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There has never been a better time for books — or, rather, to be a reader of them. Because of the Internet and the literary devotion of independent editors and publishers, many of whom run presses as a side passion project and not an actual revenue stream, we have unprecedented access to books on nearly every possible subject. Whatever it is you fancy, someone is probably publishing it… It’s finding it that can be the biggest challenge. Presented below are some of my favorite independent publishers, along with recommended books. Did we miss anyone noteworthy? Tell us in the comments!
Founded by William Kiesel, Ouroboros Press is an independent publishing house that produces books in the field of Western Esotericism. The name William Kiesel might already be familiar — he is the host of the international Esoteric Book Conference and a member of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism, Signum: International Society for Mark Studies, and the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry. Ouroboros Press books are created “utilizing the aesthetic of Renaissance bookmakers” and come in trade and limited editions, the latter featuring full leather or vellum from the studios of Ars Obscura Bookbinding. Whether you are interested in growing your esoteric book collection or are just starting out, it would be difficult to go wrong here. May we suggest the Triangular Book Of St. Germain?
Black Ocean is an exceptional publisher that continually puts out vital and challenging work. Favorites include Lisa Ciccarello’s poetry collection At Night, which draws inspiration from the 18th century’s Newgate Calendar and sings a stark lullaby, bleak and enchanting and painfully memorable. Black Ocean is also one of the only ways to read the work of Swedish poet Aase Berg in the English language, translated brilliantly by Johannes Göransson. Hardly limited to poetry, the full catalogue includes fiction, non-fiction, and multimedia work, as well as a literary journal. A subscription option is also offered, and the voracious reader can save nearly 25% by purchasing all 2016 titles together.
Three Hands Press
Three Hands Press specializes in contemporary occultism and metaphysica, serving up the new generation of esoteric scholars, artists, and practitioners to readers around the world. Their online shop is filled with intriguing titles, from Cody Dickerson’s The Language Of The Corpse: The Power Of The Cadaver In Germanic And Icelandic Society to anthologies of occult fiction. In addition to trade paperbacks and standard hardcover, Three Hands Press offers limited editions of many works. These fine editions are often slipcased in goat- or boarskin and printed using letterpress or sheet-fed offset lithography. Their covers are glorious presentations of arcane symbols and gold lettering, and Three Hands Press’ love of the occult is as evident as their passion for book making.
Of potential concern is an unshipped order I placed several months ago. Small presses understandably operate at different paces from corporate behemoths like Amazon, but several follow-up emails have gone unanswered which makes me slightly hesitant to recommend the press. Hopefully this is an unusual oversight — as I mentioned, their catalogue is enticing beyond belief, and the collector’s editions something to rival treasures from any esteemed private library.
Civil Coping Mechanisms
Civil Coping Mechanisms offers an ever-expanding selection of literature and poetry and many of their books fill my shelves. Of particular note is Soren Häxan’s S/N/D, which contains a modern gothic concerning gender and vampires (yes!) and a time-traveling love story where sorrow and death are always present. We are fans of Soren’s visual art, and his literary work is just as haunting and detailed. A more recent Civil Coping Mechanisms release is Wendy C. Cortiz’s “dreamoir” Bruja, an intimate and entrancing book that stays awake with you, entwined in bed-sheets and turning, turning, turning the page. We’re coping.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Sator Press, the publisher of my very own poetry collection, Salt Is For Curing. Founded by Ken Baumann in 2009, Sator aims to “produce and promote challenging literature, and do so slowly and sustainably.” Their catalogue includes Mark Gluth’s No Other, a powerful and sorrowful tale, and the book of aphorisms, The Angel In The Dream Of Our Hangover. Sator Press’ imprint Satyr Press recently released Maze Of The Blue Medusa, an innovative game book that works with any tabletop RPG. The name, Sator Press, refers to the Sator Square, a Latin palindrome found at the ruins of Pompeii and many other historical sites. Ancient beliefs held that palindromes were immune to tampering by the devil — thus the Sator Square, being a four-times palindrome, was presumed to have magical properties.
UK-based Troy Books are occult and antiquarian publishers of tomes like Spells from the Wise Woman’s Cottage and Black Dog Folklore, Mark Norman’s comprehensive study of the symbolism of the Black Dog across different folkloric traditions. Their titles are available in multiple formats, from the affordable paperback to the fine edition, limited in run and displaying extra attention to binding, endpapers, and other intricacies. I have been on the Troy Books newsletter for ages, and it is a wonder I have yet to load my room so full of their wares that it is impossible to navigate it.
“Action Books has been filling a gap in American publishing by translating works that are considered avant-garde masterpieces in other parts of the world into English,” says Blake Butler, and I’ve got to agree. Edited by Johannes Göransson and Joyelle McSweeney — whose book The Necropastoral: Poetry, Media, Occults is fantastic, by the way — Action Books is transnational, interlingual, feminist, and overall amazing. Catalogue highlights include Jane Wong’s Overpour and Kim Hyesoon’s Sorrowtoothpaste Mirrorcream, translated by Don Mee Choi.