Paris Publishers of the 1920s

an exhibit originally developed for the American Literature Club 
Thomas Cooper Library, September 1999

Text by Patrick Scott; hypertext by Mila Tasseva

Topic 2: Three Mountains & Contact
 

Three Mountains Press: Ezra Pound's A Draft of XVI Cantos 

Ezra Pound, 
A draft of XVI cantos of Ezra Pound: for the beginning of a poem of some length 
Now first made into a book with initials by Henry Strater. 
Paris: Three Mountains Press, 1925. 
"Author's proof" and other (disbound) Whatman and Roma sheets. Gift of Mr. William R. Cagle.

The most spectacular production of Bird's Three Mountains Press was this lavish book, the first separate volume collecting Pound's series of Cantos. Pound wrote to Kate Buss in May 1923 that it would be of "UNRIVALLED magnificence," "one of the real bits of printing; modern book to be jacked up to something near level of medieval mss. No Kelmscott mess of illegibility." Limited to 90 copies, the scarcity factor of the Pound book was further ratcheted up by issuing five copies on Japan paper, fifteen on Whatman, and the remaining seventy on still a third paper variety, Roma, with a special Ezra Pound watermark, affording multiple collecting opportunities for Pound's admirers and patrons. 

 

Robert McAlmon and Contact Edition

The Kansas-born Robert McAlmon had co-edited a little magazine titled contact in New York in 1920-1921. After marrying 'Bryher' (Winifred Ellerman, daughter of a British shipping magnate), McAlmon moved to Paris, where he met Beach, Joyce and Pound, and he began with Ellerman money to produce new literary works, including his own. His imprint Contact Publishing was to specialize in books "not likely to be published . . . for commercial or legislative reasons." The printings were done by Monnier's and Beach's Dijon printer Darantierre. Actually, Contact's two most famous publications, Hemingway's first book Three Stories & Ten Poems (Contact Editions, 1924) and Stein's Making of Americans (1925). Shown here, all in original wrappers, are one of McAlmon's own early, privately-printed books, A Hasty Bunch (Dijon: Darantierre, 1921), his poetry collection Portrait of a Generation, Including the Revolving Mirror (Contact Editions, 1926), and Robert M. Coates, The Eater of Darkness(Contact Editions, 1926, dedicated to McAlmon and Stein). 

 

Bill Bird and Three Mountains Press

William Bird, a journalist by profession, took up handprinting as a hobby after moving to Paris, and in 1923-24 published in small runs a series of works by Pound, William Carlos Williams, Ford, and Hemingway (in our time, 1924, with only 170 copies for official release but 50 for review). As colophon, Bird adopted the image of Three Mountains. From 1924, Three Mountains worked with McAlmon's Contact Editions for distribution, and on later works Bird hired help for printing and even (for Pound's Antheil) outsourced the printing to Darantierre in Dijon. Bird sold the press in 1928 to Nancy Cunard. Shown here are Ford Madox Ford's Women & Men (1923, no. 74 of 300) and Ezra Pound's music criticism,Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (1924). While the wrappers of these books read Three Mountains Press, on the title-pages the Three Mountains imprint has been covered with a label for Contact Editions, attesting to the collaboration. Bird's bestseller might well be his own little Practical Guide to French Wines (1924), which went through at least three printings. 
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