Category Archives: Corvus Editions

Contr’un collections 6 & 7

Corvus Editions made an appearance at the Seattle Anarchist Book Fair last month, and among the new titles were two new collections from the Contr’un blog:

  • Contr’un 6: “God and the State” and the Question of “Legitimate” Authority
  • Contr’un 7: Anarchy and Democracy

They are now available online.

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Introducing “ANARCHISMS” + new issues of “La Frondeuse”

I’m launching a new series of pamphlets collecting introductory summaries and personal statements attempting to define anarchism in the most basic terms. In the ANARCHISMS series, the texts will be collected with very little attention to tendency, beyond trying to mix things up in each issue, and without editorial comment. I am often asked for entry-level texts, and it’s difficult to find material which does not come with some critical apparatus already attached. There are plenty of occasions where context and various kinds of helps are indispensable, but there is also a time for letting individual statements speak for themselves. I’ve assembled three pamphlets in the series and will continue to collect material as long as I find useful texts.
 
I’ve also assembled two new issues of La Frondeuse, the black and red feminist history project. The fifth issue collects writings by Emma Goldman, primarily on women’s issues, including her critiques of suffrage. Issue six collects writings in a number of genres by Sophie Kropotkin, the very talented wife of Peter Kropotkin.

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M. Corbeau’s Gallery of Rogues

‎”M. CORBEAU’S Gallery of ROGUES” is the monthly miscellany of radical auto/biography that I’m hoping to launch about January 15, 2012. I’ve said that I won’t release an issue until I have three ready to print, so there are minimal hassles with subscriptions and standing orders. I’m just a couple of dozen pages of translation from that point, and feeling pretty good about how things are coming together. Here are tentative contents for those first three issues.
 

M. CORBEAU’S Gallery of ROGUES

#1
 

1. Shawn P. Wilbur—“Who was Eliphalet Kimball?” (with texts and working bibliography)
2. Charles Malato—“Some Anarchist Portraits”
3. Shawn P. Wilbur—“Josiah Warren: A Most Unlikely Internationalist” (with articles)
4. Dio Lewis—On Lysander Spooner’s eating habits
5. The Worcester Spy—On William Batchelder Greene
6. “Bolton Hall, the Man and His Books”
7. Clippings: Louise Michel
8. The People of the Comune: Jules Allix
9. Paul Adam—“Eulogy for Ravachol”
10. Serial story—“Ravachol: The Man with the Dynamite”

#2

1. Shawn P. Wilbur—“Calvin Blanchard!!” (with “My Undertaking and Its Auspices,” miscellany and working bibliography)
2. Elbert Hubbard—“Max Stirner” & “I Am an Anarkist”
3. Maximilien Buffenoir—“Feminism in Lyon before 1848,”—I
4. J. Wm. Lloyd—“Gordak the Poet”
5. Shawn P. Wilbur—Josiah Warren and Spiritualism
6. Two Poems on Equitable Commerce
7. Claude Pelletier: Atercracy (and Artificial Flowers)
8. “Write, Let Children Starve:” The Strange Case of the Brokaws
9. Octave Mirbeau on Ravachol
10. Serial story—“Ravachol: The Man with the Dynamite”

#3

1. Shawn P. Wilbur—“Lewis and Ann Masquerier” (with miscellany and working bibliography)
2. Emma Goldman—Was My Life Worth Living?
3. Maximilien Buffenoir—“Feminism in Lyon before 1848,”—II
4. Bessie Greene—A Miscellany
5. C. L. James and the “Vindication of Anarchism”
6. Charles Keller—“Their Poor Reasons” (poem) [to Andre Leo]
7. Benjamin R. Tucker—On Clement M. Hammond
8. Anselme Bellegarrigue, “Minister plenipotentiary of the Republic of San-Salvador”
9. Anarchist prisoners in French penal colonies
10. Serial story—“Ravachol: The Man with the Dynamite”

Issue 4 is likely to be a Mother Earth issue, with the majority of the material drawn from that magazine.

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Special “LeftLiberty+” Issue of “The Mutualist”

I’m both streamlining the Corvus Editions catalog a bit for upcoming bookfairs and trying to assemble a more focused body of materials to serve as a background for the next couple of issues of The Mutualist. With those goals in mind, I’ve combined the most useful bits of my own writing from the two issues of LeftLiberty with the blog posts I reference, or expect to reference, most often, as a special issue of The Mutualist. The contents are:

  • Mutualism: The Anarchism of Approximations 
  • Mutualist Musings on Property (including “The Gift Economy of Property, etc.) 
  • Note A (by Charles Fourier) 
  • The Lesson of the Pear-Growers’ Series
  • Happy 200th, P.-J. Proudhon
  • The Heart of Proudhon’s Thought
  • A Note on Bastiat and Double Inequality
  • and several additional posts on mutualist property theory

I am simultaneously writing the second and third regular issues of The Mutualist, which explore the property dynamic I’ve sketched out in much more depth, first from a roughly Stirnerian perspective, and then from a perspective rooted in the “communist” work of Charles Fourier, Pierre Leroux and Joseph Dejacque. Getting the Unique situated comfortably in the middle of the Universal Circulus, with some sense of “its Own” intact, has been a lot of fun (of a periodically maddening sort), but it’s not a process that answers well to any pre-established timetable. My goal is to have one more significant piece of the “two-gun mutualist” puzzle ready for each of the upcoming bookfairs, but we’ll all have to wait to see which pieces arrive for which fair.

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Corvus Editions/research polls

If you look at the side-bar of the blog, you’ll find a poll, asking for input on what sorts of materials I should be giving priority in the Corvus Editions project. I’ve been running a similar poll on Facebook, but would like input from a broader audience. So far, translations seem to be the priority for my FB readers, and my own sense is that translations will continue to be a central focus of the project, so I’ve added another poll, directly below the first, about translation priorities.

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16th Annual Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair

I’m headed for the train station in about an hour, on my way to the 2011 Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, where I’ll be tabling with Corvus Editions both Saturday and Sunday, April 9-10. Stop by and say “hello” if you’re at the fair.

I’ve packed some translation work, so with a little luck I’ll have some new material by Joseph Charlier and Claude Pelletier ready to post soon after my return early next week.

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Black and Red Feminism from 19th Century France


I’m gathering material for a fairly major foray into the works of 19th century French feminists, including completing the translations of some of the responses to Proudhon. But every major foray has to start with some exploratory expeditions, and I’ve gathered up a first selection of work by Jeanne Deroin and Andre Leo to plug the project at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair this weekend. Most of the material has appeared on this blog before, but this is the first time I’ve collected the various pieces. Read and distribute. Print and sell if you like.

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An update and a call

I’m taking the next month or so to write (The Mutualist #2, and “The Anarchism of Approximations”), and to consolidate the lessons of the last year into some kind of routine, both for Corvus Editions and for my scholarly work. Over the next week, much of the Corvus shop will come down, to be replaced with improved content, reflective of the new print catalog I’m currently assembling. It looks like 2011 will start for me, with a new (part-time, unpaid) job, as curator and bookkeeper for a small cooperative retail space in Portland, within which Corvus and a number of other small presses and artisan projects will have their own little slice of storefront within an existing volunteer-run radical bookstore. Details will follow, as we nail things down, but this little project is a big turning point for my various projects, since it allows/forces me to focus on a particular sort of primary outlet for my work, imposes some concrete, periodical deadlines, etc.

The model that we’re using for the cooperative space involves breaking the space-rent and general expenses (including some equivalent for the volunteer staffing) down into shares corresponding to shelf-feet, making it possible to bring a small catalog into the store for as little as $5/month [$1.50 – $3.00/shelf-foot, depending on labor volunteered for store staffing.] Expenses are covered up front, so sales go to individual vendors directly, with no consignment fees. I started Corvus Editions to provide low-cost, high-quality materials for bookstores and infoshops with very little money to spend on new stock. I established a constant flow of new releases, from a fairly broad range of traditions, so that tiny, cash-poor operations could always have something new if they could afford even a few dollars to invest on inventory. As it happens, I think identified the right problems, but too late… both because cash-flow concerns, and rising postage costs, have curtailed almost all non-consignment acquisition by many of the shops I was thinking of, but also because distribution channels have collapsed or centralized to such a degree that it’s simply a lot harder to reach the right shops. And, of course, for a variety of reasons, “the good old stuff” from the radical traditions doesn’t have the street cred it once did. You can bring a hundred different titles to an anarchist bookfair, but you won’t necessarily find many browsers.

Live and learn. It turns out that a 19th-century socialist-feminist encyclopedia entry, that’s hard to give away (despite its merits) as a $2 pamphlet, is cute and interesting as a tiny $5 book. Recycled paper is good, and farm-waste paper is better, but books bound in recycled Pendaflex folders and upholstery scraps are good enough to take home. If you’re going to bother to be a publisher of real books, here at the far edge of the Gutenberg Galaxy, it doesn’t hurt to make a statement. Everybody knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we mostly do it that way anyway.

So a big part of January’s labor will be translating the various “libraries” in the Corvus Catalog, and the unpublished catalogs in my various digital archives, into something that will look like a library when placed on the shelf. For the Portland bookfair I brought out some prototype bindings for the New Proudhon Library, and I’ve got text formatted for a number of uniform hardcover volumes:

  • What is Property? – First Memoir
  • A Letter to M. Blanqui – Second Memoir
  • System of Economical Contradictions, Vol. 1
  • Philosophy of Progress
  • General Idea of the Revolution
  • Gratuity of Credit
  • Galileo: A Drama, with commentary
  • Langlois’s P.-J. Proudhon: His Life and Works

 and I’ve bound several of those (as you can see) with wrap-around spine labels, to look good on the shelf, and bindings that let you open them wide to read and study. And I’m working on the first of a set of Miscellanies, collecting early translations of, and response to, Proudhon’s work.

That’s where I could use a little help:

The early translations were partial, and often paraphrases rather than real translations, scattered in various odd places. I have, from the period before Benjamin R. Tucker began his work:

  • William B. Greene’s translations, from Mutual Banking (and later translations published in The Word)
  • William Henry Channing’s translation of “The Coming Era of Mutualism”
  • the partial/paraphrased translation of “Confessions of a Revolutionist” from the London Weekly Tribune, reprinted in The Spirit of the Age
  • Charles A. Dana’s articles from The Spirit of the Age, reprinted by Tucker in Proudhon and his Bank of the People
  • the “Hymn to Satan,” from the Ladies Repository
  • the excerpts translated in William Lucas Sargant’s Social Innovators and their Schemes (1858)

And all of these are of interest, if only as evidence of the specific ways that Proudhon’s work was interpreted during his lifetime, or shortly thereafter.

But I’m sure there are more bits and pieces out there, so if anyone knows of things I’m missing, please let me know.

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    The Mission

    Corvus Editions publishes memorable, if often forgotten, works of literature, history and philosophy, in attractive, sturdy, affordable hand-bound editions, made from recycled and reused materials. It is a micro-publishing enterprise, committed to supporting other microenterprises—particularly those also committed to sustainable materials use, and to the creation, curation and distribution of Real Books.

    Corvus Editions is an experiment in what we might call multi-dimensional repurposing. We are surrounded by resources which we are putting to little use, poor and inefficient use, or no use at all. In an economy where the disconnect between the “health of the economy” and the ability of the average person to find outlets for their talents and means of subsistence is now more or less complete, more and more of us are finding ourselves numbered among those neglected resources.

    When I found myself—despite advanced degrees and experience in multiple careers—just another unit of “surplus labor,” the choice became one of working cheap for someone else—on their terms, if I could find the work—or finding the means to work cheaply, and efficiently for myself, precisely by combining my “excess” labor with other wasted or under-used resources. For a career bookseller, trained as an intellectual historian, with a background in publishing history and one foot in the DIY world of ‘zine publishing, the most logical outlet was in small-press publishing. Unfortunately, “everyone knows” that we are rocketing at warp speeds out of the Gutenberg Galaxy—and anyone with any knowledge of the world of publishing and bookselling knows that small presses are hardly a blip on the rear-view scanners. Centralization in all phases of the publishing/distribution/bookselling complex have skewed markets in directions that tend to relegate micro-publishing to a realm of bad odds and penny-ante pay-outs.

    Still, there comes a point where that penny-ante game doesn’t look so bad alongside the alternatives. With the smart money all betting on “The Death of the Book,” big-box bookstores are spending enormous amounts of cash, and wasting tremendous amounts of resources, in order to tread water a little longer—and employees of those companies can expect, at best, continued precarity. I spent a couple of years in the world of corporate bookstores, after most other doors seemed to have closed, and found that inefficient use of resources and a kind of systematic precarity was the rule. In the book-world, big-box retail is a house of cards, and the “selection” and “efficiency” of operations like Amazon has depended on blurring the lines between publisher, distributor and bookstore—reducing labor and physical product to a bare minimum—and even then e-books, print-on-demand, and marketplace contractor-sellers are needed to provide materials that don’t fit the increasingly narrow criteria for profitability.
    What a closer look at the book-industry suggests is that perhaps it is not so much “the book” which is at the heart of the current crisis, as the centralized model itself which is in crisis. Perhaps all the hoopla about “The Death of the Book” comes from the key position still occupied by “the book” in our culture—certainly a more time-honored and central place than that occupied by any of the media forms that surround it. Make no mistake, we are certainly watching a remarkable change in the mediascape, but let’s learn the right lessons from it. Elsewhere I have suggested some of the reasons to believe there might well be some life left in the book trade—if pursued on different models—and laid out some of the reasons that big-box retailing seems less efficient, and ultimately less likely to deliver variety and fair prices, than smaller alternatives. Here—for now, at least—let me just suggest that the current book trade model is home to more than it’s share of wasteful practices.
    So what would be a non-wasteful, elegant alternative for an erudite old bookseller stuck in the wrong end of the labor pool? That has been the question that has driven me in developing Corvus Editions. I left big-box bookselling when it became clear my decades of expertise was really just getting in the way of a job that had very little to do with books anymore. That was naturally frustrating in a variety of ways. I think if we had our druthers, most of us would opt for some sort of “attractive industry,” a trade that allowed us to let our talents shine. And the more years you’ve invested in skills that still seem viable, the harder it is to be channeled towards some abstract model of “sales.” At the big-box, it was maddening, being surrounded by books, but being called on to push product selected on the basis of increasingly dubious models. The first step back toward the road of sanity seemed to be a return to “the book” as a focus, and the book-lover—and not just the “reader”—as the audience. If the differences between big-box and mom-‘n’-pop book-traders are largely a matter of degree—if pretty much everywhere you look it is a question of bookstores that can’t afford inventory, publishers that can’t afford printing, printers running up against cost-of-materials constraints, distribution channels constantly constricting, “discount” retail models imposing bizarre price structures, and, despite all kinds of “cost-cutting,” persistent waste of resources at the very heart of the model—and this certainly seems to be the case, then a real reinvention seems necessary. And we have some good clues where to start.
    Where Corvus Editions has started—and it is still, in the big picture, just the very beginnings of a start—is with the question of waste. A one-man show can’t make up for a wasteful distribution model by cutting labor costs. There are no economies of scale that can be taken, and there is no venture capital for purchasing the kinds of materials it would take to produce the kind of book one expects to find in a conventional bookstore. But some of the same techniques used by the big operations—on-demand publishing, online outreach and sales, and use of public domain texts in particular—are available to the smallest operations, provided you can find DIY alternatives to things like a $100,000 Espresso printer-binder. If you find those alternatives, you have the advantage of not having to pay for, or mess with, six digits worth of machinery.
    With an eagle eye on the question of waste—and particularly to the issue of not wasting my own time, energy and expertise in the kind of soul-killing work environment I had been working in—it gradually became clear that the human-scale alternative to the magic book machine was probably a cheap duplexing printer, a long-reach stapler, recycled paper, and my own collection of cool-but-forgotten texts. Corvus Editions was born as a pamphlet press, with all the text also available free online. But the first phase of Corvus Editions ran up against the fact that even the best designed chapbook is not quite a “book” for trade purposes. It does not fit a bookstore or library shelf, and does not have the solidity and here-to-stay presence of a Real Book. Well-designed ephemera is still ephemeral, and it’s hard to make a statement, let alone an impact, without a little weight behind the move. So Corvus Editions has become a publisher of Real Books, hand-bound hardcover editions, with bindings built largely from reused materials—discarded office supplies, wall-covering and upholstery samples, mat-board, etc.
    The change in format has opened a lot of possibilities—above all, a broadening of the catalog, and new connections in the world of sustainable arts and crafts. And those changes have opened other doors—to retail outlets, and the beginnings of a shared-space retail model. This new blog will be the place to keep track of developments.

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    Corvus Editions interview at Making Change


    Corvus Editions is among the projects featured on the Making Change blog, which covers Etsy artists “who create with a political/environmental/social agenda,” and I’m sending some of my bottle-cap pins down to the Making Change store in Santa Monica, California. It’s an interesting adjustment, trying to make my projects intelligible in a world of brief “artist’s statements” craft categories, but it’s clear that in order for Corvus to survive, it’s going to be as important to reach people who are concerned with the survival of “real books,” as it is to promote the project in political circles. Much of my recent work has been in the boundary-land between politics and speculative fiction, publishing utopian narratives and early science fiction stories. And while actual sales remain a little discouraging, responses to the recent hardcover releases have been enthusiastic enough to encourage me to think of books, rather than pamphlets and chapbooks, as the logical center of the catalog. The forthcoming editions of Henry Olerich’s A Cityless and Countryless World will probably be the model for future releases, with the “Junkbird Editions”—manufactured almost entirely with repurposed scrap materials —as the standard, and cheap editions (“wraps,” bound book-blocks in paper covers) and enhanced bindings (using fancier recycled/repurposed materials and heavy boards) as options.

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