S.


Published by:

Mulholland Books

an imprint of

ISBN: 978-0-316-20164-3
Edition size: unlimited
MSRP: $35.00


Review and Pictures by C. Thomson

Although not strictly a limited or indeed a signed edition, S. is something special. Special in that it feels like a special deluxe edition of some book 60+ years old. It also has some very unique characteristics that make it all that more enjoyable to own. I would even go so far as to say that, if this was signed or had an included limitation page, much of the allure of the book would have been lost. Allow me to explain:

First and foremost is that the actual book is not S. It is, instead, Ship of Theseus by V.M. Straka, translated and with a foreword by F.X. Caldeira (nowhere but the slipcase is it mentioned that this was written as a collaboration between Abrams and Dorst and it is titled S.)  Furthermore, this book is actually a library book with all the appropriate markings, including a proper filing system sticker on the spine. Now, somehow the publisher of this edition (printed in 2013) made it seem like Ship of Theseus really was printed in 1949, as its copyright says. The binding, cover, and pages are all new, but not-new at the same time. It even has an older book smell to it.

So, we have a title of a book on a slipcase with a separate book within. However, this is because in addition to the story told by Straka, there is another story told throughout the book. A story told by two readers through their annotations, notes, and scribbles in the margins as well as supplementary and amplifying information in the form of charts, postcards, photographs, and letters (both handwritten and typewritten) scattered throughout the pages of the book. Their story begins on the very first page, with a banter back and forth. As the original reader made notes, the second picked it up and responded, and on and on. This has been done before (notes in the margins), but in this case, even the inks used seem to be real and not just a different color type or font.

Now to review the construction and production value. The slipcase is, admittedly, a bit flimsy. It is more of a dustjacket than a proper slipcase, as it does not hold its shape with thick walls. Due to all the goodies within the pages, the book itself is not quite square and extra room was built into the case for this reason. However, it also means that, when handling the book and case, it is possible to squeeze the case in from the sides, which may or may not cause rippling of the cardboard (it has not caused any issues for me thus far). Within the case, as mentioned, is a brand new book made to look and feel like an old library book. The front cover is debossed with the title, author, and title graphic. Well done here, no question. The endpapers have the stamps one would expect from a library book. The rear endpaper has a list of "return by" dates (a clever touch). Almost all of the pages are yellowing with some severe foxing, but it never impinges on the words or causes issues while trying to read the text. Notes are scribbled in a variety of colors by the two readers, including black, blue, purple, yellow, green, and red. Overall, this book is beautiful to look at, no matter what page is open.

A word on recommendation to collectors regarding the lack of signatures and limitation. Personally, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. As intimated earlier, I believe having a limitation or signature would severely take away from what this book is: an old library book being read by two separate people. As it stands now, although reproduced by the thousands, this book still feels unique. It still feels like a one-of-a-kind find; a book that happens to have been written all over like no other copy in the world. It is because of this generic book with personal annotations that makes it feel very limited and scarce and no number or signature could make it feel any more out of the ordinary than it already is.


Slipcase front.

Slipcase back.

Book front.

Book spine.

Book back.

Sewn binding.

Front endpaper.

Half-title page.

Title page.

Pages vi & vii (with confidential letter in Swedish and translated to English).

Pages 44 & 45.

Pages 112 & 113 (with postcard).

Pages 276 & 277 (with handwritten note insert).

Back endpaper.