 greatest books)and Easton Press IMMEDIATELY replaced it. That is service! My children will be fighting over these in years to come as they look incredible in our library.

John Page said...

Based soley on the pictures on their website, Easton Press books look cheap and gaudy. Comparing them to The Folio Society is like comparing vulgar nouveau riche to classy old money.

Chad Hull said...

John, I owe two of the Folio Society books myself (three is my self-imposed minimum before leaving comment); they are gorgeous. That said, they don't stand a tissues chance in a hurricane when compared to Easton Press.

It's a good thing I'm not judging books and leaving my comments based on pictures seen on the website, rather tangible products I own.

To each his own...

John Page said...

Call me crazy, but I thought it might be an idea to find out if they were any good before buying considering how expensive they are. Based on what I've found on the internet from people who have bought them, Easton Press books are junk. They're the kind of gaudy, flashy crap that impresses people with no taste, and who lack subtlety. As I said, it's like new money vs old money. A gold Bugatti Veyron vs a stately Rolls Royce.

I gave you a chance, but my first impression was correct.

You remind me of Ron Burgundy: "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany."

Jim King said...

Vulgar is the word I'd use to describe Easton Press books.

Chad Hull said...

John, I don't think you're crazy. Checking something out before a purchase sounds like good sense to me. I think Easton Press' website is horrible; certainly not indicative of the quality of their books. That said, judging from your feelings expressed here I don't think you'd like Easton Press books under any circumstance--and that's okay.

"I gave you a chance, but my first impression was correct. "

And you're insinuating that I'm self-important? Really? Sorry to let you down, John. I am so very sorry.

John Page said...

And you're insinuating that I'm self-important? Really? Sorry to let you down, John. I am so very sorry.

I guess I went overboard there, but this kind of bugged me:

It's a good thing I'm not judging books and leaving my comments based on pictures seen on the website, rather tangible products I own.

Maybe I read it the wrong way. I've heard that part of the problem with email and blog posts is that a lot of times we read a different meaning than we would if we were just talking.

That said, judging from your feelings expressed here I don't think you'd like Easton Press books under any circumstance--and that's okay.

Never say never. I might buy one or two to be sure, who knows? They just seem a bit overdone to me.

Comrade Volost said...

I have four books from Easton Press' "100 Greatest" series, and have one Franklin Press book. To tell you the truth, I see so many conflicting opinions online, it leaves me uncertain as to how I should proceed in acquiring quality editions of books for my home library.

A lot of professional book dealers malign Easton Press, Franklin Press, and folio; seem to go easier for the First Editions Club, but more for qualitative reasons. The Rolls Royce comments encapsulate the esprit du corps in all camps of this argument.

I recently read a blog post by an antiquarian book dealer (who certainly knows his stuff in his traditional book-appraising area of expertise), and the jist of the post was, "easton press is the sort of superficial stuff that appeals to the uninitiated book collector." To me, this is a half-stupid argument as it assumes the aim of all Easton Press customers is capital appreciation and glitzy superficiality.

I view Easton Press volumes (as well as franklin press, etc.) as being sturdy, archival-grade editions for one's personal library. I think they're a nice alternative for those who want to preserve some physicality in at least some of their book holdings (in this digital age).

I think a lot of the arguments stem from the fact that people collect things for different reasons, not due to there being some vast misunderstanding between ideas of "quality". If someone wants to collect a Rolls Royce in book binding, quality, aesthetics, etc... they should really save up for a bejeweled Sangorski & Sutcliffe, but those can go for auction at prices upwards of a new Rolls. If someone is a collector for historical value, they ought to acquire TRUE first editions of books, 15th century incunabula, and the like. I suppose if one wants to argue about the respective durability of Easton Press, the folio society, and franklin press.... I'd be QUITE interested in the cross-comparative empirical study of exposure to wear and tear; aside from this, who has any use for the value-judgements and the aesthetic decrees?

Chad Hull said...

Don't know how I missed the previous post. Well said. In the end, the value of a thing is determined by what a buyer and seller agree on. The worth of a book is subject to the people involved it's acquisition.

I didn't know there were so many haters out there concerning Easton Press. The comment you reference from an antiquarian is divisive and pretentious as hell. Some people collect vintage T-shirts and pay what I consider to be stupid amounts of money for them; but I don't hate on them...

I agree with much of what you said, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Dave Nielsen said...

Easton Press is to books what Bösendorfors are to pianos: perfection.

No, they're not. (Bad example anyway - Steinway has always made the best pianos.) Easton Press books really are pure vulgarity - massively overdone in all the gold lettering, gilt edges, etc. and of poor quality in both printing and binding. They're for the NASCAR crowd (if that crowd read).

it assumes the aim of all Easton Press customers is capital appreciation and glitzy superficiality.

Maybe not capital appreciation but certainly they're going after the kind of person who lacks taste and thinks a "quality" book must have a lot of gold and leather.

I view Easton Press volumes (as well as franklin press, etc.) as being sturdy, archival-grade editions for one's personal library.

Sturdy? Easton Press bindings are known for being of poor quality, and even their fans admit to often finding printing errors (not typos, though sometimes those too).

Chad Hull said...

Per my piano example: I have a master's degree in piano performance and I've been working the piano industry for the past eight years; I don't know everything, I'm not the end all be all of piano knowledge and while I understand this is only my opinion (which is worth increasingly less on my own blog...) I've kinda dedicated my life to the instrument so to a very high degree, I know what I'm talking about. Steinway makes a great instrument, but it could be proven--with mathematical clarity, if you will--that in terms of craftsmanship and quality of materials that there are a handful of manufactures that do much better work. Steinway does however have the best marketing and PR in the industry.

Anyways...

If someone would have told me two years ago that simply sharing an opinion about books would be so divisive and make one subject to such judgmental rudeness I'd never had believe it. That said, this is the internet where everyone is a troll if not worse; so perhaps I'm being naive.

I could go on but I don't want to perpetrate what I'd rather not see on my own blog.

Dave Nielsen said...

Glenn Gould used a Steinway and sometimes a Yamaha. I'd trust his opinion over yours. And my own experience with them. You're a guy who's impressed by gaudy, flashy kind of stuff which is why you like Easton Press.

I could go on but I don't want to perpetrate what I'd rather not see on my own blog.

Plus you'd lose. You've been on the ropes so far the whole time. You're just not in my league, face it.

Dave Nielsen said...

but it could be proven--with mathematical clarity, if you will--that in terms of craftsmanship and quality

Btw, if nothing else you'd said so far had, that comment alone beyond doubt shows you don't have a clue - about books or pianos.

Steve Cooper said...

I'd agree with the assessment of EP books as vulgar. They're an example of gilding the lily and anytime you do that the result is grotesque. EP books to me are kind of like the noveau riche versus Old Money. Old Money being used to wealth doesn't feel the need for unnecessary flash.

That's not to say Folio books are always that great. It irritated me when they used new illustrations for their copy of The Wind in the Willows - I wanted the originals. I also wish they would use the Folio symbol on the spine rather than just putting Folio - a strange name since "folio" is a specific size of book.

I do prefer their cloth covers to the Easton's poor quality leather. I don't even mind a book bound in buckram if the paper and binding are top notch and they have a cool design for the cover.

Shawn Moore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawn Moore said...

I just happened across this post so I figured I'd toss in my $0.02. I currently own a single Easton Press book, a copy of The Federalist that I snagged on ebay for $10. Incidentally, I also own a Folio Society edition of some Hemingway short stories.

While the EP edition is certainly nice, and better quality than your standard hardcover, I do get an impression that a lot of these comments have hinted at. Namely, that they produce and market their books less for readers and more for people who want to fill their bookshelves with fancy looking books. This is not to say that the books aren't necessarily worth buying if you'd like a high-quality edition of a particular book, but their marketing and their selection of works to publish implies to me that they're gunning for people who just want to look sophisticated. Which doesn't mean that those are the only folks that buy their editions, and I may someday buy more of them myself (secondhand, most likely). But I definitely understand the "nouveau riche" impression.

Oh, and as an aside, all the petty sniping and name-calling on this thread is pretty childish. But whatever.

Chad Hull said...

Hey, Shawn. Your $0.02 are welcome here! Thanks for expressing your thoughts as you did. It's a welcome change from the vitriol this thread usually sees. (I had no clue people could get so worked up about a book.)

Shawn Moore said...

One other thing that occurred to me - if you're not already familiar with the Library of America, definitely check them out (www.loa.org).

They're not "fancy" in the way that Easton Press or Folio books are, though they are quite handsome and stately, IMO. They focus exclusively on American works and are definitely editions designed for readers.

Chad Hull said...

Thanks for the recommendation. I've 'heard' of LOA, but don't own any. All the fancy smancy books I own I've acquired second hand and I just haven't run across any LOA books. I love to check them out.

Jim King said...

It's a welcome change from the vitriol this thread usually sees. (I had no clue people could get so worked up about a book.)

If you planned to (attempt to) take the high road like that you maybe shouldn't have spewed any of that vitriol yourself.

Blogger Brad said...

My mother subscribed to 100 greatest Easton Press books in the late 70's and 80's and about a dowen have found their way into my bookshelf, 30 years later. They still look, feel and smell brand new and I thoroughly enjoy every time I crack one open. I'm also addicted to my Kimdle and iPad for news, business books and cheap fiction but there is nothing like the feel of an EP in your hand next to the fire. My 13 year old keeps a couple next to her bed and she is already asking if 'grandma' is going to give me more of her books. I'm of a book collector and have no intention of selling. My EP books will outlive my mom, me and my kids.

Dave Nielsen said...

EP must have its fans or it wouldn't still be around.

A_Marcus said...

Books of old times were noble, greatly desired, and rarely could be afforded. In their own right they have become a goal of every educated person to have a collection to read for study and pleasure, especially when the power goes, or we transition away from TV. As with anything noble, the collector holds a certain pride in literature history. You can choose cheap paperback, or richly ornate, and well bound. Its the ability to learn that matters most. Some prefer to maintain their pleasures in elegant, well constructed volumes, while others like the books written in and dog eared. Pick your method of respect and build your dream your way. Now can we enjoy well formed discussions of books? Or, debate our liberalness, or conservativeness? This place is a place, I feel, should be scholorly, and pertinant to good, commoradery, and of the finer things in life, if you shall all join with me in agreement.

Unknown said...

I am a person who appreciates stuff that LASTS. This is a trait lost in modern publishing. Most modern books...hardback, soft, whatever...fall apart after a few years of moderate reading. Easton and Folio serve a noble purpose: they make books the way they USED to be made. To hell with those who judge...my guess is they are either 1st edition snobs or simply cannot afford well made books. I want books I can pass on to my children, rather than throwing in the trash in 15 years. Is this so irrational? C'mon critics, what do you recommend? Please, tell me, who publishes better editions than Easton/Folio? By the way, whoever says Easton bindings are poor is either woefully ignorant or just displaying some rather childish wishful thinking.

Unknown said...

I should also add that anyone making "old money vs. new money" comments should seriously stop and consider how strongly they come off as trust fund children...at best.

Jim King said...

You obviously didn't understand the argument. Also, you've likely never bought any Easton Press, Folio, or any other of the "deluxe, luxury" publishers because none are beyond the means of the average Joe.

Unknown said...

Not sure what your angle here is, Jim. So, they are without a doubt well bound books relative to the junk most publishers put out. And as you say, they are fairly affordable. Yet, you called them vulgar. Your point is unclear.

Jim King said...

I was pretty clear, Unknown. Try re-reading.

Michael said...

I am a huge fan of hardcover books; especially those that display unique designs in a traditional fashion. I have owned many different editions from many different publishers. I hate gaudiness and loathe anything that charts as fashionable, though I don't hate those who feel differently from myself on the matter.

I have recently subscribed to the Easton Press "Greatest" series and it wasn't without serious consideration based on experience through second hand purchases of "book club" style editions from the like of Folio, Oxford, Franklin; etc.

Of my favorites, Easton & Franklin, only one still exists as a true book club; the other is now an online secondhand shop. All these comments on vulgarity and gaudiness have me a little confused. Maybe some people should look into why gold and gilding ever entered the realm of fine books... They have a practical purpose for preserving the written art.

It seems that those railing against superficiality are the ones actually concerned with how their books look. I am concerned with having great translations and artwork by artists from the period; Dore being my favorite and apparently Easton's as well. If it is presented nobly and of a style and personality befitting the book, all the better.

Bottom line: Easton first editions ALWAYS look brand new, bright and beautiful inside; because the exterior "gaudiness" is doing its job, you know, protecting the true experience within.

Jim King said...

They have a practical purpose for preserving the written art.

The problem is overuse. Too much of anything isn't good.

Jim King said...

It seems that those railing against superficiality are the ones actually concerned with how their books look.

That's not surprising considering its one of the main reasons to buy a more expensive, "deluxe" edition. Otherwise I would just buy a cheap paperback, or an ordinary hardcover edition with its cardboard covers. Quality of binding is a part of it too - EP doesn't have that, and even fans complain about poor quality printings and cheap paper.

Chad Hull said...

Hey Michael,

The part you mentioned about translation is an unfair rankling issue of mine with Easton Press. I love Russian romanticism, and the newer translations by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are thought to be superior than many of the older common licence ones out there.

I don't fault Easton Press for not buying the rights to those translations--it could cannibalize their own sales, it would cause confusion having multiple skews of the same product, and cast suspiscion on previous books--but I also can't buy their editions of the older translations just because they're nice looking knowing there might be a more authoritative source out there. (Which would also cost less).

I think they're great, but I only buy English language works for Easton Press.

Michael said...

I have heard so often that the Maude and Garnett translations are the way to go. I hear and read a lot of negative feedback on Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translations. I have never looked into them however, because it was native Russian speakers' comments that steered me away from them. So far I have enjoyed Maude and Garnett editions. I hear the later revisions made based on Maude translations usually end up on top but I haven't read any of them. At this point, it seems there is no clear cut answer. Maybe I'll just pretend that I'll learn Russian one day and find out myself. It seems the opinions are divided into two camps; those who want it as close to the source text as possible and those who are willing to make concessions to read a story that flows better.

As far as quality of bindings and paper go, I have yet to see a problem in any of the ones I own. I do know from multiple comments that they gladly accommodate subscribers with issues. I figured it could come down to the fact that newer editions don't hold up to the quality of my older ones, but I then saw a newer edition that seems to be held to the same standards.

Chad Hull said...

I'd take a native speaker's endorsement over anything else. I may have to reevaluate my thoughts on that matter.

BookLover said...

Just came across this blog post from doing an internet search on Folio Society books.

Apparently, you attracted a couple of anti-Easton Press people to your blog as well Mr. Hull! :)

I was previously unaware there was such a bias against Easton Press.

Personally, I own several hundred volumes from Easton Press. As well as two dozen volumes from the Folio Society, twenty-some from Franklin Library, and a few Library Of America (LOA) volumes.

My Folio Society and LOA editions are very similar in look and feel (cloth, gilt).

The Franklin Library & Easton Press volumes are similar to each other as well (leather, gilt).

Depending on edition, my Easton Press books range from very "gaudy" or "vulgar" to "minimalist" or "plain". This is true for my Folio Society books as well. Other than the use of leather vs. cloth, I can't tell any difference in look and feel between my Folios or Easton Press books. :)

For comparison's sake, the Easton Press Harvard Classics or Library Of Presidents editions are as plain jane as my Bancroft's "History Of The United States" volumes from the 1850s. I also have an 1854 edition of "Life Of Napoleon Buonaparte" by Fitzgerald that is even more gaudy or vulgar than any of my Folio or EP books!

I have books from Folio, Easton, and Franklin that date back to the 1960s. They are still in great condition and look as good as my new ones.

However, I do notice differences in build quality between the older and newer volumes from all of these publishers. Even more so with the ones I have from the Folio Society (probably more so due to the changes in their covering material).

Anyway, editions from any of these publishers seem to last and hold their value well over time.

Jim King said...

Other than the use of leather vs. cloth, I can't tell any difference in look and feel between my Folios or Easton Press books. :)

Folio produces very few leather editions, and few if any fall into the territory of "gaudy." That's not to say I always like their books either but that's one sin of which they're not guilty. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone could not tell the difference between the two. More likely you feel the need to justify having bought so many EP books.

Chad Hull said...

Hey BookLover,

I envy your Folio Society collection; those are hard to come by and pricey when I do find them. I've always liked the look of those.

BookLover said...

Greetings Mr. Hull,

I’ve actually had an easier time getting Folio editions cheaper than I can Eastons. In addition to ebay, I’ve used abe books and alibris. Alibris often has coupons you can apply to your order as well as a slick search where you can filter on publisher (using “easton” or “folio” or whatever publisher of your choice). My Folio Society edition of The Epic Of Gilgamesh arrived last week :)

The following links are pictures of some of my Folio Society books (anywhere from “gaudy” to “plain”) :)


Folio 1 a

Folio 1 b

Folio 2 a

Folio 2 b

Folio 3 a

Folio 3 b




Pictures of some of my Easton Press books (anywhere from “gaudy” to less so) :)

Easton 1 a

Easton 2 a

Easton 2 b

Easton 3 a
Easton 3 b
Easton 4 a
Easton 4 b

BookLover said...

Looks like I messed up on my EP image links the first time …
Pictures of some of my Easton Press books :)

Easton 1 a
Easton 1 b
Easton 2 a
Easton 2 b
Easton 3 a
Easton 3 b
Easton 4 a
Easton 4 b

1seanv said...

I own 367 books as of my last count, 92 of which are fully leather-bound. Of those 92, they are roughly 50% Franklin Library and 50% Easton Press. I also own 9 Folio Society books. Part of my total collection comes from an old set of The Harvard Classics. I have many paperbacks and many typical hardcovers. The key with me when buying a book is whether I A. read or will read the book, B. like the aesthetics of the books, and C. the condition of the book.

Nearly all of my books range from very fine to fine condition, as true mint is difficult to come by. I love all my books. I especially love my leather-bound books. The quality of the books are not shoddy, the translations are good. Newer doesn't necessarily mean better. I would easily rate the durability of my Franklin and Easton books far above any of my other books including my Folio's(which I love, especially my Catch-22). Anyone that knows anything about book construction knows that these are extremely well made books. The paper used is acid free/neutral. The bindings are smyth-sewn. All of my EP and FL books have silk-moire end papers. This adds ALOT of durability to the book because a large part of the stress wear on a book is where the end-papers attach to the boards. So anyone saying the build quality is shoddy, quite frankly doesn't know what they are talking about or have an agenda. I also keep seeing complaints of bad or poor printing. While the printing ink can sometimes fade "slightly" in EP books, this is minor, and still superior to the print you would see in most hardcover volumes. FL books are pretty consistent and uniform in their print standard.

I like my books to look good, possibly smell good, and last. EP, FL, and FS books have these qualities. Not so much the smell with FS books though ;).

Another bonus is that many of these books have nice illustrations, which I feel adds to the book when well done. I certainly don't find them to detract from the aesthetic of the book.

My Franklin Library The Divine Comedy and Folio Society are what I consider my two most beautiful books. They are also superbly made.

I attend community college, have spent nearly 20 years in the construction trades, and have read many of the books I own, and plan to read them all. I cannot be classified as a snob, rich, or lacking taste, based off my book preferences. Over 2/3 of my personal library are not leather-bound.

I think it's funny that some people look down on those that enjoy leather-bound books. I could say I look down on those that buy poor quality paperbacks, but I don't because that's what many people like to own; just don't go spreading falsehoods about books when it's blatantly obvious that you don't know what you're talking about.

Steve Cooper said...

One of the biggest problems with Franklin Mint or Easton Press books? Even if they're not, they look like they're bonded leather.

1seanv said...

Many of the Easton Press books do look like they are bonded leather, which I assume is because of some kind of treatment or conditioner they put on, or soak into the leather. It honestly doesn't bother me.

Franklin Library books are gorgeous books and do not look at all like bonded leather. I don't know the specifics of when there quality started going down hill, but I believe it was in the early or mid 80's. These books are easily distinguishable from their high quality books because they do not have silk-moire end papers. Franklin also produced quarter bound leather books for Oxford that are good quality books, but still not up to the standard of Franklin's premiere sets such as 100 Greatest Books of All Time and most of their other premium sets. I have been to a few antiquarian book fairs, and the only books that I have seen that can compare in beauty and quality to Franklin's books are incredibly expensive older editions of books that quite frankly, only rich people can afford.

Both of these brands, Franklin now being defunct, are beautiful and sturdy books. Yes, they are ornate, many to the point of gaudiness depending on one's particular taste. The reason I own so many is because I find them very attractive, pleasurable to hold while reading, beautiful on the shelf (of course), usually illustrated with some kind of foreword or preface, they are very durable when cared for, and lastly, they smell good. These are as close as I can come to owning classical leather bound tomes. I feel that much more connected to the past when reading one of these books, as they honor books. Many of the ornate gilding designs are copies of classic designs.

There are myriad reasons why someone might want to collect these books. I would admit that for someone to collect these merely to appear well read or classy is very Ron Burgundy cheesy. I don't own them because I think people will think I'm cultured or smart, but because of the reasons I listed. I also don't don't announce that I have a fairly substantial personal library to people and thus don't show them off.

I kind of went on a ramble there, but if you don't like leather bound books(nor directed at anyone specific) then more power to you, but don't automatically assumptions about people that do like them. That's my final two bits.

Chad Hull said...

I'm really jonesing for some Folio Society books right now.

Steve, I know exactly what you mean by some of them looking like bonded leather and I agree that some do. But how much worse would it be if the manufacturer pulled a fashion industry 'stunt' (for lack of a better word) as with jeans?

You can buy new jeans that look new, new jeans that are pre faded, worn out or even new jeans that are beat to hell.

An 'antique looking' line from Easton Press would surely sell, but I think it would be far more gaudy and pretentious than their current production.

The Ron Burgundy thing made me laugh but I wouldn't be surprised if such buyers made up the bulk of the consumers for most of the series offered. Even if I could afford a series I wouldn't get them as most include tons of titles that are of no interest to me. I only buy books I want to read and only keep ones I want to own. I don't hesitate getting rid of stuff that doesn't appeal to me; leather bound or otherwise.

Donald Brent said...

Chad,
Thanks for your blog! I for one found your review to be informative, honest and, since it was based on first hand experience with the actual books themselves, quite trustworthy. I'll take your opinion over that of some of these self appointed "experts" anytime.

Although I too was surprised at the level of hostility generated by a topic that I would never have considered controversial. Apparently, I'll have to add collectible book publishers to the age old list (religion, politics, etc...) of things you should be careful sharing your opinions on. And for the record I didn't think any of your replies took "the low road" as one poster put it.

Enjoy your books my friend, every gaudy gilded leather bound page. I know I do.

Everyman said...

I stumbled onto this blog post in a google search of "Easton Press reviews" and I am very happy I found it!

Jim King sounds like a turd-burgler and you should disregard his douche-baggery. It sounds like his mantra is "my way or the high-way". Just another key-board warrior, smack talking from the safety of his bedroom, lol.

After reading your review and the various comments I have been able to do way more research on how I can start building a library that will last longer than me! :) I live in Toronto, Canada and I use Kijiji.ca to buy stuff cheaply. It is Canada's version of craigslist but better. I was bummed to find only 3 postings for EP books. One of them was for 100 of the greatest books of all time for $4,800, but who has that kind of cash?!

From reading this blog post and the comments I was introduced to Folio Society and Franklin Library and I am happy because there are a lot of kijiji postings for books through these publishers and they're not too bad! (around $20-30 for most books). I am going to keep my eye out for Easton books and try to pick up some of those as well. I wish Canadians were in the loop on this!

By the way, A_Marcus has the best comment in this thread. Just saying...

Everyman said...

By the way, has anyone heard of the Peebles Classic Library? I am finding some nice looking books on Kijiji from them, but I can't find a single review on google about them...

Chad Hull said...

Thanks for your post and kind words Everyman. I hadn't heard of Peebles Classic but you've got me interested.

MPX said...

I came to Easton Press as a long-time collector of Tolkien books (more of a habit, than anything). I almost exclusively only collect British editions, but I grabbed a few EP Tolkien ones second-hand (at much less than the retail price) just for a change, and have subsequently collected most of the Tolkien-related books, except for the pure rubbish (movie companions, etc).

I have a love/hate relationship with them, in that they are relatively well made (compared to a mass parket hardback), but. one area where EP really need to focus, is on the gilt designs on the covers. More gilt splashed in ornate patterns does not equal a better book. The nicest leather editions I own (not by EP), have simple text on the spine and a simple design stamped into the centre of the front board. There are no ornate borders and zig zags and lines. More does not equal better, and EP needs to learn that. The comment has been made about them looking “vulgar”. I’d broadly agree with that, but it need not be the case – they need to hire some skilled designers to steer them towards something better.

A great example is the new Tolkien Beowulf. If they just lost the ornate border from the front and spine, it would look fantastic (as opposed to OK, but a bit overdone). I just don’t understand how the folks at EP can’t see this.

I think EP let themselves down with their marketing and website, which are just horrible. They seem to use computer renderings instead of actual photos, and it all comes across very similar to the tacky junk produced by the Danbury Mint , Franklin Mint, etc. The same company (MBI) owns Easton and Danbury, so this should be no surprise. At least EP aren’t actively ripping off the vulnerable for total rubbish, unlike the various “Mints”, I suppose, but I would be embarassed if I showed someone an EP ad and then admitted I ordered a book from them. I’m not easily embarassed.

If there are a handul of books that they produce, which you happen to like, then they aren’t a bad deal, especially on the used market. Just don’t expect them to retain their value. Some will (and some will even go up), but most will end up being worth a few dollars if you want rid of them down the line. I’d steer well clear of the expensive “Deluxe Editions” that they are now favouring, as things manufactured to be collectible rarely do well as investments, and EP doesn’t doesn’t produce books worth many hundreds of dollars. Save that kind of money for nice copies of genuinely rare books that were created to be read, not collected.

Oh, and avoid the overly patriotic American coffee table crap. That stuff really is embarassing.

Deborah H. said...

I have had the truly rare experience to sit in a room full of books that were valued and insured for over a million bucks. A 70's hippy done real good, a love of books and a masters in lit made for this collection of his. Now, a $20,000 rare book shames my EP, FL, FS and others to pure modern trash. However, I will never own a library like his but it does not diminish my love of books. I sit in my little bedroom converted to "library" read one of my books, lovingly touch them, admire the beauty of entire shelves of leather and gilt, smell the paper and leather covers, and somehow my days stresses go away. Whether I read it in leather or paperback, the story was mine to be lived and is forever mine. My footsteps will never Grace the hallowed halls of great learning but I can know I read the same things I would have there. There are american children who graduate high school illiterate that would view the leather and gaudy gilt secondary if they could only read what was on the paper. I for one don't care about what someone thinks of my gaudy or inferior quality books, I love them...all 192 and counting, but I love my ability to READ them more than anything.

Salttram said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Salttram said...

I love books too. I have some friends that liquidate estates and host estate sales on a regular basis. They just sold a collection of EP editions and were surprised with the high price the buyer paid. As a recovering collector of first/early editions/printings, it got me thinking, so I happened upon this thread searching for "why would anyone collect Easton Press". Clearly they have their fans!

What's evident to me now is that the reasons folks collect first editions, trade editions, and university editions are completely different than the reasons people collect specialty press editions. I think the "vulgar" comment goes a little far, but I understand the sentiment. If I were the contentious sort, I might use "insipid", but I don't want to trash anyone's collecting joy . . . I just don't get it.

Frankly, for just reading, my favorite is a larger trade paperback . . . but I love my beautiful cloth university editions, foxed antiquarian titles, and books that some actual person had signed by the author.