Friday, 7 January 2011

In praise of Menard Press (again)

Here we are in 2011 and the Menard Press anniversary catalogue/keepsake published in 2010 to cover the 40 years ending in 2009 has just arrived. Anthony Rudolf, the publisher, has, perhaps, a problem with timing exampled by the catalogue including The Notebooks of Pierre Menard number one, published in 1969, numbers 2-7 not published but "don't ask" and the last and eighth appearing in 1970. Series too are not the Press's strongpoint with the Menard Essays in Art Criticism series running to one issue, a similar number reached by the Menard/Mesdames erotica series. Compared to Menard, Five Leaves is an oasis of order. Yet despite this Menard has produced 160 books, with sales of between 50 and 14,000 and a stream of poetry postcards. As the Press limps towards the finishing line (Rudolf's words) I'm pleased to again honour the little press that published Primo Levi's poetry for the first time outside of Italy, published Paul Auster for the first time in the UK and whose roster of poets includes Octavio Paz and memoirists Nadezha Mandelshtam. The press also, famously, turned exclusively from literature to publishing against the nuclear threat for a period, with writers including Sir Martin Ryle and Oliver Postgate and the seminal 1982 essay Four Minutes to Midnight by Nicholas Humphrey.
Anyone who collects material related to small presses should immediately order the keepsake from and dig in to fine some some treasures still listed as being available. Presses like Menard are unlikely ever to appear again.
And the origins of the name Menard? Rudolf was and is a fan of the Argentinian writer Borges (pictured), Pierre Menard being one of Borges' short stories.

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