"Peter Mayer, owner of Overlook Press in New York, purchased the rights to the Nonesuch catalog in 2005 and decided it was high time to revisit the definitive Dickens. The publisher recently released nine books −−available individually or in two sets. Mayer spoke recently with The Dispatch by e−mail:
Q: Why publish the Nonesuch Dickens now?
A: We issued Nonesuch Dickens first in a group of six and now with an additional three, and we have organized our publication to coincide with the BBC television shows, which are broadcast on the PBS Masterpiece Classic series, hosted by Laura Linney. (The series will run from February to May on PBS.)
Q: Is the Nonesuch Dickens an investment?
A: Well, it's probably a good investment to buy these books; they generally appreciate in value. Of theoriginal books published by Nonesuch, the edition that was limited to 877 copies, based on recent auction prices, is about $5,000. However, the Nonesuch Dickens is the most readable and beautiful edition available.The books are bound in leather and bound in linen. I love paperbacks, but this is one for physical book lovers as much as readers.
Q: Why does Dickens endure, do you think?
A: I think the thing about Dickens is he is a brilliant storyteller who creates characters who are truly unique. They appear on his pages, but they are so famous −− whether it's Pip, Oliver Twist, Scrooge or David Copperfield −− that they enter our lives. But underlying it all was Dickens' extraordinary social concerns, and, therefore, the books are loved all over the world.1
Q: Do you feel a responsibility as a publisher to keep great books in print?
A: Well, every publisher hopes his books are read, not only in the season they are published but as part of a backlist. Dickens is quintessentially backlist, as there are other editions available, in paperback, etc. What we realized as we embarked on the Nonesuch project is that we had to make the books truly brilliant examples of the bookmakers' art, and because they are hardcover they have to be so beautiful that they represented good value for the money.
Q: What other gems will you publish from the Nonesuch catalog?
A: We are thinking of publishing the Nonesuch Shakespeare and the Nonesuch Bible. These books cost a fortune to produce, so we really have to take our time when we embark on these projects.